How do you pick when to do maintenance?
October 14, 2011
One again, it is time for more scheduled maintenance. You might be wondering how we go about picking the dates for these things.
The enlightening - albeit short and boring - answer after the break. Generally speaking, ITS performs maintenance on the Saturday that follows the second Tuesday of any given month. What's so special about the second Tuesday of the month? That's when Microsoft releases their patches. See? Short and boring. Microsoft will occasionally release an update outside of this normal cycle. Generally, this is done when the update fixes a serious security risk and one that is being actively exploited by attackers on the Internet. Even in these cases, unless there are no ways to mitigate the risk, we'll generally wait until the next "Saturday after second Tuesday" rolls around before performing maintenance again. On occasion, we move the maintenance to another date. We've had times where, for example, the scheduled maintenance date conflicted with a major campus event. We began this schedule a few years ago and it's been working well but it's limitations are starting to become more obvious. For example, due to the inter-dependencies in many of our systems, it's difficult to do major maintenance on multiple systems at the same time. Sometimes, staff aren't available on weekends. This is ok for routine things like installing updates for Windows but can cause problems for more complex upgrades where, for example, you might need to have a database administrator available to assist but only if something goes wrong. Another thing you may see more of in the near future are multiple maintenance days in a month. Generally, our maintenance day activities are restricted to our Windows servers and networking equipment but there's lots of maintenance that we ought to be doing to our Oracle, Banner and Linux systems as well. It ends up being too much work to try to cram into a single Saturday so we're exploring spreading it out over multiple Saturdays. Another option is to not wait until weekends for some types of maintenance. Recently, we performed an upgrade to a fairly major system during business hours so support staff could be available if needed. So far, this has worked out well. It doesn't mean we'll be taking down the entire network for hours at a time on a Wednesday morning, though. No matter how much you beg for an excuse not to get work done.
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