No Place Like Risks For the Holidays

Christmas Tree

Photo by dannynorodo

The biggest holiday risk on your mind might be electrocution by lawn decoration or having to suffer through a eggnog induced story from your brother-in-law. 

However, there are a few risks to consider for your online business or website that are holiday specific.  The best present is peace of mind as you’re able to confidently ignore your business for much deserved downtime.

1. “Low-Risk” Updates & Changes


The last few weeks of the year area great time for system admins and developers to get caught up on work because there usually aren’t a lot of people around the office. But changes to your environment create risks that under normal circumstances would be small, but during the holidays can be more severe. because you may not have a full staff or traffic to your site, a problem in your site might go unnoticed until after new years. And you may not be able to quickly handle a problem.

The best bet is to have a defined lock-down period for changes that pose downtime or recovery risks during the holidays. Critical and low risk fixes get through, and everything else gets shelved.

2. Who’s got the ball?

We all have shopping to do, events to attend, family to see, and carols to sing. Giving your employees flexibility to do all this fun stuff during the holidays is a great perk and makes work a lot more enjoyable. But if people are offsite frequently or pre-occupied with other (arguably more important) things, they may not be at the ready to notice and respond to an issue with your online business or website.

My recommendation is to have a published rotation of responsiblity for any production site issues that occur. You can even give extra incentives for folks that take the calculated risk of being on rotation for Christmas day or other holidays. They might get a treat for free, or they might have to do some critical work. At any rate, they shouldn’t have to do it two years in a row.

3. Seasonal Peaks & Valleys

Depending on your business, you may experience dramatic changes during the holiday period.  Obviously, if you’re on online retailer, you need to be ready for shoppers from Black Friday on.

On the other hand, if you sell to other businesses or provide services that get less use during the holidays, you may actually get a dramatic reduction in usage of your system.  The biggest issue this creates is unused capacity in your data center, leaving you at risk of paying for computing power you simply don’t need.

One approach is to track your demand over multiple years and pay attention to seasonal patterns.  Make sure you have a plan in place to grow or shrink your capacity based on expected demand, plus a margin of headroom for unexpected spikes.


The holidays are a special time for businesses too.  There are unique risks that are posed and should be mitigated to ensure smooth continuity during the holiday season.  

How are you planning to keep your business humming during the holidays?  Are you experiencing a spike or drop in demand?

About Kit Merker

Product Manager @ Google - working on Kubernetes / Google Container Engine.
This entry was posted in Business Continuity, Cloud, Disaster Recovery, Downtime, Technology, Uptime and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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