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Should IT Time Be Spent Scheduling System Tasks?

System administrators IT directors and other key IT personnel have a long list of duties. This lengthy list varies widely from organization to organization, but normally includes such weighty activities as server and computer configuration and setup, installation and maintenance of networks, setup and management of all hardware, installation and maintenance of all databases and other applications, careful formulation and implementation of policies, and system access and protection–to name but a few. Add to those helpdesk traffic, user complaints and emergencies and the recipe for the typical IT overload is in place.

Time organization for IT staff is always a problem. And unfortunately however well a day is planned there are always “fires.” Hence, IT staffs have a tendency to be greatly overworked with lengthy backlogs of things to do. Scheduling tasks such as defragmentation, backup, anti-virus and others while seemingly “time-saving” are actually anything but–they burn up very valuable IT staff hours in the analysis, planning and the scheduling itself.

Defragmentation is a prime example. In order to schedule defragmentation runs, an analysis must be regularly made of a system so that accurate planning can be made–that is, defragmentation runs can be planned on the right drives and often enough that they will actually achieve benefit. These runs must then be scheduled. As systems are dynamic entities, they must be analyzed regularly and runs re-scheduled as needed.

At one time, scheduling actually was beneficial. When scheduling first appeared as a solution, it was actually quite a blessing as these tasks previously had to be performed manually and usually off-hours. Scheduling meant that the tasks could be planned and executed without the presence of an IT person, which did save time. Defragmentatation, for example, could be run without the presence of a system administrator and performance reliability could be kept up.

But today IT tasks have become far more complex. Technology has greatly advanced into such heights as virtual servers and network-attached storage. Database technology has become more advanced with far more variables, as have other technologies. Keeping a system up and running is not nearly as simple as it used to be. The time taken to schedule tasks is in fact robbing other far more valuable activities of badly-needed attention.

In today’s IT climate, the answer is an “on-the-fly” approach to such tasks. Defragmentation, for example, should be completely automatic, utilizing only idle system resources so performance problems aren’t created by the utilities themselves, and maintaining performance and reliability wherever and whenever possible. Such tasks should be completely automatic and require no scheduling whatsoever.

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