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What’s An IT Freeze? And, What Are They For?

December 21, 2020

First let’s get some terms clear. IT, is Information Technology. They typically have guys with job titles like DesktTop Engineer, Program Manager, Database Analyst. They are the ones who fix stuff when it breaks. (To be fair they are also the ones who built the stuff that keeps breaking, so it makes sense they should fix it. But, why don’t they simply built it so it doesn’t break in the first place? That’s a topic for another time.)

You may have seen reference to an “IT Freeze.” It’s often accompanied by a date range. A typical IT Freeze will be from Dec 11 through January 2: two weeks before Christmas until the day after New Years.

This is a period when lots of businesses are slowing down. I know more than one tech company that required much of their staff to take time off the week between Christmas and New Years.

A Freeze just means that no system changes can be made. Typically there are exceptions. Remember that discussion about stuff breaking? Yeah, fixing broken stuff typically gets an exception. But, no scheduled changes are allowed.

At first this might seem stupid. I mean, what better time to work on the computer networks than during the dead period around Christmas?

But, there’s logic behind the decision. The first piece is absolutely selfish. Do you like to work on Christmas or New Years? Neither do IT folks.

But, there’s a more important reason. Because, honestly if stuff breaks on Christmas, we are going to be working Christmas.

But, the last two weeks of the year are very important to a particular group of employees: the accounting department. In the United States all employers must send out income tax information to all their employees by January 31. If they are late, it’s literally a crime. Like get arrested type of crime.

So, it’s really important to the accounting group that the systems be as stable as possible during the last few weeks of the year as they run massive reports.

You do not want to be the engineer that brings down the network during the last two weeks of the year. That’s what a Freeze is for. It introduces stablity.

Many companies have started pushing their freezes back to the beginning of December instead of just two weeks before Christmas. Again, there’s a logical reason.

Many projects have a completion date of December 31. Often you don’t want to carry the accounting informaiton for a project from one year to teh next if you can avoid it. So, project managers try to push to geth all of their project changes in before the Freeze window. That means a lot of change and churn in the network.

And that much churn often means stuff breaks as new systems are loaded into the network. And IT wants to be able to fix all that stuff before the Freeze starts.

After all, they broke it, might as well be them that fixes it.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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