TyriaThe weather is getting colder, trees are bare and gift commercials are running full steam ahead – the holidays are among us. In the next few days, wallets will flow freely thanks to all of the deals Black Friday have to offer. While this may be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ for shoppers like me, it can be torture for my friends in IT due to increased workloads, risk and exposure. To keep them from shriveling at the thought of the holidays, there are some tools to reduce the load. This is extremely important during a time when I can name at least 5 reasons why IT could understandably channel the Grinch. I know I would feel the pressure. Here are some of the things that can turn this time of the year into a nightmare for IT, and some ways we can avoid it:

Reason 1: Now Hiring – SO MANY People

Now Hiring classified ad showing through reading glasses.

Ahhh seasonal employment, the time when you can earn a few extra dollars in your pocket by wrapping gifts, handling customer service calls or aiding the frantic shopper with which sweater would make a better gift for dear “Aunt Suzie”. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., it’s estimated that retailers will bring on an extra 755,000 workers this season, meaning a daunting onboarding effort crushing the shoulders of IT. And there is not a lot of time to get it done. While not every worker will access a dedicated computer, something as simple as making sure employees have the right register account or building access across a national chain of stores can be a huge undertaking.

So how can IT handle the load without logging in so much overtime that they almost miss the holidays themselves? Automating onboarding can help reduce the workload for IT and get these employees up and running much faster. The right technology, can predict what access new hires will need for the coming season AND deliver it to them automatically without IT’s intervention. This can take your typical onboarding time from days to minutes, increase accuracy of giving the right access levels to the right people, and ensure a proper record of said access. Freeing up the time usually spent on getting employees up and running will allow IT to focus on more important things like ensuring that systems don’t buckle under holiday pressure like some retail giants — which could be the difference between a happy holiday sale and a scene from the Purge.

Reason 2: System Access – Today’s Ex-Employee Discount

So what happens to all of those workers when the shopping season is over? For most, their employment ends, which means that IT has to revoke all of that access they worked so hard to give them. This includes those peak time, “I need it immediately” requests that aren’t always properly documented. Now, multiply that by thousands of seasonal hires with logins to cash registers and access cards to warehouses. If any of those people aren’t properly restricted from all of their access in a timely manner, and it’s estimated that 35% of employees have system access for at least 1 week after leaving employment, the business is at risk of theft or system tampering.

Imagine that Joe has been fired from the Big Retail’s warehouse but no one told IT. His key card still works, so he decides to pay the warehouse a visit after hours and take a few things home. Cameras may catch him, but why be reactive when you can stop the issue before it happens? Automated offboarding reduces the risk of access being placed in the wrong hands. When someone’s employment status is changed in the HR system, it triggers the automated removal of the former employee’s access – quickly and securely. And most importantly, without the intervention of IT.

Reason 3: 50% off Virus Sale

spam mailTis the season of coupons in the mail, on the web, and in nearly everyone’s email. It’s also the time of year when our favorite cyber criminals offer everything from fake coupons to fake product giveaways to lure unsuspecting shoppers into a virus trap — not to mention the number of fake storefronts offering the latest high-end gift for less if you just “click here.” For IT, the number of risks that exposes the organization to can be monumental. Even though we know we shouldn’t open suspicious emails, or access questionable websites, the thrill of saving a few bucks for the holidays lures in unsuspecting people every year. According to the recent Insider Threat report, collaboration and communication apps like email are the most vulnerable to insider attacks at 45%.

Hacks are being built 10x faster than blacklists can be created, making staying ahead of the problem extremely difficult for IT. More sophisticated whitelisting technology can help reduce the risk of phishing attacks by only allowing access to the few approved websites the organization believe to be risk-adverse. Any requests to access files or websites not whitelisted can be automatically denied. Keeping the organization secure so everyone can be “Home for Holidays”.

Reason 4: You Can’t Be Everywhere at Once All the Time

With the holiday season comes holiday plans, telework and vacation. This can cause its own issues like an abundance of remote access requests, forgotten passwords and not a lot of patience to wait for IT. Add in an influx of seasonal employees, and service desks can easily hit overtime, leaving them with three options. Increase hours to accommodate the additional requests, or only help who they can as time allows, which results in a bunch of unhappy, under-served, and unproductive staff. But wait, I said three options not two.

The third option is to empower those employees to help themselves with a self-service store. From password resets, to requests for access, or even requests for an additional pair of those stylish drive-in headsets; employees can log on to their computers, phones or tablets and request the access they need. Again, with automation, needed approval workflows ensure he/she should have what they are requesting. Then those requests are delivered automatically. Happy holidays to you.

Reason 5: I’ll Be Home for the Holidays…Hopefully

I'll be home - dog sad faceSo while we are all preparing for holiday shopping – even if you don’t celebrate the holidays, the deals are quite awesome – IT can join in on the fun too. With automation, IT can focus on more of the major risks that affect businesses and focus less on the people-posed problems that can lead to internal threats – all without opening up to risks or negatively impacting customer service. It’s can be joyous season for everyone after all.

To learn more about how organizations like Connexxion and others are balancing security with the speed of automation, read on here.