Operations On-Call Go-Bag

A go-bag (or bug-out bag) is commonly discussed in terms of emergency preparedness; it’s a bag containing things you would need to use to survive for 72 hours. For survival, you would be looking at things like food, water, a medical kit, and some basic tools. The idea being that you may have to leave quickly in an emergency, and may not have time to gather supplies. We can borrow ideas from this useful concept to help build out a kit that you should be carrying with you when you’re on-call.

The Basic On-Call Go Bag

Cell Phone

I know I shouldn’t have to say this, but if you’re on-call you’re going to need a cell phone. I would recommend setting it to an audible ring-tone, something obnoxious that you wouldn’t miss if it rings.

You should have any numbers you’ll need when on-call programmed into your phone. Obvious numbers you should have are things like your datacenter’s NOC, your data carrier’s NOC, and any vendor who is involved in the delivery of your service. This should probably include any developers, team leads, and managers you may need to call.

Mobile Host Spot or Tethering Plan

There is a chance you may be somewhere without WiFi, plan ahead and make sure you can keep in contact. It’s a terrible feeling to get an SMS and not be able to do anything for 20 -30 minutes.

Charger for Cellphone

If you need to use your phone to talk, you’re probably going to use more battery time. If you’re also planning to use your phone to tether or a mobile hotspot, you’ll be eating through your batter very quickly, so it best to carry one of these.

Headset for Cell Phone

If you end up on the phone, you’ll probably want your hands for other things. It helps you keep both hands on the keyboard, of allows you to easily take notes, without putting your smart phone at risk.


Well you are going to fix servers, right? Make sure you can connect to your production instances, your documentation servers, VPN, and your mobile internet. You should try all of these things first, so that you’re not caught trying to figure it out on the go. Make sure you have the following:

  • Production Access (VPN or bastion host access)
  • SSH keys, if needed
  • Offline copies of some documentation in case your documentation servers are inaccessible.
  • Links to bugtracking, and monitoring servers/services.

Laptop Power Adapter

You should be prepared to be on your computer for a while. Its can be pretty easy to run out of power when you’re on the go

Paper Notebook

Sometimes it helps to write things down. You may not be in a good place to file tickets, and communicate what is happening. It can also be a little faster to scribble a note on a piece of paper, and it may help you reconstruct things a little later. As a extra bonus you can take down a phone number, if you need to.


A notebook is pretty useless without it.

Data Center Badge (if needed)

If you have physical hardware, you may have to drive to the datacenter. Its better to have this with you in an emergency, then to have to stop at the office, or home first.


Its not a ton of equipment, but its enough to get the job done. What you’re looking to do is eliminate any reason why you’d to eliminate any thing that might stop you from resolving the issue.