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The (Real) Meaning of "Keep The Lights On"

What is KTLO?

Well, KTLO stands for “Keep the lights on” and given the economic climate here in the US as of the time writing this, it might be a term that all of us start hearing way more often.

Keep the lights on is a fancy way of saying “maintain staffing levels and work on a product to only what is absolutely needed to keep it running reliably and securely”.

Oftentimes, companies use this definition to determine how many full-time employees they need on staff as a baseline level for “core support”. Anything beyond KTLO staffing can be filled by contract workers. This way if the shit hits the fan the company can stop work on new features, cut the contract workers, and keep the product running as-is with their full-time employees.

When determining what KTLO is for your application or product it’s super important to consider all of the different aspects of what it truly takes to just maintain and secure your application.

How to figure out KTLO

In most instances, this is going to include staff for site reliability or SRE teams. It will include at least one software engineer to fix bugs or apply security patches (but probably two if your company has any kind of peer review process), It’ll require some level of customer support and it will certainly require someone to oversee the application through the time of low-level staffing to ensure when staffing ramps back up you don’t lose the internal knowledge of the application.

While this does all seem pretty doom-and-gloom, I honestly believe that every company should evaluate their application and document what KTLO-level staffing looks like. Nobody wants to see this happen, but being prepared for it is a no-brainer.

That’s all I have on KTLO for today. until next time happy coding.