Make Better Business Technology Choices
Is your business executing well on the technology front? Most small businesses do not, citing time and money constraints. Today most of us can do very little of our work without technology, so if our technology is inadequate, we are holding back our people, and crippling our organizations.
Technology—like accounting, law, or engineering—is a discipline that requires time and dedication to acquire. Few business leaders have extensive technical skills and trust that their technology teams to manage this aspect of the business. In other areas of the business-like sales and production, the teams are held accountable to standards and quotas, but most leaders have no idea how to measure, evaluate or hold responsible their technology teams, so they don’t, leaving them to run amok and often having no idea how poorly they are performing.
The following is an overview of what a mature approach looks like.
A mature company does not view technology as an expense to be minimized or eliminated but as an investment and strategic advantage over less sophisticated competitors. If you allow your tech to suffer, so will your company.
- Failure – Mature companies understand that all hardware and software fail and are not surprised when it happens. They expect it and are prepared for this reality.
- High Availability – High availability refers to systems that are durable and likely to operate continuously without failure for a long time. The term implies that parts of a system have been thoroughly tested and, in many cases, that there are accommodations for failure in the form of redundant components such as additional BDR, Servers, Sans, Firewalls, Switches, Mesh Networks…
- The BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery Server) “The Business Continuity Enabler” – Backup is the most crucial aspect of running a network, and it is ignored and is rarely tested.
If disaster strikes and your data is crypto-locked on the server and workstations, can you recover, or will you have to pay the ransom with the hope of recovering your data?
The gold standard in backups is a BDR (Backup and Disaster Recovery Server) which is a standalone server that is located next to your production servers and mirrors them on an hourly basis. If a single file is deleted accidentally, a virus, ransomware or hardware failure takes out all your data; you never lose more than one hour of work.
The mirrored server can also function as a failover server should one or all your production servers fail. Additionally, the data is sent offsite to two different data centers in Reading, Pennsylvania and Salt Lake City, Utah. If your entire site was lost to disaster, your servers could be virtualized from either of the two data centers.
With the ability to run as a mirrored server a BDR provides near real-time local high availability infrastructure at much lower cost than traditional methods.
Preparing for Disaster via “Fire Drills” and Emergency Response Planning
Have you asked your team to test systems, such as prolonged Internet Outage, or Server Failure, or Power outage, or Hurricane Plans? A fire evacuation without a fire drill and documentation is a prescription for trouble. Make sure you demand all systems are tested yearly, and new capabilities are added or being suggested, as your business requires.
What about a hurricane, like Ike or Harvey? If you cannot access your business for 1-2 weeks, will your business stay in business? What is your Disaster Recovery Plan? Do you need one? Is it basic or complex?
The Inscrutable Cloud
The media drumbeat of Cloud, Cloud, Cloud would have us believe that the cloud-hosted applications are the answer to all technical challenges. While it is not without merit, the cloud is expensive and not the appropriate solution in many cases. Here are some considerations: Some cloud-hosted applications are very practical, like hosted email through Microsoft 365, or Salesforce CRM, or even QuickBooks. The more applications you can run as web-based apps, the smaller your required server footprint becomes. You also shift the support burden elsewhere and gain reliability.
However, cloud-hosted/located servers and even desktops are more expensive. In some businesses, this makes sense. When you host your server in the cloud, you are paying for it 24/7, but most companies only use these resources during typical work hours. In that case, the cost of Cloud Infrastructure can be 2-3 times the cost of a Local Infrastructure. Over five years, that is a significant cost. Also, local servers and applications are faster, although availability can be less, under certain circumstances, for example, should your office lose power or internet.
- Mobile Device Management and BYOD (Bring your device) – Mature companies embrace and have a procedure to deal with managing, supporting and ensuring data security on mobile devices.
- Security Monitoring and Reporting – Passwords are hackable, and the hacking tools can be acquired with a simple Google search. How often are your passwords changed and how complex are they? Does your business require some level of penetration testing to make sure the network is secure at this point in time? Does the firewall send alerts if there is a brute force attack happening, or suspicious traffic? Moderns firewalls do, and yours should.
- Security Groups and Permissions Checking – For users to access your network, they must have an Active Directory account. Moreover, your Active Directory should be maintained and managed. Are your security groups properly set-up? Do all individuals have the correct permissions? Is there a process to ensure accounts are closed and emails forwarded when employees leave? Is this reviewed to assure no mistakes were made? Old accounts being active is a typical security hole that has taken many giants to their knees.
- Critical Exception Reporting – You should be getting monthly reports that provide them the information you need to determine that your business network and data are safe and secure?
- Intellectual Property – Potential data locations are exploding: servers, computers, Dropbox, MS 365, google drive and MS OneDrive, Email, Carbonite, etc. Employees have access to quite a bit of critical data about the business making it difficult to secure essential data like client lists and other proprietary information when they leave. Not all places are secure or even backup properly. What is your strategy to address this?
- Employee Productivity Loss via Old Technology – A mature organization does not try to save money by using old desktops, servers, networking hardware and software. For most companies, the people are the most significant single expense. Compared to good people, good technology is cheap. To save money, smart companies invest in current tech and need fewer people to do the same jobs.
- Employee Productivity Loss via Internet – You should be getting monthly reports on internet usage, if not you are most likely overstaffed to fill the productivity loss that social media, online banking, personal web surfing, yes even watching movies creates. Does your technology allow you to shape bandwidth for specific applications, block other applications and assess the impact? Are people using mobile devices freely that are unmanaged/unnamed contributing to bandwidth and productivity loss?
We all need some freedom to take care of personal business at work when we have a moment and use the internet for it. The issue is overuse or abuse, and the ability to see it and address it appropriately for your specific business.
This data is from Salary.com, who gathered responses from employees in 2014. In 2013 69% of respondents said they waste at least some time at work on a daily basis. One year later the number of people who now admit to losing time at work every day has reached 89%. Employees are spending more extended periods than ever before “wasting time” on personal activities the majority of which was internet related.
- 31% waste roughly 30 minutes daily
- 31% waste approximately 1 hour daily
- 16% waste approximately 2 hours daily
- 6% waste approximately 3 hours daily
- 2% waste approximately 4 hours daily
- 2% waste 5 or more hours daily
Which means that 10% of people surveyed waste half the average workday. Yes, Half!
Truewater provides computer network support services to companies with between 20 -200 desktops through a carefully selected team of highly skilled technicians and our high-tech support center and help desk. We utilize a time tested standardization approach developed over the last two decades.
We are a complete IT firm and can support you with managed services, cloud computing, project management, and professional IT consulting services. We focus on providing substantial support to the small business market, so our approach is specifically tailored to small firms. With just under 20 employees, we have worked with hundreds of Houston companies since 2001, designing, building, maintaining and improving their computer networks every day. Contact Truewater today to learn how we can help.