Keys, wallet, phone. We all have that mental checklist that we run through every morning. Did you forget something? Well, when it comes to your business, we’ve got another checklist for you, The Ultimate IT Checklist for any Business.
There are things you know and things you don’t. Sometimes there are things you don’t know you don’t know. But when it comes to information technology, that’s what we know and are the experts in. We have compiled a checklist that will help set your business up for success when it comes to your technology stack. As you continue to read, we’ll touch on some of the “Must Have’s” when it comes to your IT Department.
The backbone of any business, your network and server infrastructure. Are you on-prem, in the cloud? Do you have services distributed through multiple datacenters located in different regions? Whatever the setup, this is the lifeline of your business. Can you afford to have an outage? Have you architected your systems to ensure business continuity? According to Veritis Over the last five years, 50 percent of companies experienced downtimes that lasted longer than a complete workday. Unplanned downtime can cost up to USD $926 – $17,244 per minute. That leads us to the first item on our list. Network and Server Infrastructure Redundancy.
Whether you’re a business with a handful of employees or thousands, having redundant systems is a core investment in your technology stack. This can be similar hardware configured in a way that should one system fail the other hardware would recover with minimal to zero downtime to your business, also known as High Availability (HA) What this does for you is allow you to assess the failure while keeping your business up and running and customers happy. Are your systems redundant? Do you have some redundance built into your Wide Area Network (WAN) like SD WAN? There is a lot of different options to provide business continuity and protect your production environment.
Our next item on the list, cybersecurity. You hear about data breaches for large, publicly traded companies and think, “Phew, that’ll never happen to me. I’m not on anyone’s radar.” That’s exactly what these bad actors (A cybersecurity adversary that is interested in attacking information technology systems) want you to think.
Your business could be an email attachment away from being infected with Ransomware, potentially crippling your productivity. Many Cybersecurity firms have forecasted that by 2021 costs associated from Ransomware will reach an all-time high of $20 billion. Datto, a leading company in the disaster recovery space states, “Year-over-year ransomware downtime costs are up 200%.”
So how do you protect your business from these types of threats? Well one method we suggest, which may come as a surprise is employee and executive training. I know what you’re thinking, just throw some fancy security software on all of your end points and be done with it. While we do encourage layers when it comes to security, one of the easiest ways into your business is through your employees. We highly recommend investing in the education of your employees to recognize and question suspicions emails, attachments, phone calls, etc.
Another way that bad actors get into your business is by social engineering, again this method may be done through your employees. So, what exactly is social engineering? Social engineering is the act of tricking someone into providing information or taking action, usually through technology. The idea behind social engineering is to take advantage of a potential victim’s natural tendencies and emotional reactions. This could be through email, known as Phishing or Vishing, the act of social engineering over the phone. These are just a couple of ways to launch an attack.
Investing in training for your employees on how to identify social engineering threats and investing in multiple layers of technology to minimize any gaps in coverage is key. SPAM appliances do a great job at weeding out malicious emails and offer a lot of granularity. You’ll also want to make sure that your end points are protected in some manner. This can be through anti-virus software, applying the latest security patches down to device use polices, content filtering, etc.
This one may also seem like a no brainer, but a lot of organizations overlook the need and integration of different software. This can be anything from Office 365 subscription services to a full-blown ERP platform.
But how do you know what software is being used in your organization, available licenses, cost? What happens when a new employee is onboarded and Mr. Johnny IT, who is responsible for this task is out sick? Is there another staff member that has access to necessary documentation needed to complete a new employee onboarding? Whatever the use case may be we highly recommend that someone or a team of IT staff are responsible for the management of software licenses, contracts, renewals, etc.
As your business grows, you’ll be either building out custom software or purchasing off the shelf solutions that can be tailored to your needs. Many organizations run ERP (Enterprise
Resource Planning) Software to help integrate the different facets of the business into a centralized system or multiple systems that easily integrate with each other. This should be one of the first items on your list if you’re just getting started. If you’re already an established company and in reading this, you had your “Ah ha moment” you’re not alone.
Efficiency comes when the right software solutions are purchased and integrated with foresight in mind. Will your new software platform integrate with finance, logistics, sales, IT? Having a hodge-podge of different solutions in your organization is going to cause headaches. Not only for your IT staff having to support these potential systems that don’t play nice with each other but, for every other department and employee in your business.
Support/Maintenance Contracts (1st or 3rd Party)
Did you just buy some expensive new hardware to run the latest hyperconverged technology stack? We hope you opted for some sort of manufacture backed warranty and support or maybe a 3rd party option through a Value-Added Reseller (VAR). Unlike consumer grade products where that $300-dollar extended warranty seems unnecessary, purchasing support for prosumer and enterprise grade hardware/software is an absolute must.
You may ask yourself, why? “These support contracts cost money, that’s why we employee experienced engineers.” While this is true to an extent, you should be leveraging the experts for support that your engineers can work with, keeping them freed up for other tasks as needed. Not only do these support contracts offer tech support but most (depending on what was purchased) offer hardware support and even the outright replacement of entire systems. Often working with a dedicated engineer and dispatching onsite, to your business as needed.
Here is a real-world example. you’re all setup with your new storage area network (SAN) in your datacenter and everything is running top notch. One of your engineer’s gets an alert that one of the many drives has failed. Of course, you’re not worried because you’re SAN is setup in a RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) Array, just another routine maintenance job… or so you thought. What happens when you run into issues swapping out the failed drive. Perhaps you successfully swapped the failed drive out, but the RAID array won’t rebuild, or you see errors during the rebuild process. This is when you call in the Subject Matter Experts (SME) Being able to leverage SME’s is invaluable to your business’s sustainability and efficiency. We can’t stress enough the importance of purchasing and renewing support contracts for the various systems your IT dept is responsible for.
Monitoring and Alerting
It’s Monday morning, you wake up to a flurry of emails from executives, co-workers, etc. Keep in mind you’re not even in the office yet, but your East Coast team has been experiencing issues
for the last few hours with one of your many systems. What happened and why am I finding out from employee’s vs the system(s) having issues?
This is where monitoring and alerting comes in. Most systems these days have some type of alerting options that can be setup to notify you when there’s an issue. However, having to configure one-off systems to send out alerts is time consuming and not to mention every system is most likely going to have a different way to configure alert settings.
This is where we recommend investing in some monitoring and alerting software. Now most of these solutions have an agent that gets deployed on your end points. These can be configured to alert you when certain thresholds are met. This can be for CPU spikes, RAM Utilization all the way down to services on your server being in a non-operational state. What we want to accomplish is knowing there is an issue before the business does and sending out communication that conveys this.
So, let’s go back to Monday morning, but this time you have systems in place to alert IT staff of any issues/outages. Mr. Johnny IT gets that phone call or text message at 3am and springs into action, well before your East Coast colleagues are starting their day. With this proactiveness Johnny IT can resolve all issues before the business is open. Let’s say that Johnny IT is unable to resolve the issue. You can now begin to communicate to the business letting employees know of said outage. It could be something simple like internet being down at corporate, but that’s ok because you notified employees beforehand which kept them from taking a needless drive into the office, and…. everyone loves working from home.
So, what’s the takeaway here, what are we, CNG IT trying to convey and inform you of? At the end of the day there are a lot of different pieces that go into a comprehensive plan of action for your business and this is just the technology portion of that. We at CNG IT wants you to be successful and arm you with all the tools and knowledge needed to start your business on the right foot and with Information Technology being at the forefront of any organization that’s extremely important to your success.
To some readers this is a reminder that you’re following best practices and have your ducks in a row, but to many more, this checklist exposes gaps or struggles potentially plaguing your business. Let CNG IT roadmap your technology plan and be your trusted partner in today’s digital age.