The birds are chirping. The sun’s in the sky. The weather’s warmer. About time too – it’s been chuffing cold and it bloody snowed a couple of weeks back in Yorkshire. Regardless, it is technically spring. So, I thought the time was right for some tips on spring cleaning your business IT.
This is not as daft as it sounds. Far too many businesses don’t maintain or update their IT until it’s too late. Now’s as good a time as any to fix that. So, I thought I’d put together a little checklist of some of the essentials. Hope it helps.
This one’s right basic, but easily neglected. The makers of pretty much any piece of IT you use will release updates periodically. These may do anything from fixing bugs to improving performance. I think most people are aware of this, but I see far too many put it off. The update comes when you’re in the middle of something, and you think “not now”. Then before you know it, you’re multiple updates behind and your systems are at crawling speed.
Nothing’s complicated about fixing this: you just need to take the time to do updates. But in the long term, it might be worth thinking about patch management. Despite the name, patch management has nothing to do with running an allotment. What it means is proactively making sure software and licences are up to date, and scheduling updates at times that don’t inconvenience you.
This relates to the previous point. If you’re not actively monitoring your systems, missed updates are far from the only thing that can go wrong. You might have all manner of minor problems – in network performance, storage capacity, or anything else. Taken alone, you might not notice these. But over time, they snowball, and before you know it your business faces extended downtime.
You need to monitor your infrastructure proactively. That sounds like a load of buzzwords, but what it means is tracking problems and spotting patterns over time. This allows you to prevent problems instead of having to resolve them.
Honestly, you’d be amazed how slack some businesses are on this. It’s not complicated: if you don’t manage passwords, you’re more likely to get hacked. It isn’t hard to get this in order, but you’ve got to make it part of your routine.
First things first, you need mandatory regular updates for all users. This means every month or so, people are prompted to create a new password. When people leave your company, you should block their access too. You wouldn’t send them away with a set of keys – keeping their login details is the digital equivalent.
As for what makes a good password, “password” is equivalent to leaving the front door open! You want a mix of numbers and upper and lower case letters. Why? Take a look at this:
This is a big topic that applies to everyone. Cybercrime has shot right up in recent years, and it’s not just big business and government that have to worry. Criminals target small business too, and these little buggers are organised. What you need to do is make sure you’re not an easy target.
This means making sure you’ve got anti-virus, anti-spam and firewalls to protect all your devices, systems and network. It also means making sure you and your colleagues are clued up on phishing techniques. When it comes to cybercrime, prevention is a hell of a lot better than cure. The time to get your house in order is now.
Disaster recovery and backup
Let’s say you have an outage. What happens to your files and data? How long before you’re back up and running? It’s alarming how many businesses just don’t have an answer to these questions. Bear in mind that you could have an outage at any time, for reasons beyond your control (fire, bad weather, network faults…) At best, downtime costs money. At worst, you could lose critical customer or financial data. This isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s a threat to your business.
The first step is to back everything up on the cloud. This means it’s accessible regardless of any hardware problems. But there’s more to a disaster recovery plan than this. You need contingencies for every possible outcome. Get it right, and you ensure that you’re never out of action for too long and you can always access the files you need to keep going.
I hope this is of some use. IT infrastructure is a complicated business and I’m well aware it makes some people’s eyes glaze over! The thing is, every business relies on IT. Anything you rely on has to be maintained. I’ll spare you the full sales pitch, but our business offers managed IT services – which pretty much means you can have expert eyes looking after any part of your IT infrastructure.
We’re not the sorts to blow our own trumpet and say every business needs our services. Some don’t. But the rest, we can really help. That’s why we offer a free audit of your IT infrastructure. If you don’t need us, we’ll say so. If we think we can help, we’ll explain how. It’s an honest approach and it serves our customers well. If you’re interested, give us a call. Either way, I hope these tips help!