April 02, 2009, 10:56 AM — Technology needs spring cleaning just like rugs and garages. The trick today is to focus on security and maintenance issues that get ignored during normal work days. Set aside some time now to clean up and your technology will support you much more smoothly through the summer.
First, rather than last where we usually think of it, let's talk security. A huge number of security issues would be history if only vendors considered security at the beginning of product or service development rather than tacking on a sloppy coat of security paint at the end. Don't take the same attitude with your technology.
Have any employees left the company in the last few months? If so, make sure their login and access credentials have been deleted or their accounts suspended. Some companies are bad about laying off employees and forgetting to tell the IT group managing network access to shut the door on those people. Even if you don't support remote access to your network, verify users who have left the company have been purged from the access lists for servers and other storage devices.
Add checking e-mail to the list of stuff you review when employees depart. Read through the now departed employee's e-mail and redirect that mail address to the replacement employee or the manager of that job. Customers who don't know an employee left and don't get a response may figure either you don't care or have gone out of business. Neither is a good option in a time when you need every customer.
Verify your phone system redirects calls as well. In fact, while you're looking at your phone system, make sure it's current and you have the best deal from your carrier. If you sign contracts by the year, and your carrier drops prices during that time, they won't call and ask you to send them less money each month. However, when you call after your contract is up, they will make some good offers to keep you. Take advantage and check your contract dates for phone services and everything else you can remember, cell phones included.
Check the update status on all your security software. If you have to go to every desk and update security signature files, do that. And don't forget the security tools installed on your router that links you to the Internet. Most routers have security updates too, and they're not all automatic. If your router is an older consumer level unit, put some budget aside to step up to a real business router. The security you improve will be your own.
The only area people ignore more than security is backup, so let's do that next. How long has it been since you ran a data restore test? If you can't answer immediately, it's been too long.
Go to a PC or a server and rename a folder. Maybe under My Documents change the Contacts folder name to Contract-Test. Then restore the files in that now-missing folder.
How long did it take? Did you get all the files? If you weren't in the office and that needed to be done, could anyone else do that job? What's your grade for the restore, A+ or C or F? You don't have to tell me, but you should know your score.
Remember, users don't care about backup, they only care about restore. That means you have to care about backup or you'll never have a successful file or folder restoration. If you failed this test, make changes quickly. Failing a test causes embarrassment, but failing a restoration when users need those files costs your company money.
Verify all the new folders and storage areas you added this year get backed up properly. It's far too common to add a disk to a server, or buy a Network Attached Storage device, and not change your backup service to support the new storage space.
If you still use tapes for backup, your best possible grade is a C. If you don't have any offsite storage for your backup, you fail immediately before the test even starts. And if you think your users are following some backup procedure you gave them, you're failing them and your company. Remember, if you lose your data, you lose your business.
Go to all your network hardware devices, like routers, wireless networking components, servers, and storage devices. Check to see if the firmware, and operating system if that applies, is current. Hardware appliances may have both software and firmware update processes, and you need to check both.
Don't forget your desktop computers, laptops and phones. All get updated, and all are more secure and run better when they're using the current software and firmware. Set aside at least a half day, grit your teeth, and go do this.
Finally, take a look at your Web site and any blogs your company runs. If your Web site home page says something like "Looking Forward to a Great 2007" it also says something to your customers, and not something flattering. Check that your Web site is current, that you updated the content recently, and it says all the things you want it to say. If you have new products or services but don't put those on your Web site, you're losing business.
As part of the Web site check, take a deep breath and check all the blogs your company started last year. Any of them still alive? Any updates within the last week? Month? Any idea if the person responsible for writing the blogs is even still with the company? Personally, I feel an orphaned blog is no better then no blog.
Will this spring cleaning humble you and get dust up your nose? Most likely, yes. That just means when you do all these things again next quarter, everything will be current and up to date, right?