June 2009 IT Business Consulting Newsletter

Introducing Computing Resource Maintenance, Management, and Monitoring

By Tom K

Losing a PC for a couple of days can cost you revenue and productivity, while causing unnecessary aggravation and distraction. Losing a Business Server for even a day can grind your business to a halt. And the thought of permanently losing Property Management data, departmental data, or email will bring chills to any manager.

In this month’s newsletter, I’ll introduce the practices and some tools (often free) that can help you prevent these losses, cost-effectively manage your resources, and centrally control your environment. The next series of Newsletters will discuss each topic in detail.

The “experts” all agree that most damage is brought in to your environment from outside, either via the Internet or those nasty little USB memory sticks. We also agree that this damage is best prevented by the big three: Firewalls, Patches, and Anti-Virus (to which I add Anti-Malware and Anti-Spam). The series will discuss best practices and tools for deploying and centrally managing & monitoring all of these.

Most of you employ these to some extent, BUT... Are you sure ALL of your PCs and servers are properly protected and completely up to date? Do you know when an update fails, a PC or server has not been scanned, or a virus sneaks through? Do you not have to rely on your users to keep your computers up to date? If you answered “No” or “I’m not sure” to any of these, you are at risk!

Got Spam? Spam is not only time wasting and aggravating, but it is a major source of Malware. The series will detail general tools for Spam reduction, and offer specific suggestions you can use to centrally manage and monitor this nightmare.

Your business servers are your most critical assets. Servers and their ancillary systems should be designed for maximum reliability and up-time. The series will include an article detailing this and, just as important but often overlooked, the means to proactively monitor the health of these essential systems. Even if your server has redundant components, if one fails and you aren’t aware of its failure, you are at risk!

Most of you have Windows networks and use Microsoft’s Active Directory (AD) to manage the Users, Groups, Computers, and Printers in your network. AD includes a wonderful tool, Group Policy Manager, which allows you to create and selectively apply configurations and operating rules to all of your Users, PCs, and Servers. When you create a new rule or change a configuration setting, it is applied to every device or user on the next log-in. The series will provide examples you can use with Group Policy to provide additional centralized control over your computing environment.

Speaking of AD, I’m often surprised when auditing environments that some businesses don’t take full advantage of the management capabilities available in AD. The series will discuss strategies and best practices for setting up User Groups and secure shared directories so you can easily manage what users have access to what data, as well as selectively providing access to resources. Do you really want everyone to have access to your financials or that $.09/page color laser printer?? Properly designed User Groups also simplify adding new employees… just add them to the groups (or department) defined by their job function and they automatically get access to all/only the data and resources they need.

Finally, I’ll discuss Backups. Everyone (I hope) has a backup strategy in place, but is it the best for your business needs? Are your backup jobs properly configured? Are you sure they are working? Are your backups secured? I’ll discuss various BU strategies, including best practices to secure your BU’s.

Do any of your users save data (letters, spreadsheets, access databases, etc) locally on their PCs? If so, it is most likely that these company assets are not being backed up. The Backup article will provide a transparent solution to this very common and hazardous issue.

Yes, there is a lot coming, but I promise I’ll break it down into easily digestible pieces (hence the “series” of articles). Each individual piece will decrease your “loss of service” liability while also decreasing your management costs. Taken as a whole, the completed puzzle will provide you with an easily managed, reliable, trouble-free computing environment that will support your business efforts.

If you have immediate needs or questions concerning any of the topics above, I’d be happy to discuss them with you at your convenience. Feel free to contact me at TomK@TomKConsulting.com, or via my cell 443.310.5110.