Network Management & Maintenance

There are four essential activities a small business needs to focus on to keep IT working. The small business needs to plan, build, manage and run IT.

Silverleaf uses this checklist and considers area of IT management by looking at each focus activity in turn. Each checklist item is intended as a practical tool (not a detailed how-to guide) to stimulate the business owner’s thinking.


Plan

It is hard to get to where you are going if you don’t have a roadmap to get there. Make sure that you have at least a rough direction of what your IT needs to do, how this is to be achieved, and when it will be done.

Overall IT Strategy & Budget

  • You have a short plan that outlines why you need IT, what it is for, and how it is to be used in support of the business.
  • You know what sort of technology you need to have, what it needs to be compatible with, and what you might need in the future. Don’t just buy what another company wants to sell you.
  • You have an IT budget for the next 12 months that replaces out-of-warranty equipment and buys new technology you need.

Manage & mitigate IT risks

  • You know how long your business can survive without IT before you can’t catch up – is it a week? 3 days? 1 day? 1 hour?
  • You have written down the risks that might occur (from likely to unlikely) and how bad they might be if they do occur (from insignificant to catastrophic)

Deliver on IT projects

  • Your IT projects are never done because they are ‘fun’ but because they support the business.
  • Your IT projects have a rough business case before implementing.
  • IT projects have an outline of how they are going to be achieved, when they are to be achieved, and what they need to deliver.

Build

In a small business it is tempting to buy new equipment (or software) without having thought about how it will be installed. You don’t want the entire business to come to a stop as five people try to install a new scanner ‘just like the one we have at home’.

Hardware

  • Make sure that the equipment you buy is suitable for a business network environment. Not all equipment suitable for home use will run on a business network.
  • Make sure that new equipment has an appropriate warranty – while not always good value, extended warranties can reduce the impact on your business if equipment does break unexpectedly.
  • To reduce complexity, consider limiting your purchases to a few brands and types of equipment that you trust and are familiar with. Try to have a common operating system (e.g. Windows 10) on all computers to make maintenance easier.

Software

  • Deploying existing software to new users, setting up new software and deploying new software to existing users.
  • Ensure that the software is installed and set up appropriately, and that licensing arrangements are followed.
  • Your subscription software (e.g. Office 365, other “software as a service” apps) is automatically downloaded and kept up-to-date.

Services

  • Setting up and maintaining the connection to the internet and liaising with the ISP when there are connection problems.
  • You have a firm understanding within the business of when tasks will be done in-house and when you will call in outside help.
  • You have established a working relationship with a professional IT services company who can guide you in deploying and setting up your hardware, software, and services.

Manage

Much as we’d like it to be, IT is not ‘set and forget’. Keep an eye on IT to be sure that the hardware you have is up to the task, and that your service providers continue to perform. Regularly review whether your IT needs are better met by an external IT service provider, a cloud solution provider, or in-house, depending on your business growth.

Vendor management

  • You regularly (at least every three years) ‘test the market’ to be sure that your IT service providers are still the best ‘fit’ for your business.
  • You have an independent mentor to discuss your IT needs with from time to time.
  • When staff expectations of IT service providers are not met, the staff know they have someone to raise the issues with.

User access controls, permissions, & passwords

  • New employees need to be added as new users to the network, and just as importantly, former employees need to be removed as soon as they leave the business.
  • Creating and maintaining in-house rules about access, permissions, passwords and other safety, security and administrative rules.
  • You have allocated responsibility to one or two people to add new users to the network (this will be the ‘network administrator’).

Administration & inventory

  • You have the ability to centrally discover, provision, deploy, update, and troubleshoot endpoint devices within your organization.
  • You are maintaining records of software licences, domain names, service contracts for peripherals like printers, liaising with vendors
  • You have allocated responsibility to someone for maintaining all usernames and passwords for the online services your business uses in a password protected database that you can access from any PC with internet access in the case of disasters (e.g. Evernote or LastPass).
  • You have allocated responsibility to someone for maintaining a list of all service contracts. Only one person is permitted to call a vendor for service.

Monitoring & maintenance

  • You are tracking the up-time, performance, and general usage patterns of desktops, laptops, services, and network devices.
  • You are monitoring network traffic and event logs for potential problems and/or suspicious activity.

Security, patching, & updates

  • You have allocated responsibility to one person for downloading, assessing (if necessary) and deploying security patches for the operating system and applications (line of business applications, back office systems and desktop applications).
  • You have a process in place (perhaps a routine security audit by an external person) to check that security patches are being deployed appropriately.

Backups & Redundancy

  • You are regularly testing your backups (at least quarterly) to ensure that your restore process will work in the event of a disaster recovery event.
  • You have a backup Internet connection (dual WAN) with automatic fail-over capability (if your business is Internet-dependent)

More information

Contact us for more information.