Monthly Archives: March 2012

Why you should audit your network.

Do you know what’s connected to your network? If not, you should! Auditing your network and creating an inventory of your IT assets catalogs all devices connected to your network including PCs, laptops, printers, routers and switches. In some cases, assets discovered may even be unauthorized.

By scanning and discovering all connected devices, your IT team can quickly perform a hardware and software audit. This helps ensure compliance with network policy, software licensing compliance, and compliance with industry regulatory requirements, such as, HIPPA. What’s more, having asset data cataloged, including hardware and software profiles, helps remote support technicians troubleshoot when things go wrong.

What can you do with network audit data?

  • Check your firewall’s security settings to make sure you are protected from the latest hacker attacks, worms, and viruses.
  • Scan and remove spyware that is secretly stealing your company’s bandwidth, jeopardizing the speed of your computer system, and embezzling confidential information about you, your employees, and your business.
  • Check your network’s backup system to ensure it is working properly and accurately backing up all of the critical files and information you never want to lose.
  • Verify that you have the most up-to-date security patches installed properly; miss one critical update and you’re a “sitting duck.”
  • Identify unstable PCs that may operate slowly.
  • Search for all items meeting a criteria in summary and detail. For example, to determine how many machines use windows 7 with 4 megs of RAM to see if they are eligible for an O/S migration.
  • Determine which devices may be out of software license compliance.
  • Summarize warranty information for which devices are covered and which devices are not.
  • Create an asset register to support financial audits of fixed assets.
  • Create compliance reports including logs of O/S updates, anti-virus definition updates and backup.

With the many benefits of auditing your network, why wait? A network audit and asset inventory should be part of your proactive and routine managed service program. Contact your service provider today to insure that your network is secure.

Sometimes it is easy being green.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day. Everybody is Irish for 24 hours and the color green is top of mind. Green Computing or sustainable computing is a way to use your IT Assets such as computers, printers, monitors, servers, routers and storage devices efficiently, effectively and with minimal impact on the environment.

Here are a few ideas to keep to practice green and sustainable computing:

Turn them off when you don’t use them. For desktops and laptops consider turning them off when you are done for the day. Leaving them on at night can increase power consumption. Besides, your PC could use a reboot now and then anyway. However, be sure you speak with your backup and network administrator about IT policies for systems maintenance. Your systems may have a daily backup scheduled after hours. In addition, software and operating system updates may occur after hours as well. Some “managed” desktops, laptops and servers are smart enough to power up for routine systems maintenance. Check your IT policies first to make sure it is OK to turn them off at night.

Buy Energy Star computer equipment. Energy Start is a low carbon IT campaign to help reduce energy consumed by computer equipment. When you buy new computers make sure they are Energy Star Compliant. If you have older equipment you may factor in power savings as part of your return on investment (ROI) for your new systems. Consider this, an Energy Star computer can save up to $50 annual in power. Not only to you save some “green” by buying Energy Star Computers, but, by minimizing your carbon footprint you are going green too.

Re-use and Recycle. Make sure to dispose of old computer equipment responsibly. Many component parts of a computer can by recycled or refurbished. Also, computers have plenty of raw materials that can be put back to use if your computer is properly disposed. However, be careful how you recycle your desktops, laptops and servers. Like a credit card, computers are full of confidential information and need to be disposed of properly. Hard drives should be wiped, or better yet, physically destroyed to ensure your data is no longer on the disk image. There are eWaste services that do this for you. Some communities organize eWaste days and coordinate the collection, disposal, re-use and recycling of obsolete computer equipment.

Every little bit helps and saves you money. Have a happy St. Patrick’s day and think “Green” about your computing.

Moving your IT to the Cloud? Here are some things to consider.

Moving your IT to the Cloud? It seems like everyone is doing it. According to a 2011 survey by IPED at least 50% of small businesses will adopt cloud computing within their business by the end of 2012. With all of the hype about cloud computing, here are some things to consider before you make the move.

Let’s start off with what is Cloud Computing? The easiest way to explain the “Cloud” is think of it as using computer assets (software, servers, etc.) that are located somewhere off-site from your company’s location. Cloud computing is typically purchased on a subscription basis (i.e. a monthly service fee) avoiding some of the up front costs. Also, the Cloud may be a shared resource (i.e. Public Cloud) or dedicated resource (i.e. Private Cloud).

The first thing your need to decide is: what do you want to gain by moving to the Cloud? Are you trying to avoiding making capital expenditures? Do you want to pay-as-you go for your IT infrastructure as an operating expense instead of a capital expense? Are you concerned about being able to recover from a backup in the event a disaster, such as, a fire, earthquake or hurricane that could destroys all your computers and data on site? If any of this appeals to you, then Cloud Computing might either augment or replace critical IT assets within your company today. However, these benefits do not come without risk.

If you decide to replace your line of business application (e.g. Accounting Software) with a Cloud alternative commonly known as Software as a Service (SaaS) you won’t have to pay for the software and operating systems licenses upfront. You won’t pay for the hardware or installation either. Keep in mind, while you are paying for this as an operating expense you typically won’t own the IT asset either. This means you will continue to pay for a subscription to use the service. Additionally, be sure you can configure the application to meet your business needs. Many SaaS applications are configurable but not customizable. Also, SaaS applications may be more challenging to integrate with your other line of business applications (e.g. customer management system). Also, make sure you can easily migrate your data to the new SaaS application.

If you worry that your backup may not allow you to recover in an emergency, you may consider looking at a Cloud based Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery solution. The Cloud allows you to take advantage of the same IT infrastructure as a large enterprise has, at a cost that is affordable to your business. You need to consider the risks of privacy when you share computing resources with other businesses. A “Public Cloud” solution may be affordable, however, your industry regulations may not allow that. You may require a “Private Cloud” solution, which has added security and added costs.

Whichever solution you choose, make sure you understand the Service Level Agreement (SLA) from your Cloud provider. You need to understand what happens if you have downtime or suffer a data loss. Be clear about who is responsible and what options you have.

Cloud Computing, done right, can provide savings and business benefits for the small business owner. If you are uncertain about how to take advantage of the Cloud, contact your trusted IT Service Provider for advice.