They say if you’re travelling anywhere by plane there are some things you should be doing to keep yourself as comfortable as possible and prevent jetlag.
Some of those things include drinking lots of water because the high altitude dries you out leaving you feeling run down. They say you should eat light meals and snacks regularly and if possible, eat less airline food because the high salt coupled with low cabin pressure makes your intestines become swollen. They say to avoid alcohol because of the dehydration and to stretch regularly to prevent muscle tightness. You can also suck or chew on Vitamin C and Zinc tablets since your dry mucous membranes are much more susceptible to bugs when you are in the air.
Now you might ask me what on earth does this have to do with IT support?
Well – absolutely nothing except that whilst thinking about blogging on a long haul, 20 something hour flight to Canada and after 10 years of air travelling, I’ve only just now put each one of the above steps into practice and I’ve immediately had amazing, positive results. In fact, I had so much unexpected energy during and after my flight I was able to write down these thoughts below.
This experience reminded me that whilst we all learn organically at our own pace, we often pick up solutions to problems in our business through trial and error leaving us jet lagged and disoriented, instead of saving headaches by putting things into practice before reaching a pain point. One thing I’ve learnt for sure is that you can save a heck of a lot of time, energy and expense by putting IT best practices into your own business.
Today’s blog is my very first blog for those in need of IT Support or IT advice and is actually not about air travel at all, it’s about leveraging 5 simple tips for a high flying IT system.
1. Network Diagrams, your IT support provider’s inflight navigation system
Despite many similarities in software and hardware, your IT network is remarkably unique.
Many small businesses start with a number of immediate needs and from an IT perspective this typically means purchasing some computers, choosing an internet provider and often choosing an installer if the business requires some help getting things underway.
Over time, things change. Our PC’s retire and get replaced, the Internet service we chose isn’t fast enough anymore so a new service provider is chosen, we add new servers and applications and we have staff leave and new ones begin (we hope). This is all normal and it’s actually the timing and volume of these events that make your network unique and one which will require ongoing documentation.
But, if you haven’t got a map, that is, a diagram of your IT network that shows you what you have in your network right now, you do need one.
And if you’re sure you’ve got one already ask yourself ‘is my IT support provider updating this map and their own database regularly in the event that my business network has a problem?’
If you’ve ever had a GPS or a street directory that had an out of date map you’ll know just how much time and energy can be wasted driving around trying to get where you are going.
Imagine what that might cost you if your current IT support provider changes staff or, if you need a new provider but they don’t know where to find a problem because they don’t have the map, the blueprint of your IT network.
Tip #1 Find out if your IT service provider have an inflight navigation system of your network.
2. IT Auditing – Don’t pull out your safety card when the plane is going down
At some point in your business, past or future, there will be an IT failure. The significance of this problem all comes down to how much investment has been made on ensuring your IT support or your managed services provider knows what to do and where to find hardware, software and media in the event of a problem.
If you haven’t got a network diagram or, you’re not exactly sure if your IT network is following an industry standard best practice, you might want to give your IT network a check-up.
Some IT service providers offer an audit; an audit is a functional set of questions that they can ask you, and your computers, about how the system is setup, it will tell them where they might find some potential pitfalls and what the core needs of your business are in the event of a recovery.
IT audits are an interrogation and, let’s make no mistake; this interrogation is absolutely the most important time spent with your IT supplier or partner right now. It’s crucial that no stone is left unturned.
At I Know IT we conduct a Business IT Health Check where we not only cover the basics but we also survey staff members to establish user experience, we install high level auditing software ‘OnSight’ to compare this with key technical facts and we provide report which includes a network diagram as well as recommendations on how to align the IT with the business requirements.
However you choose to document your network, remember that it’s best to get the facts about your IT before a major crisis. Your IT support provider might uncover a problem that could save you significant cost or downtime before it’s too late.
Tip #2 Get a certified IT support or Managed Services Provider to thoroughly audit your network before you have an IT crisis
3. Response Times – Is your provider putting you on standby or are you getting first class?
In surveying our new clients about why they have changed or want to change IT support providers we ask them what their pain points are. The number one pain point to date is the response time of their current IT support provider.
When asked if they have previously put in place an expectation of response time through a service level agreement many respond that they hadn’t thought to do so.
In today’s technology-based workplace you’re lucky if you can afford downtime. Conversely, nor can your IT support provider be in two or more places at once unless they have planned their resources around the agreements they have in place with their clients.
It’s a bit like an airline really. If the airline has no passengers, they don’t fly, or worse yet, they do choose to fly – but the level of maintenance, customer service and quality control deteriorates due to a lack of funding and resources. That lack of resourcing affects you and more importantly, your business suffers.
Before you talk to your IT supplier next time, sit down and do the following small activity. It should only take a few minutes and might save you waiting around wondering when you are going to get your problem fixed.
Write down the following:
Tip #3 If you need first class service, plan for it. Involve your IT provider and set that expectation upfront.
4. Planning your resources – What is your ITinerary?
Planning ahead of time is a fundamental skill that some of us shirk in business. A common pitfall for business is the purchase of IT equipment or software that meets an immediate need but doesn’t factor in future growth.
In small to medium business this is difficult; there are many factors that change the direction of your organisation, none more important than cash flow.
But you can plan for typical business development + reasonable growth.
Take for example the purchase of a new software application. You’ve identified that you need to buy a new server system and the software itself. You write the cheque and get the work done but 5 months later you find out that the server doesn’t have the capacity for another new piece of software you are buying, or that you could have hosted the software somewhere else saving a major investment on a server. That would be frustrating right?
When you’re planning your ITinerary ask your IT service provider a few key questions:
Tip #4 Plan your IT journey.
5. Sandwich and a beer? $18.95 sir…
If you’re flying IT on a budget, it surprises many businesses when the cost of repairing, maintaining or even doing simple upgrades comes close to or exceeds the value of the equipment or software within a year or two.
Whilst hardware is typically the most expensive purchase in the transaction, the reality is that major vendors such as HP, IBM and Dell pretty much have the hardware side of things down pat. It’s rare these days to buy a branded PC and not get a reliable product that, in the event of a problem, can have parts replaced within a day or two. It’s a different story if you hang on to your IT gear for many years past its warranty – but that’s another article!
The true cost is in network, software and end user management. The IT world hasn’t quite nailed down a happy eco system for software where programs work in harmony together with no errors or problems. To keep it interesting, people are people – they still sit behind the machine and tell it what to do (and scream at it when it doesn’t do what they want).
Often businesses tend to see the IT hardware as a “one off” major capital purchase and don’t consider the other costs associated or worse, aren’t told the full story about ongoing IT support and maintenance costs.
The reality of this sets in when minor fixes (things you may have thought would never happen again) are charged out at commercial hourly rates at unexpected intervals throughout the year.
The key is to lock in as much support cost as you can early on in the piece so that it’s part of your budget. By planning a budget around support, you’re telling your IT service provider that you want fewer problems, and that you’re paying for prevention rather than cure. Some might define this as insurance – but I like to think of it as assurance. If you engage an IT supplier to provide you with new systems, they need to have the expertise to manage that system, respond to your needs and be transparent about the ongoing costs where possible.
Tip #5 Set a budget for your entire IT investment, not just hardware.
With a few simple strategies in place you can avoid IT jetlag and save considerable downtime and cost. I value your comments and stories, please feel free to share here.