New Year’s Resolutions for Your IT Department

Posted on January 11, 2014


It’s that time of year again, the time of year where we take a closer look at ourselves and how we do things and make a determination to strive to do better.  I’ve compiled a list of some of the tasks that sometimes get neglected within many IT Departments of small and medium size organizations.  Paying more mindful attention to any of the items on this list can make great New Year’s resolutions.

Find out when your upcoming subscription renewal dates are

  • Every organization with a web presence rents a domain name and at some point, that domain name must be renewed.
  • Organizations that utilize secure web transactions depend on encrypted connections that will keep those transactions secure.   In addition, nearly every organization demands secure environments for their email communication.  These secure processes require the use of public certificates that like domain names, must be renewed on a periodic basis.
  • Smaller organizations that don’t provide their own public DNS servers depend on DNS service providers that are subscription based as well.

Sometimes these subscriptions are derived around the email address of the employee that purchased the original subscription.  If this employee is no longer a part of the organization, the renewal notices will be sent to an email address that is no longer functional.  Other times, these subscription memberships are derived around a third party email such as Hotmail or Gmail and these accounts are forgotten over time.  Once these subscription periods expire it can take hours if not days to renew an SSL certificate which will bring email communication and secure web traffic to a halt.   If a domain name is purchased by someone else after your subscription expires, it can take thousands of dollars to reclaim it from the new owner.  This month, log on to all of your subscriptions sites and find out when the next renewal date is so you will be ready.

Paying more detailed attention to backups

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • When was the last time you checked the complete log files for your backups?
  • When was the last time you tested the recovery of your backups?
  • When was the last time you verified all of the data selections for your backups and cross referenced them with your network shares?

All of those years of backups were all for naught if the backups won’t perform a full recovery when they are needed.  Your staff should test the dependability of your backups on a regular basis.    Start the New Year off right by checking the backup logs every morning and take a few minutes to ensure that new shares and directories that are critical to the organization are included in the backups.

No more storing critical data on a local workstation

It seems like such a fundamental principle that no organization would entrust critical data to reside on just a workstation, but so many do.  This is typical of payroll and accounting packages in which the one user entrusted to manage these application packages simply chooses the default local storage location to save the data files every night.  Workstations are not designed for redundancy like servers and workstation data storage complicates the backup process for an organization so this month, start directing that mission critical data off local workstations onto a shared server directory.

Doing a better job of storing and rotating off line backups

You backup your organization’s data for a number of reasons such as hard drive failure, server failure, data corruption, data deletion, and one more – a datacenter disaster.  Firms that rely on backup tapes too often store all of their tapes in the same building that all of the servers reside in.  Other firms that perform direct-to-disk backup locate the backup disk system in the data center.  Some firms that do practice some sort of offsite backup program don’t refresh their backups.  A backup that is six months old can be almost as useless as no backup.  You backup your data for micro failures, as well as the macro failure that you tell yourself can never happen.

Create and/or update that Disaster Recovery Plan

Yes, it’s unthinkable, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, and if it does, your organization is depending on you and your staff to recreate and refurbish your IT infrastructure, including your data.  Your datacenter wasn’t just created overnight, it took lots of careful scrutiny and planning, and so should your disaster recovery plan.  It should be well thought out and reviewed every year to ensure that its procedures are up-to-date and that your entire staff knows how to implement it should that disastrous day occur.

It’s time to implement an email archive strategy if you haven’t already

A user calls up in a panic because they deleted an important email in their mailbox.  Your mailbox store gets corrupted.  These are instances in which your email backups save the day.  But what if a public records request has been filed for the email records from two years ago, or a subpoena has been filed as part of an investigation spanning a five year period?  Unless the retention period for your backups is unusually long, your normal backups cannot service these requests.  Email archiving is a requirement in this day and age for any organization that manages their internal email.