There are at least a dozen IT mistakes that business owners commonly make. In an effort to highlight and explain some of these follies, we are starting a series of three blog posts on the subject.
This post should provide some insight into the first three types of mistakes that should be avoided (warranties, consumer grade vs. commercial grade and software).
1. Letting Your Manufacturer Warranty Expire
This is one time when you want to pay attention to the fine print of your warranty. Critical hardware like your server needs to be under the manufacturer’s warranty, which is typically three years. You can oftentimes buy a warranty extension, which keeps you covered for five years. You should buy the extension… Why? Let’s use an example to explain.
Two business owners; both have a Dell server; one is under warranty the other isn’t. Today, a part in both servers fails.
A Dell server has dozens and dozens of parts that can fail, not all of which can be purchased locally and some parts are even difficult to purchase online. Business Owner #1 (sans warranty) first has to identify which part is broken (not a trivial task), and then has to find the part (most likely online) while his server remains down for 48-72 hours. Business Owner #2 (with warranty in hand) calls the Dell guy who shows up with a bag of parts in as soon as four hours (because that’s what your warranty stipulates) and has your server up and running the same day.
2. Buying Consumer Grade Computers
There’s a reason why consumer grade computers are cheaper that commercial grade: They’re made with cheaper components.
Consumer grade computers are made with the home end user in mind. Since home users often buy the next generation computer within 2-3 years of original purchase, consumer products are designed to hit a price point, not to run reliably for years.
Manufacturers can also change components within consumer grade equipment, so if you’re setting up workstations in an office, they may appear to be identical, but they actually might not be, which can be problematic in the long run.
While it will cost roughly 25% more to buy commercial grade computers, it’s more than worth the premium.
3. Neglecting Your Software
If you only take one piece of this advice, it should be this: Apply all software updates and security patches as soon as they come out.
We’re all guilty of hitting the “Remind Me Later” button after getting an update reminder. Hit it too many times (or even just once) and your software is vulnerable to attack. Here’s why.
Programmers will often discover a vulnerability within a software program. These programmers will let others know about the vulnerability and the software makers will write a patch to fix it. Simultaneously, hackers are working to take advantage vulnerability and create an exploit. When you don’t apply the security patch provided by the software developer, you’re business is open to a hacker’s attack.
In a separate, but still software related issue, it’s important to migrate your software from one version to the next.
For example, if your business has Microsoft Small Business Server 2008, it’s easy to buy the migration pack and upgrade to Microsoft Small Business Server 2011. It is often vastly more complicated to migrate non-congruent versions, from Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 to Microsoft Small Business Server 2011, for example.
If you want to update from Microsoft Small Business Server 2000 to Microsoft Small Business Server 2011, you basically have to rebuild from scratch because your old 2000 software has been discontinued and is no longer supported. (It also poses a security risk, but we’ll cover that in our next post!)
As a general rule, it’s not desired, but if necessary you can skip one migration. But you can’t skip two.
Part Two of this series will cover security, backup/recovery and internet policies.