Complimentary Business Evaluations
Worth EVERY penny
(aka – Second Cousins, Light Bulbs, and Dog Years. How we can compare these when talking I.T.?)
Most IT businesses today offer complimentary technology evals. These are also called Systems Evaluations and are designed to show the strengths and weaknesses of a network. Being that most networks hold all of the corporate data and email, we find that many companies get a little nervous about allowing an IT firm to come in and search their network, which, from a security standpoint, makes perfect sense.
But fear not…as ‘MOST’ IT firms only want to help.
A complimentary Systems Evaluation is something that EVERY firm can find VERY HELPFUL. It shows ‘amazing information’ with regard to the security of a network, current and potential weaknesses, and how to fix many of these issues.
What we seem to find is that most small businesses, really don’t have much of an idea of what’s been done right or wrong within their network. So an evaluation of this nature can open eyes.
To help a new customer understand how a Systems Analysis goes, and to compare it to real life scenarios, our initial questions go something like this:
- What type of Anti-virus software are you running? (Who let my Second Cousin in the house?)
- Is your Antivirus software updating…daily? (Just like flu shots change, Antivirus definition files do too)
- Do you have a Crisis Management Plan in place? (Let’s talk Medical Insurance, Light Bulbs, and Restaurants)
- Computer aging (How old did you say that Dog is?)
- Offsite Data Storage (Earthquakes, Floods, and Asteroids?)
- Battery Backups on your File Server (The lights are on but nobody’s home)
Let’s break each of these areas out for discussion. The entire goal of a Systems Analysis is to inform.
#1: Viruses and Second Cousins
Most companies that are looking for IT help, simply don’t know the answer to Question #1 even though it’s a very important question. 10 years ago, if an infection got into your network, 9 times out of 10, it could be removed and/or repaired before any damage occurred. But in today’s I.T. world, the infections are so damaging, it’s extremely important to know how they got in, so they can be addressed immediately and hopefully blocked in the future. For example, consider a Ransomware virus – typically when it infects a machine, the data on that machine is encrypted (hidden) and a ransom, normally in the amount of about $300.00 per PC (more for Data-Stores and File Servers) must be paid to the decryption key holders (the hackers) for the key. And you MUST pay them in Bitcoin (a currency that is 100% untraceable). If you don’t pay, you WILL lose your data.
There are stories of firms paying Tens of Thousands to get the decryption keys as the data cannot be accessed until the ransom is paid, and the key provided. And this, by itself can be a bit of a crapshoot as it is one type of bribery. What’s to say once you pay them, they won’t come back and demand more. HINT: They can and will.
There are some tricks that a good I.T. firm can use to restore ransomed data, but typically once an infection gets into a network, more are sure to follow.
I like to compare this scenario to that Second Cousin who needs a place to stay. He sneaks into your home, and then goes room to room ( just like a computer infection goes PC to PC) looking for important, personal stuff. When he finds it, he puts it all in a Big Box and buries it in the backyard. Now…he’s got your “stuff” and he wants ‘money’ before he gives it back. And on top of it all, “of course” he says he’s only going to stay for a day or two, but he never-ever leaves.
The key to keeping a virus out of a network is to have a strong firewall in place. The general idea is to NEVER let that Second Cousin set foot into your house at all. Keep changing the locks if you have to as prevention is the primary goal with any computer virus (lol…or Second Cousin).
#2: Virus Definition file updates. How are they like flu shots…
For a new customer, one of the first things we check is to make SURE they are updating their Anti-virus software definition files. A Definition file is an Antivirus update. Update files come out almost hourly.
Just like Flu Shots change year to year to keep up with the latest strains of the flu, so to do Antivirus Definition files.
What we find is that many companies believe “You only have to pay for the Antivirus software once and never bother with it again”.
That’s just not true…
AV software needs to be updated…sometimes as often as 12 times…”A DAY”! It’s an ongoing war with I.T. Firms (us) and hackers (them).
Just because you own AV software, doesn’t mean you are protected for life. Remember, a flu shot isn’t going to last forever either. The two are very similar in that they are both preventative measures.
Just as it’s very important to have a qualified nurse inject you with a flu vaccine, you also want a qualified I.T. professional to monitor these things daily, and report when things go awry.
This is one of the first, and perhaps the most important thing we will discuss in a preliminary Systems Analysis Eval.
#3: Crisis Management (Medical Insurance, Light bulbs and Restaurants)
Although a crisis management plan is simple, in most cases…they don’t exist. Consider this – when you cut your finger, you know your insurance carrier, you know the doctor you need to go to, or the Hospital that takes your insurance. This is your “Medical” Crisis Management plan. If you have one for your person, don’t you think it would be wise to have one for your Company Data too? Believe it or not, 95% of the firms we meet with, DO NOT have a Crisis Management Plan in place. And when we ask this very simple question, it’s typically met with eyes glazed over….then…you can see the gears turning. “THAT’S” when they realize they really have no plan at all other than “fix it when it breaks”.
It’s similar to buying a new light bulb. We really have no idea how long a new bulb will last and when it does blow out, we usually have another backup bulb (or a lamp that we don’t use as frequently) that we can swipe a bulb out of until we can get to the store for a replacement. This is a simple plan, and it works pretty well until we use, and forget to replace, our backup bulb.
But what’s the plan when a company File Server crashes? Remember, “it’s not ‘IF’ a computer will crash…but rather when”…and those that are prepared are the ones that are up and running again far faster by way of their Crisis Management Plan.
Did you know there are backup devices available that can act as a temporary File Server?
Don’t feel bad if your answer was ‘no’. Most people aren’t aware of these devices. They are more commonly referred to as “appliances”. A Crisis Management plan, that utilizes an appliance, only incur an average down time of 1-2hrs, instead of 1-2 weeks.
A while back, we ran a cost analysis with a customer that had 30 users. With the help of their VP, our analysis determined that their financial income loss from an event where a File Server crashed, was around $20,000.00.
Without an appliance, it usually takes about a week, sometimes longer, to purchase, ship, configure, and install a new server. THEN, assuming we have a good backups, we need to restore all the data to that new server….it is a painstaking process. Much more involved than simply replacing a light bulb.
The longer it takes, the bigger the loss of income becomes. Now…that number grows and grows and grows. Deadlines are missed and money is lost.
If you’ve ever been to a restaurant when their “systems” are down, you can just SEE that look in the eyes of the cooks and food servers. They are lost. The cooks don’t have printouts to work from, the servers have to write the orders legibly, and the customers are the ones who suffer because the ‘end-result’ product can become compromised. We rely so heavily on technology that when it goes down, it will create a very long workday…or even worse…work WEEK.
“Umm, excuse me Miss, but I ordered my eggs scrambled….and got…well…an entire chicken…”
All that is needed is that “Extra Light Bulb”. Just a simple plan, so you know how to get your employees online as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
A Systems Analysis will point out the weaknesses and help you prepare for these inevitable events.
#4: Computer aging (how old did you say your Dog was again?)
Another area of discussion that a Systems Analysis will bring out is the age of a computer. It’s easier to understand when we use the “Dog Years Age Variable” here.
Consider that Dog Years are 7 to 1. When a dog hits 3 years old in human years, he is 21 years old in Dog years. With computers…it’s 25 to 1. At five years the computers will still run, but this is when your Crisis Management plan becomes so important. Over that 5 year span, technology has changed SO MUCH, that an older computer simply can’t run the latest software and updates. Sometimes, you can get 6 years out of a computer. But one of the important aspects of having a good I.T. department (us) is budgeting. At 4 years, we want to add a line item to the I.T budget and prepare for Server/PC replacements.
Did you know that Dell won’t even write an extended warranty for a File Server over 5 years old? Think about that for a second.
#5: Offsite Data Storage (Earthquakes, Floods, and Asteroids?)
Offsite backups used to be too expensive to be used by a small business. But those days are over. With residents and businesses continually being built, these new office buildings are being built closer to airports and flood zones than ever before. Are you prepared for an earthquake? Or a Flood? Or even worse, something falling out of the sky?
An offsite backup can ensure that no matter what the level of the catastrophe, you will be ready when the lights come back on.
Missed days of work means missed income dollars. Missed hours of work equate to the same thing. Consider not only the missed income, but also consider the employees are still working too, and still getting paid.
A Systems Analysis can show you what you’re doing wrong AND what you’re doing right as well.
It’s akin to a security company coming into your home and telling you where the strengths and weaknesses are.
Our ONLY recommendation is to make sure the company you’re considering using is credentialed and has the experience you need.
#6: Battery Backups (The lights are on but nobody’s home)
In the event of a power loss, battery backups can be the difference between working and NOT working. There’s no Guinea Pig in the WORLD that’s big enough – to run that wheel fast enough – to generate enough power to run a network.
But there ARE other solutions.
Battery backups aren’t designed to run your network for hours or days. But rather to ensure that when a power outage DOES occur, that your systems will be brought down gracefully – and not just “TURNED OFF”. Unplugging ANY computer can lead to data loss, and even failure of the PC to turn back on again.
A correctly installed battery backup will notify the ENTIRE network that the File Server is on Battery power and shutting down shortly. It will also notify the end users to save their data.
But who thinks to check on these things? Who is responsible for making sure they are working properly? Who’s testing these? Or do we just hope that the little hamster can turn that wheel fast and long enough to generate enough power?
Almost all our new potential customers that have a battery backup in place, don’t have it configured properly. The software that is free and only takes about an hour to setup and test, hasn’t been setup at all.
There are ways to fix this. You just need a good I.T. firm to help.
A complimentary business evaluation will almost always show you what you may be missing. After all, your job is to run your company, not stress out about if or how your computers work.
That’s where having a specialist pays such tremendous dividends. It comes in the form of “knowledge and experience”.
Normally, the end result of the Evaluation cost to the customer comes out to zero. The next question is “How can any company come in, assess our network strengths and weaknesses, and do it all for free?
Usually there is a small fee to perform this Evaluation, most companies, like ours, will allow the new customer to use it as a deduction off of their first project. IE, if we bill you $200.00 for the eval, we will give you a deduction worth the same amount on your first project with us. The reason for the charge is simple. In random scenarios, a customer will ask us to come in, and perform the Eval for free, only to give it to someone else. Then we are out time and money.
By charging a small fee, it acts as an incentive to the customer to use us for their I.T. needs. 9 times out 10, the customer is happy to know they are in good hands, and that they now understand what, if anything, should be done to ensure their network is in tip top shape.
A complimentary Business Evaluation goes far deeper than just the items discussed in this Blog. They typically include Workstation updates, firewall prevention, and backdoor weaknesses as well…all areas that most firms’ just don’t consider…until it’s too late and the damage has been done.
The cost is minimal, the information is unbelievably helpful, and the end result is a win/win for both the I.T. firm and the customer.
Do your homework. Find an I.T. firm that’s been around for years and has a well-respected reputation. Look for people that can explain things to a level you can understand. Although technology can be difficult to sometimes understand, when someone explains the Internet like a Freeway (busy at some times like Rush Hour, but open at other times, like 3am in the morning), it’s simple and far less intimidating.
When they go that extra mile…to help you clearly understand…then they will usually be clear and concise when explaining your network, and its strengths and weaknesses. That’s what makes the difference between a good IT firm and one that just wants your money.
Assuming you find the right firm, when you sign up with them, ask them to run information reports on a regular basis for you. Computers and Networks need to be managed daily and responded to immediately. So just make SURE the company you select is a Pro-Active company, like we are.
The help is there for the asking. And the information is easily attainable. Once you understand your position, you can budget accordingly.
Our message is simple and goes like this:
- Keep your Second Cousin out at all costs (viruses)
- Get your Flu Shots (update your Antivirus files)
- Think Health Insurance for your network (Create a Crisis Management Plan)
- How old is that Dog anyway? (What is the age of your systems)
- Be Prepared for earthquakes, floods, and yes…Asteroids (Offsite Data Storage)
- The Lights are on but nobody’s home (Battery Backups on your Servers)
Prevent the preventable. And call on us if we can help.
John ‘JT’ Thompson
Creative Network Services, Inc.
150 Paularino Ave, Suite D-274
Costa Mesa CA 92626
- 714.963.3800 x22