Businesses get a grip! (of your IT infrastructure)

So as previously waffed upon, I’m an IT lifer, time served is now in excess of twenty years, and I wrote that in words for a reason! Not to make myself feel old but to emphasise the point of what I’m about to say.

And in thinking back through employment history until the most recent salaried job and on to clients and potential clients it’s my assertion that there is a huge gulf in stewardship of infrastructure. I chose that word carefully as it’s not ownership, nor is it really administration.

Administration is what you pay your techs to do, or pay me! (Hopefully!) This is the bit that often looks like it’s not really of value. If a good sysadmin does their job then they won’t have to do too much, systems work as expected, problems are few and far between – but that brings its own problems – surely that person/team isn’t doing much, right? Well that’s another post for sure!

Ownership is generally, unless your very fortunate, held by individuals that either do not really feel it’s their place to understand IT or simply don’t want to. It’s the “I’m the boss” attitude, IE do it and don’t question why type of mentality – not at all productive.

So administrators usually interact with owners and more often than not there is a gulf (those things again) between the two. Those of us who have worked in technical roles for a long time find it hard to talk to people that don’t, and if we get “I’m the boss”’ed too much?

It’s usually so much better if you have an IT-savvy owner or better yet something called TRUST! Or even just professionalism. Working with owners who have none of those things is one of the reasons I no longer do, and will continue to try not to in future, because clients are owners too after all.

So then, back to the stewardship, here’s a couple of definitions from Oxford.

[A] person whose responsibility it is to take care of something:

Manage or look after [another’s property]

Like it or not the IT infrastructure of ANY business is important. Lifeblood? In some cases yes, but even in cases where it’s not it is important. So much more of the general day to day work of businesses are now revolving around IT, it’s just as much a part of the toolset as paper and pen – this is measurable by how much angst appears if the only printer in the office stops working, or the internet drops, and so on.

So why do people pay it such little attention?

Try this scenario on for size, consider that you yourself are the organisation – how much do YOU know about your IT infrastructure?

How often do you make backups? Where are they?

How does it all hang together? Who holds account details? Router passwords?

If it all fell apart tomorrow what is your route to getting it back up and running again?

To be ignorant of these and other similar facts is simply not an excuse, any more than forgetting to put a parking ticket on your car in a paid car park, only with far greater risk.

It’s amazing as a professional but more importantly a conscientious person how come businesses can just ignore the core of their IT systems. We’ve all heard the old adage about comparing a situation to what would happen if a key person was run over by a bus. But what do you actually know about your IT infrastructure and its administrators, did the people that look after it now set it up initially? Are THEY in possession of all of the information?

What do you mean you don’t know?

Here’s a freebie, a simple starter for ten.

Ask someone technical to sketch out your network, but please engage with them first, don’t just bark an order, that’s basic management skills to be considerate of others and we should all know that! And once you have a basic sketch then ask who knows about that bit there – or that other bit there. Start to build a picture of who knows what.

Moving forward seek to have your diagram accompanied by a list of details for each bit of kit, access details, configuration, colour, waist size, whatever. Remember if they’re good your administrators should have a bit of time to put to this! Once you have that FILE it somewhere safe.

See what you did there? You made a solid start. You created a schematic that might save you a whole heap of trouble not to mention MONEY later on if you have a problem. Then think, what’s important, or ask if you don’t want to/can’t think for yourself.

Build up all of this information and you’ll start noticing certain things, enquire about backups and protection, and what does that bit do, or why are there two of those. And before too long you’ll have an elementary understanding of not only your IT systems, but also perhaps an appreciation for just what is going on behind the scenes.

Considering how adverse many companies are to risk it’s amazing to think that so many of them ignore the basic structure of things like this – like it or not IT is here and it’s probably already in charge in reality! Time to get a grip on it!

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