Would you give just anyone free reign over all your money, credit cards, bank accounts and retirement funds? No! Of course not!
Yet, SO many firms let anyone manage their IT. Which would be worse, having your checking account emptied by an incompetent bookkeeper or permanently losing all your firm’s data and being completely unable to work? Either way, a bad IT person can literally bankrupt a firm.
Your IT person or firm seems like they know what they are doing right? They have all the techno talk down pat. They assure you that you are secure and backed up right? Besides, how would you know the difference between an amazing IT person and a train wreck until it’s too late? You have your own expertise and can’t do everyone else’s job too.
So here are some power tips. You don’t have to be an IT expert, but odds are you are good at spotting when something isn’t right if you have the right questions to ask. So here are some things you should ask about. Not deep technical, just sit down and go over some of these areas and ask questions. You will either feel more reassured or your “Spidey sense” will tell you a nightmare is brewing. Let us give you some ammo that will quickly and easily let you know what’s really going on.
The Big Picture
We’ll get to some specific areas below but first let’s look at the big picture. We have a master checklist that you can get for free at: www.infostream.cc/checklist. It has a bunch of areas you can literally check off and review with someone. I recommend a sit down once a year with something like this to get the big picture quickly. Now for some of the key special areas.
Proactive vs. Reactive
An “OK” IT person can fix issues. Often with bubble gum, paperclips and shoe string. A “Real” IT person is proactive. They want to prevent problems BEFORE they occur. They are constantly asking themselves what could go wrong. They are actively staying on top of continuing education, talking to other experts, networking in groups and following forums.
For example, you don’t just look at your backups and say “we’re good”. You test them! Not just recovering a file (easy and reliable), you recover the entire server (much harder and often fails bad!).
Is your IT firm or person constantly looking to improve how things work? Are they paranoid? Are the proactive or waiting on you to tell them what needs to be done?
Are they on top of security? Everyone is getting hit so bad lately. Are they really on top of security? Are they experts? Are they up on the current attacks and proper ways to secure your stuff?
Here is a free copy of our security checklist you are welcome to have: www.infostream.cc/security
There are lots of low hanging fruit with security. Things you can easily do that make you much more secure. Unfortunately, there are far too many IT people, and worse, firms, that don’t know what to do.
Are they monitoring tons of things? Do they have policies and procedures in place? Scheduled tasks?
For example, we literally monitor hundreds of events, systems and hardware components 24/7/365 on EVERY single server under our Worry-Free Network Care bundle. If a part fails, we know. If the service stops, we restart it. If an alert triggers, we get involved.
Can you imagine having surgery and the surgeon doesn’t want any monitors or machines checking on you? Nothing to track drug flows. No heart rate monitor. No O2 sensor. Nothing. That would be crazy.
Are they fast? Computers are no longer a trivial part of business. They are arguably the most vital part of your entire company. When there is a problem, the last thing you want is to groan knowing you are going to be waiting forever.
There is simply no excuse for not documenting everything these days. Licenses, passwords, configurations and a zillion things more. They are vital. And when that person leaves, gets hit by a bus, or whatever, a lack of documentation is horrible. We find that even when the person that sets things up is still there and something goes wrong, without documentation they are usually still in trouble. People forget.
You want to see a pro? You can spot them by great documentation.
You can almost tell a seasoned IT person or firm by their reliance (or lack of) procedures. When you are mediocre at IT work, procedures, particularly written procedures (and by the way… if they are not written, they are worthless) seem like a bureaucratic waste of time. But as you advance in skills and experience, you soon realize that procedures are a gift from God!
We are psychotic about procedures. Specifically, SOP checklists. Standard operating procedures. We want them bullet proof and detailed. Literally, checkboxes next to every step.
Any time something goes wrong or something was missed, the first question we ask is, “what happened with the procedure”. Was something missing in the SOP? Do we need to add a double or triple check? What went wrong?
Yes, fixing the problem is good. Fixing the “system” so it can’t happen again, that’s awesome!
Doing this, dramatically improves our quality of service and speed. It also helps tremendously whenever a new engineer joins the team.
Again… you don’t have to be an IT expert, nor should you. But you don’t want to turn a blind eye either and find out the hard way. Take some time and discuss some of these things with your IT firm or person. Do you feel strong about what you hear? Or is there a voice telling you a storm is brewing?