Let me tell you about a problem that most smaller businesses have!

You pay boat loads of money, either on retainer, or time & materials services for IT support – But, well, you wonder – what are you getting for all of that money?

Have you ever fit that description?

For small businesses that said yes to the above, I bet I can guess how your IT support processes currently operate too!

If a problem occurs, someone telephones or e-mails Your IT support supplier. Simply enough, that supplier tells you that they will fix it. I would also bet that if your supplier needs to physically visit your facility -they probably get hit with comments such as; “while you are here, Bill over here has not been able to print all week!”

Sound familiar?

And know with a huge inductive leap of logic, I can also guess that if you asked yourself (or your staff) about their perception of your IT support vendor, the perception will be at least neutral, and possibly even quite negative.

And perception is key!

Your IT support provider may be doing a great job – but if you cannot see it, if it is not regularly communicated, that negative perception will not go away.

In your business, who owns that IT relationship?

Right now? If you are like most smaller businesses, probably no one owns that relationship. And when I state owning that relationship, I don’t mean who is assigned to sending the e-mail or making the phone call when something needs to be fixed.

Owning that relationship means that along with sending that e-mail, that follow up information is updated and documented.

Owning that relationship means being able to see that you called for IT support 5 times last week, and that all 5 issues were either taken care of quickly and effectively, or maybe they were not. (but then you will know!)

And How?

It can be as easy as an Excel spreadsheet.

The negative part about documents such as a spreadsheet is that emailing that document around can grow to be a nightmare. And the goal is visibility!

There are also simple, hosted tools that for a couple of hundred dollars per year will provide on-line dashboards of your tech services.

The SMB Takeaway

There is that tired old adage; Is everybody on the same page?

We can truly say that it has never been easier to keep everybody on that same page when true collaboration and communication exists with your technology services supplier.

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Photo Credit Ennor via flickr

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If you run a Microsoft Windows Computer you are already familiar with the autoupdate feature that automatically installs the latest security patches and software updates.

I call it unfortunate, but if you use Windows servers, that auto update feature will do the same thing to your servers.

It sounds like a time saver right? All updates and security patches installed on your servers automatically with no human intervention required?

But here is the problem!

I am sure that you have noticed that  for some of these automatic  update patches or upgrades,  that your computer tells you that it needs to reboot to finish that installation? – and that sometimes it just starts shutting down without warning?

Do you really need that to happen to your servers?

There you are typing an email and your MS Exchange Server decides it is time to reboot…..

Another issue with this automatic rebooting when it occurs on your servers, is that if several servers start to reboot at close to the same time, there can be errors or service failures depending on which servers start rebooting and in which order. For example, a Microsoft SQL Server with a Domain Services account would fail to start properly if the Domain Controller servers are still rebooting.

And the second problem I have with the auto update feature on a server;  The Microsoft automatic update software has no idea what you are using each server for. So it installs all updates and all patches regardless of whether or not you need it.

Do you want that server rebooting for a patch to the Media Player application? – When no one will ever use it on that server and it is blocked behind firewalls? Of course, if a server is publicly accessible, needless risks like Media Player should be removed anyway.

The SMB Takeaway

When it comes to servers, review all the patches and updates that Microsoft publishes every month.  They are published on Microsoft Technet, and you can even subscribe to security alerts via e-mail.

If the update applies to your environment, it may be critical to install it, but schedule it on your time. Schedule it after hours so servers don’t start rebooting during business hours.

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IT & Social Marketing

January 22, 2010

Interesting article at ITWorld Canada: IT shops to become social marketing gurus in 2010

I found it amusing, since I guess I have been preaching that for a while.

If this is your first foray here, I have been doing a little of that myself!  introduced in this post; IT In Marketing?

I guess I am not alone ….

UPDATE: Ron Shevlin as another great look at this; The Fourth Skill

Facebook As Attack Vector

January 20, 2010

Great warning about what we call Social Engineering in this CIO Zone article titled; Hacking In With a Facebook Profile and Fake Badge by Robert Siciliano.

Social Engineering is simply a con game where the attacker convinces an individual that they are legitimate, and the duped individual provides the keys to the kingdom.

Here is an article from Baseline Magazine quoting statistics on banning social media from the workplace;

Do social networking sites serve as useful tools for connecting within the business world, or are they simply time-wasters? More than half of enterprise IT leaders lean toward the latter perspective, according to a new survey conducted amongst 1,400 CIOs by the employment experts at Robert Half Technology

I have to say that I completely and utterly disagree with that perspective.

First, although I don’t like the term social media, that concept of listening to our customers is here to say. Not only is it critical that we listen, but as Nabil Harfoush CIO, SVP Corporate Development at HelpCaster Technologies Inc. states, we need to be willing to act;

True conversations require not only active listening but also a readiness to change your position based on the conversation.

And there certainly is no way to act, if there is no way to listen!

And second, the primary argument used for banning social media is simply fear.

As Baseline wrote, the fear that someone will be wasting their time.

Generalizations?

I have a big problem with that generalization.

It is called management people!

If one person in your organization is consistently late; Rather than deal directly with that infraction, management edicts chain everybody at a desk for exact sets of hours.

Or perhaps one individual takes a much to liberal interpretation of the dress code, so again, forget dealing with the infraction, punish everyone though more management edicts.

This is simply poor leadership – it is a failure to deal with the immediate issue. As Margaret Heffernan at FastCompany writes in Ten Habits of Incompetent Managers;

“I know she’s always late, but if I raise the subject, she’ll be hurt.”

Ahh, poor you. Ban or punish using generalization instead of dealing with what is a leadership and staff issue.

Now, feel free to debate creating a Social Networking policy, perhaps you can use an existing acceptable use one. Or maybe, as Michael Hyatt writes, you prefer none at all.

But at the end of the day, if an individual is abusing Facebook at work, deal with it.

Deal with it as an individual infraction.

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In small business IT, things can happen too fast. While speed can be a good thing in some circumstances, when something has gone wrong, well?

Slow down a bit!

A server has crashed, or maybe e-mail is not working, whatever it is, there is a tendency to panic, a tendency to rush around. This problem can be exacerbated when senior execs are breathing down neck of their IT staff as they try and fix the problem.

But rushing around may not be the best option. A 5 minute bandage job may fix the problem, at least temporarily.

But sometimes taking the extra time to review, to dig a little deeper, and then to fix it permanently the first time, is the better way to go.

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In many places on this blog I have written that it is critical for SMB’s to maintain all of the the key data relating to your Web Site. ‘Key’ data being access names, passwords and the like. (one example is here)

Marketing expert Ian Lurie puts it very succinctly in; 11 ways to not get screwed: Your guide to working with a web pro

The SMB Takeaway

Read Mr. Lurie’s article, and get acting on that information!

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