IT and the number of available services that you can use have mushroomed into a sea of confusion, a sea of choice and a sea of decisions that are very hard to break down and work out what are the right choices when it comes to essential IT services that you need.
Indeed, in many cases, companies choose to do nothing amidst concerns they are making a mistake that will be costly and ultimately unhelpful to solving the problems that they face today.
To this end, I wanted to try to help people to see through the mire that exists in IT and help you to work out what the essential elements are that you require, to build an efficient, effective and reliable IT infrastructure for your business.
Essential IT Components. I believe there are 4 key components of an IT solution for a business which must be in place to ensure you can operate productively while also ensuring that if you have a problem, you can have it fixed quickly.
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These are as follows: Essential IT Tools, Key Security Protection, Support and Controls, Rules & Policies.
Let’s examine these one by one:
Essential IT Tools
For me, these are emails, document storage, word & excel (or an equivalent solution) and digital communications (Voice and Video Conferencing). These are the absolute key items that a business needs; to be able to write letters, crunch spreadsheets, save those documents and then communicate with customers, suppliers and colleagues, either by email or in real time. All companies need those basic components to be able to operate on the absolute base level.
Whilst I have a preference for Microsoft’s solutions and particularly Microsoft Office 365 (along with the vast majority of the world!), there are other options out there such as Gmail and others. I will discuss them in more detail in a future article.
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Key Security Protection
This is an area where it is easy to get your head turned by so many different solutions. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of solutions out there which can enhance your security and it is an area that is easy to lose sight of what you actually need. I believe there are 3 key components of security:
2. Endpoint Antivirus
3. Offsite Data Backup (OBU).
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The firewall is in place to protect your office environment where your servers and applications may sit and also where most of your user PCs and laptops will be (in our normal, non covid19 world). This will protect your office IT from attempted hacks - some advanced and some basic attacks. It is the gateway to the outside world and a firewall will protect you as it checks all items coming into your environment.
The endpoint antivirus is there to protect each machine, whether in the office or at home, and this ensures that if something is introduced directly into the machine it will pick up the virus infection. Examples of this could be a flash disk plugged into the machine or a user clicking on a link on a website or downloading a file which is infected. The antivirus will pick this up and will be able to clean it up and return the machine to a safe condition. The best endpoint antiviruses can also be managed centrally meaning that someone can remotely clean up the machine and not rely on the user to do that and the central management will also notify an IT person that there is an issue.
The final point is Offsite Data Backup (OBU). Today many companies get hacked even with all the key security items in place and so OBU can be seen as a very cheap insurance policy. Many hackers today ask for ransom to be paid out using bitcoins.
However, if your data is backed up offsite and away from your environment, then you can reinstall the hacked server or machine and restore your data at any time meaning nothing is lost. The other real benefit of OBU is that it retains your historical files so in the event that you lose a file either maliciously or by mistake, you can go back and recover the file. Many will now say “but I have a retention policy with say Office 365 which keeps deleted files for 60 days”. Whilst that is perfectly true, what happens if you only discover the deletion after 61 days or you need to go back and find a document from a year ago which was stored by a user who left? OBU is a critical service that gives you peace of mind.
The IT world is not a perfect world and things do go wrong. Whether a device has a technical problem and needs fixing or a user requires help as they are unsure how to do something, support will always be needed for times when things do go wrong. Particularly with the current global situation where many people are working from home and sending a technician to site makes no sense, remote support is a key solution that is readily available in the market today. Some of these solutions simply allow remote access while other more advanced solutions (which I like the best) also monitor devices, tell you when they are going to have a problem or indeed if they have a hardware problem and can also manage software and updates on machines.
These solutions must also meet the Data Protection Acts that exist depending on where you operate, to ensure that a customers’ data is secure and safe. Remote support is a key component that is easily available, secure and reasonably priced today.
Support also includes onsite support and in some cases onsite support is required when applications are too sensitive or critical to allow remote access. Anyone offering you IT support today who can’t securely and remotely access your devices, you should not be considering them as a support company.
They will not be able to respond quickly enough to your needs and no IT means your employee is unable to work until they arrive on site, something you don’t really want to happen unless absolutely necessary.
Controls Rules & Policies
Finally, it is prudent to setup policies which govern what your users can and can’t do on their PCs and laptops. By setting up rules, a company can enforce these policies to ensure that for example a user doesn’t install an application on their device which could potentially introduce spyware onto a machine or give a hacker access into your environment. These policies can also control items such as disallowing your users from using flash drives. In many cases data is stolen via flash drives and they are also a possible source of introducing viruses into a machine.
In my view, those are the four key, essential areas that all companies need to have, to manage an effective and efficient IT environment. There are many enhancements over and above these and I will touch on them and discuss some of them in my future articles to hopefully help you to understand what they all mean.
Jonathan Somen is the cofounder and Managing Director of Eldama Technologies, an IT Support company specialising in IT Support, Cloud Services and Security. He was previously the Cofounder and Managing Director of AccessKenya Group.