Today, I received the classic periodic frantic call from a potential new small business client who obtained my name as a referral that her current Computer Consultant was resigning her account effective virtually immediately. He was at least kind enough to hand her a network information sheet with some very limited user name and password access information for the Server and Firewall but not much else.
To make matters worse, the former Computer Consultant mentioned to her that the Server was having a number of issues that needed to be addressed immediately. (It turns out the abrupt resignation was due to his inability to resolve the issues. So rather than seek assistance, he quit the account before a total meltdown could occur.)
As I started to ask her questions about her information systems and technology, even simple questions like “How old is the File Server?” or “Can you tell me the manufacturer”, and “How many PC’s do you have?” – I could see through the phone the blank expression and hear the complete panic in her voice.
Sure, if you point most qualified Information Technology professionals in the general direction, they will be able to inventory and reconstruct the missing documentation and put Humpty Dumpty back together again, but that takes time and is an unnecessary delay and expense that can be prevented with a little preparation.
Here are the pieces of information that YOU should know about your Information Technology Environment REGARDLESS of who is responsible for maintaining it.
As you read through the list below, you may see a number of technology terms that you are not familiar with and that’s O.K., because the person who set up your Information Technology Systems – your Computers, File Server, Software, Network, Firewall, Email, Internet Access, and Web Hosting certainly does (or should) understand these terms and can write the answers down for you.
- Physical Inventory: The manufacturer, purchase date, serial number, warranty expiration date and service level (same day, next day, on-site or off-site), and support phone number for each piece of hardware including: Computers, Monitors, Printers, Firewall, Network Switches, and File Server, as applicable.
- Software Inventory: Application Name (i.e. Quickbooks or Microsoft Office), License Number, Number of Users Licensed, Support Contract Information including start/end date and support phone number.
- Server Information: Operating System, Administrator Login and Password, IP Address, Server Installed Applications (i.e. Microsoft SQL, Microsoft Exchange, Accounting Software); Active Directory Domain, DHCP Scope, Drive/Partition Volume Information.
- Network Information: IP Map which includes Static IP Device Assignments (usually Printers); Router/Firewall Information along with User Name and Password, If a Firewall, then Support Contract Information for Updates and Contact information for assistance; Wiring Diagram for Office and Jack/Patch Panel Number Assignments.
- Internet Access Provider Information: What type of technology? – Cable Modem, DSL, FiOS, T-1, Ethernet over Copper, or Building Provided Ethernet? Who is your provider? (i.e. Cablevision, Time Warner, Verizon, etc.) Do you have a Dynamic or Static IP Address assigned? If a Static IP Block, how many IP’s? Along with Sub-Net, Gateway, and Doman Name Server information IP’s. Is there an online control panel to manage your account? If so, user name and password access information as well as the URL to access the control panel. Is there a term contract in place? If so, then start date and end date, along with name of Account Manager and Technical Support phone numbers and contacts.
- User Information – Full User Name with Login information for each account that accesses the network resources (i.e. File Server); Optionally, Password Information if a small environment, as applicable; Which computer they use to access the network and the specific network resources they are permitted to access: which directories on the Server, which Printers, and which Software Applications. Secondary User Name and Password information for any Client/Server Software Applications like Quickbooks, ERP Systems, Accounting Software, etc.
- Email Information: Primary/Secondary Domains, Anti-Spam and Anti-Virus solution, if applicable; Full list of all email account addresses including any generic addresses such as info@ or sales@ and if they are configured as mail forwards or mail alias’s. Type of Mail Server: POP3, IMAP, Microsoft Exchange, Office365, Google Apps for Business, etc. Who is responsible? Internet Service Provider, Computer Consultant, Web Hosting Company, Internal Email System (On local File Server?)
- Web Site Hosting Information: Domain Registrar Information including Account Name and Password; Web Hosting Company – i.e. 1and1, GoDaddy, local Internet Service Provider, hosted on Local File Server? – And appropriate account and contact information.
Armed with this information, you will be prepared with the critical details necessary so that any reasonably qualified Information Technology person can step in and take over without too much issue on short notice and keep you operational.
If you are in the New York City metropolitan area and find yourself suddenly without your Computer Consultant, feel free to use my contact page for assistance. I specialize in crisis situations – that would be resolving them, not creating them.