5 Crucial Steps For Managing Your Business’ IT: Part I

Recently we addressed simple mistakes that people commonly make with their computer; mistakes that cost little time and effort to avoid, but are a huge headache to deal with once they have been made. That post focused primarily on personal computer use, but what about business owners? Well entrepreneurs, never fear, your blog posts are here. We have 5 suggestions for how to manage your business’ servers and network. They range from the “falling off a log” variety (#1), to a complete paradigm shift. Here are the first 2:

1. Use a Hardware Firewall

One of the amazing attributes of technology is how quickly it moves forward, and correspondingly, how quickly the price lowers. Firewalls that have the capabilities and features that 5 years ago were considered to be “enterprise class” have dropped dramatically in price, and can now be purchased for $150-250.

Some small companies connect their servers directly to the Internet and depend on operating system authentication to protect them from intrusion. This is a bad idea. An intruder can scan every port and service, looking for vulnerabilities. However, a hardware firewall sits between your cable or DSL modem and your network and controls all traffic going in and out. When properly configured, and coupled with secure software, this means a malicious hacker cannot log in using another protocol. Today’s inexpensive firewalls provide many other features to increase security on your network such as Intrusion Prevention (blocking those who use well known or scripted hack attacks), Demilitarized zones (limiting your exposure to your own potentially untrusted public services), Virus scanning, Spyware prevention, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) access- for workers to access your network securely from the road.

Considering the potential damage that a firewall protects you from, it is a worthy investment, and its absence is negligent. Take a look at the Zywall USG 20 (around $160 on Amazon) for an example of a great, inexpensive firewall for small business use. Additionally, this entire line of Cisco products is dependable and competitively priced.

2. Build in capacity and “headroom”: Save money and time by planning ahead, and leave room for growth.

Leaving room for growth: Photo courtesy of Kreative Eye -Dean McCoy

Before you do anything else, you need to make sure your machine can handle whatever you throw at it. Have you done capacity planning? If so, are you buying what you need today or what you will need in 6 months or a year? Constantly having to buy larger machines and move all your information over to them is a waste of time and money.

It’s almost always easier, less expensive, and less complex to pay a little more for your initial purchase to allow for growth. For example, instead of buying a consumer grade Quad core desktop machine, you can spend a few hundred dollars more and buy a server class machine that has dual CPU sockets and 12 DRAM slots. Even if you initially buy your server with a single Quad core processor and fill 4 or 8 memory slots to start, further on down the road you can buy another processor and more memory modules and pop them in. Suddenly your server has twice the capacity. An added benefit is that processor prices always drop as time goes on and newer processors are introduced. So your first Quad core server processor may cost $500, but a year down the road the second, identical processor will probably be half that price.

Stay tuned for Part II to learn how to save money, increase your efficiency and improve your security – coming Wednesday!

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