Knowledge is power. Get a quick jolt here.

Even if your network is small, you probably have dozens of unanswered questions about the best ways to manage and protect it. Knowing and understanding your environment -- and the threats to it -- are the keys to getting the most out of your technology investment.

Here are some questions often asked by our clients. Check out the answers. The information may benefit your company or flag an area in which you need help. If you have other questions about your systems or our services, contact us for a no-cost, no-hassle telephone consultation.

Having an IT Strategy
Q: Because we're growing quickly, our owner has asked for input regarding an "IT Strategy." No one here has that experience. What is it and how will it help us?
A: An information technology (IT) strategy is designed to chart the course for your IT actions and purchases, and ensure that they are compatible with your business goals, existing network, your budget and each other. This will help you save money and plan better. An IT strategy can appear simple, but is really a comprehensive document based on specific knowledge of your business, culture and goals, and of the IT industry.

Effective Anti-virus Procedures
Q: I've heard that a dozen new viruses are discovered each week. Is that true? If so, how can we possibly protect ourselves?
A: Yes, approximately a dozen new viruses are added each week to the tens of thousands of viruses already identified. To protect your network against this growing threat, you should install anti-virus software on every workstation and ensure that the virus definitions are up-to-date at all times.

Installing a Firewall
Q: What is a firewall and why do I need one?
A: A firewall is hardware or software designed to protect your network from hacker attacks. A firewall shields your network by "hiding" your internal workstations and by blocking unauthorized attempts to communicate with them or take control of them.

Other Security Measures
Q: A virus recently crashed several of our computers. We had a firewall installed and now run anti-virus software regularly. Still, we're not sure it's enough. What other precautions are available?
A: While a firewall and anti-virus software are necessary tools to protect your network, they must be kept current with service packs, security patches and the latest virus definitions. Critical data must be backed up frequently, and you should have a disaster recovery plan (DRP). Also, all servers should be protected from power fluctuations by an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)
Q: We back up frequently, store tapes offsite and have an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) in place. Aren't we pretty well covered for most disasters?
A: You've taken the appropriate first steps. But now's the time to consider other investments, policies and procedures that will help ensure your company's viability through a range of business interruptions. All of this should be documented in a DRP that is periodically updated and tested.

System Monitoring
Q: Some recent problems were traced to a server that was low on disk space and to something the technician called "dirty" power. Is there a way to know about problems like these before they happen?
A: Yes, through regular system monitoring you can track your usage of server disk space and memory, network capacity and other resources. You can use this information to determine when to upgrade your system or take preventive action. With the right uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and appropriate software, you can even track the quality of the power coming from the electrical outlet.

Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
Q: Our owner thinks the days of rolling blackouts are over. Others of us aren't convinced. Do we still need a UPS?
A: Yes, a UPS should be installed for every server and configured to automatically (and gracefully) shut down the server during a prolonged power outage to safeguard your company's data. In addition, a UPS will protect your server from power sags and spikes, and will provide a history of your power's "cleanliness."

Keeping a Hardware and Software Inventory
Q: We have so many desktop PCs. Having someone go around checking disk drives, software versions, RAM, etc., would take forever. Is it really necessary?
A: Having an accurate inventory is vital to ensuring compliance with software licensing agreements and to accounting for your fixed assets. It is also very helpful in troubleshooting and in preparing an IT strategy. There are many software tools to gather and maintain this information automatically.

Understanding Industry Certifications
Q: Some consultants have a bunch of letters after their names. What do the letters mean and which ones are most important to our company?
A: Many manufacturers have established testing programs to certify consultants who work with their products. Consultants often identify their certifications with the "alphabet soup" you've seen behind their names. For best results, find someone who is certified in the products you use in your network environment. For Microsoft products, your consultant should have a Microsoft certification such as an MCP, MCP + I, or MCSE certification.

Reseller vs. Non-Reseller
Q: What's the difference between an IT consultant who is a reseller and one who is a non-reseller?
A: An IT consultant who is authorized to resell hardware and software from certain manufacturers has a built-in bias and incentive to sell those products. A consultant who is not a reseller has no such allegiance and works solely as your advocate in recommending the best solutions without profiting from your purchases.