Recurring Maintenance Status

The Quarterly Recurring Maintenance Forecasts for the 1st Quarter are complete with the exception of battery refresh actions at some sites. Any remaining refresh tasks will be rolled over to the 2nd Quarter. We will be releasing the Quarterly Recurring Maintenance Forecasts for the 2nd Quarter within the first two weeks of April. As usual, it will come to the Site Principals as a PDF document. When it arrives, please review and ask questions, if necessary.

Delays for these items are mostly due to the large amount of work we’re currently dealing with but any site with a critical battery refresh requirement has been done. This is important as we are heading into the severe weather timeframe for this part of the country. We’ve already had tornado touchdowns and large areas with power loss conditions in the local area so power and data protection still top the list of concerns. Just a friendly reminder: Check with your insurance agent and confirm that your business policy for equipment replacement is listed as “Replacement Value” and not “Fair Market Value”. In the event of a necessary claim against your policy, “Fair Market Value” will not cover the actual replacement cost…

Site Projects and Equipment Purchases

As mentioned above, we are hip deep in getting two new full networks ready for deployment. We expect to have these tasks completed by the middle of April at the latest. Consequently, we will not be scheduling any major site projects until these two are finished and that basically means no heavy-lifting tasks until the latter part of April. Also, it’s important to let you know we’ll be out of town for the Denver DattoCon 3 through 11 June so if you do have forecasted projects, try to avoid that window if they are time-critical.

I should mention here a little bit about equipment purchases. We always try to fulfill your equipment needs at the best price/performance point. In some cases, that means recommending new equipment (as in the case of these two new networks) and rolling in any current equipment that is still functional such as existing LCD monitors, printers and some PC units. We always look to put systems in place that are task-specific to the user or business needs so once in a while we recommend an item that is refurbished. That word “refurbished” alone tends to cause problems for many people. I fully understand that as I’ve had problems with refurbished stuff in the past. But in the cases where we recommend such an item, we stand behind it the same way we do brand new items.

The reason for that is fairly simple. We have a great first-name working relationship with a Microsoft Certified Refurbisher who we’ve partnered with and purchased from for many years. His equipment is strictly Dell and comes directly from Off-Lease Corporate sources, is rarely more than two or three years old and comes with one, two or three year hardware warranties. I’ve purchased something north of 150 units from him and have had two hard drives and one laptop power adapter fail in all that time. In these cases, a replacement has been shipped out the same day I contacted him. From the support perspective, this is almost as good as the support we get directly from Dell. From your perspective, these units are easily half the cost of a new unit and perform just as well as new. So, if you ask for a system and I recommend a refurbished unit, rest assured you will get the best item at the best price with the best support possible.

Basic Network Practices Refresher

So, just a brief refresher on some very basic network practices…

End users, at the end of the workday, log off of the system. In a Client-Server network, we redirect your folders to the Server for backup purposes. If you don’t log off when you’re done, your Profile doesn’t get written back to the Server and neither will any documents that are saved locally on your system. If you pulled a document or file from the Server, did some work and then saved and closed it, it gets backed up. If you pulled a document, saved it locally to do some work on it and then deleted it or didn’t log off the unit, it can be lost permanently. Even a Datto can’t recover what it can’t back up and in most cases, the Datto isn’t set to back up the individual PC units due to the increased costs to store unit backups.

Administrators, please remember that Administrator accounts have full access to the network settings, data and resources. Consequently, that’s the keys to the kingdom, so to speak. So when working on the Server, make sure to log off or lock the screen when you’re not going to be directly in front of the system. If you are logged on and leave the system for a time, anyone can walk up to the Server and do whatever they want as your account is open and available.

Secondarily, please do not give others Administrator accounts on the network without first notifying us. We had a recent incident where an individual had an Administrator account and for some unknown reason decided to set up two others as Administrators on the network even though their jobs did not require that type of access. Neither of these two account holders had any reason to be in that group and had even less knowledge of what they were doing in general. That is a straight-up recipe for disaster and an open invitation to downtime and costly recovery operations.

Note to everyone… when you encounter a problem with a system or something that hampers your daily business operations, please let us know as soon as possible. It’s difficult to help you when we get a call about a problem only to find out it’s been going on for days or weeks. At that point, you’re frustrated and we end up in the same boat, too. Most problems are fairly easy to find and correct in the early stages. They only get bigger and more problematic the longer they go unaddressed. Help us to help you…

Last item in this category… do not, repeat, do not let anyone bring something into the office and arbitrarily plug it into the network. We have had several instances where users brought Routers into the office and plugged them into the network thinking this would add additional ports to the system. That will cause the Server to stop handing out IP Addresses to the network units and can even cause a loopback scenario where the network traffic starts a storm which brings the entire setup down. These instances mentioned here have caused business operations to come to a halt and ended up adding additional support costs to find and fix the problem. If someone believes they absolutely need to plug something into the system, have them call us first. That call is free… fixing those issues is not…

A Word About Backups

Let’s do a quick review about Datto backups, what they do for you and what they don’t… Our Datto devices have the capability to do snapshots of the network every fifteen minutes. Most sites aren’t set that way due to the potential increased cost of larger data storage. So most sites are set to backup at intervals of one to four hours or just do a single daily backup. As cost control is always an issue in business, we set it up however you decide you want it. Bear in mind that any file created during the day that gets backed up can be recovered if needed. However, if the file is deleted or corrupted and that occurs during a timeframe between backups, you will likely lose it as it wasn’t backed up. Should a file that was backed up get deleted or corrupted, you’re golden as we can get it back very easily. So the moral of the story is when deciding how frequently to back up data, consider business continuity as heavily as you’d consider cost.

Same thing for backing up individual workstations… if you think the business would suffer if certain PC units inside the network were to go down for any extensive period of time, we strongly suggest you consider biting the bullet and paying for the extra storage cost as it may be minimal compared to the lost business resulting from not backing up those few critical systems.

And we need to point out that Datto offers what they call “Infinite Storage”. Certain businesses have legal requirements to have long term retention of data files and up until recently, there were few choices available to do that in an effective and rapidly recoverable fashion. Datto has a one-year retention setup as the default. Understand that this means backups are retained for one year so if you’ve been using a Datto for say fourteen months, it’s likely that any backups older than twelve months are no longer available as they fall off the back end as newer backups are uploaded. On the other hand, if you had “Infinite Storage” then all backups are stored for easy recovery. While that costs an additional 20% over your standard monthly fee, in some cases it’s either a legal requirement to keep those files where e-discovery is directed by a court or an investigation or the business requires history files be retained due to the type of business you’re running. We only recommend this additional cost if it’s justified and only after discussing your options and costs.

Phishing Alerts and Download Issues

We expect e-mail scams to ramp up during the holidays and then fall off in frequency until the summer months. Lately, we’ve seen a huge number of attempted scams centering around things like “Amazon just gave you $50.00 on your account. Sign in here and claim your reward.” Same thing with Costco, Office Depot and so forth. I’ve personally found over 20 of these e-mails in my Exchange Defender SPAM trap in the last 8 days. If you see things like this in your e-mail, do yourself a favor… mark them as Junk Mail and delete them.

Also, if you’re downloading and installing anything, be hyper cautious about where your downloads are coming from. For example, Adobe Reader downloads should only be done from the official Adobe site and not any of the numerous sites that will install Trojans or other malware. Check the site you’re using very carefully as hackers create false sites that look like the real thing. The “s” in https means a secure site but hackers have a way to include the secure designation and get you routed to a false site. If you have a moment, read this article at one of my favorite easy-to-understand tech sites, How-to-Geek…

If you have Yahoo, MSN or one of the similar high-activity sites as your home page, be extra careful about clicking on ads or similar links as those two are known to have large numbers of malware infected links. Alternatively, to avoid most of this type of problem, set your home page to Google or something that has minimal high screen activity. As our sites are protected by Trend and Cisco Umbrella (formerly OpenDNS), clicking links to infected sites normally gets blocked but why expose yourself unnecessarily?

Remember, Microsoft will never call you on the phone and tell you your PC is infected then offer to fix it for a fee and the IRS will never call you on the phone and ask for your personal information. Same applies for e-mail phishing scams… don’t click on embedded links in e-mail, don’t reply to e-mail that wants you to register account information, don’t click on e-mail attachments telling you that you have an unpaid invoice and call your bank if you get an e-mail asking for account information. If all else fails, e-mail or call us for assistance before you get in too deep. We get the occasional call where someone has given credit card information to some person claiming to be from Microsoft or something similar. By that point, it’s too late. If you do something like that, I hope you have LifeLock or something similar to help you recover your identity because that’s what most of these attempts are all about.

Have a question or a topic you’d like us to research and publish? Drop us a note at [email protected] and we’ll get on it ASAP…

Have a business associate looking for IT help or Data/Security solutions? Have them call or e-mail us or check out our websites…

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