The Unsung IT Hero Working Behind the Scenes
We have all been part of an event, production, or other endeavor with people working behind the scenes. This group of unrecognized people, though not the focus, is critical to making things work. With theater, music venues, and church services, the sound/video/lighting crew is essential to things running smoothly but not the event’s focus. With busy families, mom often keeps track of the scheduling jigsaw puzzle, makes sure the kids get to the right place at the right time, and is the glue that holds everything together. I’m sure you can think of many more examples. Let’s remember to give these people some credit!
The backstage hero exists in IT as well. There is a whole list of things that should happen with business technology that often do not. It takes a disciplined process and a dedicated team to execute the process.
In addition, it is essential to always look for ways to improve security and resiliency because technology is constantly changing.
At CTaccess, we call this area of service Performance Operations. The things done in this area of service keep our customers running smoothly, significantly reduce their risk of a cybersecurity incident, and dramatically cut down on the day-to-day problems that occur during normal computer usage. Performance Operations significantly settles down the noise so that technology operates at a quiet hum of efficiency.
What exactly does Performance Operations do to make things run smoothly?
1. Risk Reducing IT Hygiene – IT Hygiene is what you might expect it to be, the stuff that must happen to keep your company clean and not stinking things up. Good password policy, security software on all the endpoints, user account cleanup, OS patching, and more. To enforce good hygiene, you must have a standard to measure against and a good way of tracking things. It is a discipline that is a little trickier than your morning shower, shave, and deodorant routine! Hats off to the team who makes it happen!
2. Proactive Realtime Alerting – Alerting is based on an automated management tool installed on your equipment, often called RMM or Remote Monitoring and Management software. This software allows us to set monitors that trigger when things are out of the standard threshold for operations. For instance, a monitor is set so that if your disk space gets below a certain percentage, a ticket is created, and we can take action. The goal is to correct a problem before it becomes work-impacting.
3. Failure Avoidance Monitoring – Preventing failures is a primary focus of alerting, but to be effective, it is essential to add other key practices. Things like updating firewall firmware as it becomes available and stable, making sure that patches are applying correctly to workstations and servers, and auditing malware and security agents to make sure there are no gaps help prevent unwanted failures and downtime.
4. Tracking PCs, Laptops, and Assets – One important discipline is to track and cycle your IT equipment. Many companies we engage with have lost track of who has what laptop or desktop equipment, don’t know how old their servers are, and tracking equipment like switches, firewalls, and wireless units is not remotely on their list. This is understandable, as most of us are just trying to keep up with business, but it contributes to unstable technology. Making cycling of equipment a systematic and regular discipline has huge payback in quieting IT down. Performance Operations ensures that tracking is in place and reporting is available to the Strategic Technology Advisor for cycle planning.
5. Backup and Recovery Optimization –Backup and recovery is never a fun topic. Nobody wants to be in a position where recovery is necessary. However, when it is needed, nobody wants to hear that the backup is no good or recovery is not possible. Monitoring backups and creating alerts helps ensure good backups, but it is imperative to take the next step and perform a test restore of data. Performance operations regularly pulls back a small segment of data to ensure no break in the backup chain, and that data can be recovered. This is not a complete disaster recovery scenario, but it goes a long way to creating peace of mind that recovery can happen when needed.
6. Human-Eyes-On Monthly Review – Automatic tracking and alerting is necessary, but is it enough? A good Performance Operations discipline also includes putting human eyes on critical equipment and services. For example, monitoring your backup solution is great, but what if the monitoring is broken? Human eyes reviewing the backup is an important safeguard to ensure backups are working. Another great example is checking out your RAID array to be sure that none of the hard drives in your server have degraded. Typically, one drive can fail, but if a second one goes, the whole server is down. Human eyes checking for this type of failure has repeatedly kept servers from an outage. Having a regular cadence of reviewing things manually is an extra safeguard that makes a real difference.
The discipline of Performance Operations is not easy to create and maintain, but its rewards are great. It reduces the number of trouble tickets daily, reduces the risk of a security event, quiets things down, and allows people to work efficiently. Shout out to all of you IT people working behind the scenes! You rock!
Scott Hirschfeld is the President of CTaccess, a Brookfield IT support company that has been helping businesses stop focusing on IT and getting back to doing business since 1990. Under his leadership CTaccess provides the business minded approach of larger IT companies with the personalized touch of the smaller ones. Connect with Scott on LinkedIn.