All too often when we visit a prospective new client, we encounter appallingly entangled network wiring that looks like a bowl of rainbow spaghetti tossed against the wall. Nothing is labeled, and we even see powered down, or disconnected equipment that apparently no longer serves a purpose, yet someone didn’t see fit to remove or tidy up the mess.
Why is this a problem and what should you do about it?
The first question to ask is, “Why is this acceptable?” Would you pay top dollar for a house with exposed plumbing, frayed wiring, broken windows, and damaged floors? Would you be satisfied if your auto mechanic left old parts and disconnected wires and hoses under the hood after a repair? How confident would you be if a medical procedure was as sloppy and disorganized as what the photo above depicts?
Messy discombobulated network wiring indicates the terrible condition of the rest of the IT environment. Every time. Guaranteed. While network cabling may function in this condition, what we always discover is these cases is a general carelessness throughout the IT environment, and that sloppiness really does have a critical impact that ultimately has a strong negative impact on the business itself.
What are the typical problems found in messy network environments? Well, there’s quite literally too many to count, but let’s consider the top three:
- Lack of proper documentation – disorganized environments like this have little to any documentation, which is critical for efficient systems management and the ability to quickly resolve problems. Good documentation includes software licensing; hardware warranty expirations; security subscription renewals; email configuration; location of websites and other offsite assets; and important vendor contact information, to name just a few. This information is necessary to quickly resolve day to day problems that emerge, and the lack of access to this critical information leads to extended downtime and frustration for everyone.
In our experience, only about 1 in 20 companies we meet have anything close to sufficient IT documentation.
- Systems Misconfiguration – In disordered environments like this, we commonly find significant problems with how systems are configured. There’s little if any forethought in planning or design, and ad hoc changes are made without consideration of future growth. We find network switches installed incorrectly and they are mismatched in their capacity to carry data traffic. They are prone to bottlenecks and glitchy behavior, and problems are compounded by a lack of documentation and basic labeling of equipment. Data backup systems are rarely checked and almost never tested or verified to confirm a restore is even possible.
We once discovered a remotely connected backup system for a new client that had been completely powered-down for more than 18 months! The entire organization of more than 50 employees was at extreme risk of losing everything and they had no awareness of this massive oversight; and that was just the beginning of what turned out to be a pattern of extreme negligence by the IT person before he resigned his position for a new job.
- Security Vulnerabilities – proper network security demands ongoing vigilance. How confident can you be that your systems and data are protected when the visible network itself is an utter “train-wreck”? The answer unfortunately is that you cannot. I’ve never seen a sloppy wiring job and a well-run, properly protected IT environment. Visible disorganization is a strong indicator that there is very little, if any effective effort to maintain network security. It’s only a matter of how soon a serious breach or data loss will occur. And unfortunately, we’re often called in after it’s too late to prevent the catastrophe.
A local not-for-profit contacted us recently after they had suffered a ransomware attack (too late). The attackers found an exposed vulnerability that they were able to easily exploit. The IT support person struggled for almost a week to repair the damage and never fully recovered everything. There was not a complete set of backups. This event was the without question the result of incompetent IT management and a shoddy prevention effort. Hopefully there won’t be a next time, but regrettably, nothing significant was done to address their IT management shortfall.
What can you do to address this serious problem?
Hold your IT Management Group accountable. Whether it’s an in-house IT person, an outsourced IT Consultant or IT Management Group, it’s simply not acceptable to allow such disarray. It’s professional negligence and a strong indicator that problems there are hidden problems that will eventually cripple your business. You should expect fully documented environments, with regular reports, and scheduled systems testing. This is the responsibility entrusted to your IT Group, and they are obligated to provide full transparency into what they are doing to properly manage one of your most important business investments.
Too many times I hear that “everything is fine with our IT” yet few are interested in a 3rd party evaluation. In medical compliance, it is required to have 3rd party oversight; your IT Group cannot attest that “everything is great”. Objective oversight is a recommended best practice that should be done from time to time in every organization, just to ensure that your business is properly protected for harm and liability.
While no IT environment is 100% perfect or without problems, a reputable competent IT professional should welcome an occasional review of their work. It’s not possible to know everything there is to know about information technology today, and most IT professionals would welcome a little collaboration and assistance. If they’re hesitant, that may be a significant warning sign that all is not well.
Source by BrightWire, author Todd Whitley