We recently brought one of our beloved Minis to the repair shop after a warning light lit up. The repair shop was able to fix the problem, but we were gently chastised by the mechanic for not properly maintaining the car.
Periodically checking things like oil levels and tire pressure is not enough. Because the Mini is really a little computer on wheels, it needs consistent preventive care to keep it happy and healthy.
Unless the car tells us that something is wrong, we wouldn’t think to check for any vital signs on a regular basis. And that’s a mistake. Cars – like people - need proper care and feeding.
Your office network is the same. Sometimes it’s difficult to know when problems are brewing. Usually, we don’t realize we have problems until something doesn’t work, like you can’t log onto the network, can’t print, or can’t get your emails.
How would you know your network is in trouble?
There are a few signs that indicate potential problems. And if you catch those issues sooner rather than later, you can prevent expensive downtime and repair costs:
Do you get those annoying pop-ups? Are your computers slow? Are they locking up or freezing? Are you getting warning messages? These are good indicators of deeper problems and your network not being properly maintained.
Granted, no network is completely immune from viruses and spyware. However, if the problems are regular and persistent, something is amiss and it needs to get fixed asap.
Multiple and ongoing complaints
If several employees complain of computer issues and their productivity is legitimately affected by those issues, then you need to pay closer attention. Multiple complaints are a good indicator your network is in trouble.
Imagine you are sailing a ship and your crew members are reporting leaks from different spots on the ship. It’s probably time to dock and do some maintenance and repairs.
If it takes forever to log into Windows, to open a program or to copy a file -
it’s a symptom of network trouble.
Remember, the original purpose of computing is to boost productivity, save money, and increase earnings. If you have to wait for several minutes to open a document, you are wasting your time and money. The more employees you have who are affected by slow speeds, the more money your business is wasting.
Do any of your computers have a little yellow shield with an exclamation point on it? Typically you will find it in the lower right hand corner of your computer screen.
That shield is a warning message from Microsoft. It means you’re missing important software updates. It’s critical to update your software regularly to make sure you have adequate protection against viruses.
Likewise, if you’re logged into Windows and you are prompted to update Adobe, Java, or another application, it’s a clear sign the network is not being properly maintained.
No one knows
Does your office suffer from “no-one-know-itis”? For example, no one knows where the important documentation is located, no one knows whether the backup works, and no one knows when the passwords were last changed?
If you were in a hospital and discovered your patient history is missing, no one remembers your name or that you are allergic to a certain antibiotic, you get out of that hospital as soon as possible.
As for your network’s health, it’s critical your important information, such as passwords and network map, is securely stored. You also want to be sure there is a designated person responsible for managing that information.
You should be able to ask that person whether the backup was actually tested, when it was last tested, and whether there’s a recent backup offsite.
The bottom line is this: If you feel something may be wrong with your network, or if your computers get in the way of your work, then your network probably has problems.
A healthy, happy network is critical to business. Any downtime means high costs and missed opportunity. Be sure to take care of the problems before they become expensive disasters.
James Kerr is Chief Geek of SuperGeeks. You can also follow him on Twitter: Supergeeks.