IT Employment

10 warning signs that your IT landscape needs to change

Is your shop burdened with old hardware, expired support contracts, an arthritic network, and pre-Columbian software? Sooner or later, something's gotta give.

Quick, did you hear that? It was your network calling you, pleading for an upgrade. Oh wait, was that the sound of weeping desktops begging for a refresh? You know they're there -- the warning signs that it's time for change. We tend to ignore them for a variety of reasons. For starters, change causes work stoppage, overtime, and budget explosions. But eventually, there'll be no choice. Before that time comes, it's best to heed the signs. Let's examine 10 clear indications that your IT landscape is in need of change.

1: You can't remember the passwords to your security equipment...

... and you're not sure resetting them to factory defaults will actually work. When equipment gets old enough, you never know if a factory reset will even come back to life. The loss of passwords could easily lead to such a situation. Oh sure, the lesson here is to never forget your security information. But more than that, when passwords are lost, it could be a sign that it's time to start replacing those ancient pieces of hardware.

2: Your support contracts have all run out

Some companies live and breathe by their support contracts. Without the contracts, those companies would surely die a slow, painful death. Many companies rely on support contacts only for particular pieces of software or hardware (especially when they're costly). Other companies use support contracts only when absolutely necessary. Regardless, when all those support contracts have ended, it's a good sign your software is out of date and in sore need of upgrading.

3: You're still using ancient software

When was the last time you walked through your company to find out what versions of various software products were deployed? During that pass, did you happen to see anything seriously out of date? You'd be surprised at what's out there. On occasion, I still see Windows 98 or NT machines or Windows XP machines running Office 2000. Ancient software can cause far more issues than you think. This is especially true when users collaborate with people in other companies (who are most likely NOT running Microsoft Office 98 or StarOffice).

4: Your company has become a hackers' playground

If you keep getting hacked, something is amiss. Depending upon what is being targeted, this could be either hardware or software related. Either way, you may be facing poorly configured security hardware, buggy (or ancient) software, or lax security policies. One break-in is understandable. Multiple hacks? Not so much. If you're attacked more than once, it's time to make some major changes.

5: You're falling way behind your competitors

There are companies out there not keeping up with the Joneses. Some might think this silly, but when other companies are passing you by, they can offer clients and customers a lot of features and products you can't touch. Your competition can do this because they've taken advantage of the latest technology or they're leveraging their systems and resources with imagination and groundbreaking innovation. You, on the other hand, have stuck with "what works" for so long it no longer works. If your competition is smoking you, it's time to step back and examine your landscape to find out why you're being left in the dust.

6: Network slowdowns are crippling business and productivity

How often do your end users complain of network slowdowns? Are your clients able to get quick access to your services or sites? If complaints are coming in faster than you can troubleshoot, it might be time to revisit that backbone. The amount of data being transferred through your pipes isn't the same as it was five or 10 years ago. With so many more Web-based tools in play, data usage is through the roof. That ancient DSL or cable line needs to be upgraded in the worst way. Slow data means slow workers means a slowdown on profit. Share that with the board or the CEO and see how quickly they move on upgrading those data pipes.

7: You haven't embraced mobile devices

How long have you shunned the mobile device? Are you still not allowing users to get their email on their smartphones? Do you not allow wireless on your network? If that's the case, it's time to wake up and join the new world order. Not only do you need to allow those devices on your network, you need to open up the Exchange floodgates for iOS and Android devices.

8: Your employees are jumping ship

There are many reasons why employees leave. But when you start hearing rumors that one of those reasons is horrible IT policies or support, you know it's time to rethink things. No, you do not want end users to attempt to dictate IT policies. But at the same time, you don't want your policies to be a contributing factor to high employee attrition.

9: You can't support telecommuters

People need the ability to work from anywhere and everywhere. This isn't nearly as difficult to manage as it once was, yet some businesses still refuse. Why? In some cases, their network infrastructure simply won't handle the load or the task. If your infrastructure can't handle a few telecommuters, it's seriously time to upgrade.

10: You keep seeing HIPAA red flags

If your company falls under the HIPAA jurisdiction and you're tossing red flags left and right, run (don't walk) to the front of the infrastructure upgrade line and get your network/software/topology to follow the rules and guidelines set in place by HIPAA. This isn't one of those situations where you have the luxury of dragging your feet. You have to move. Otherwise, you face some serious fines.

Time for a change

In all honesty, is your IT landscape up to par? Does it meet today's needs and follow best practices in today's demanding IT-centric world? If not, it's time to take a hard look at what needs to change. If any of the problems listed here sound familiar, it may be time to shake off the shackles of "If it's not broke..." and migrate to the here and now.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

10 comments
suncatTR
suncatTR

Outsourced IT departments have no 'loyalty' to the companies' sites where they work. Why should they? Any day they could be replaced with even lower priced temps. Several friends worked at a large multinational corp., some for 20 years. They were pretty much experts in their areas, had all the certifications, excellent performance, cost too much. Most of IT was fired except for the manager [didn't know anything about IT], then were brought back as permatemps with no benefits. Quality perfomance doesn't matter. The company lost their best security techs, but the bottom liners won, even where the company lost. Another friend worked as a Cisco engineer since the beginning of Cisco's entry into networking. New manager noted that even though she knew more and could do more than anyone else there, she didn't have CCIE certification because it didn't exist when she learned the system. Company wouldn't pay her for her level of work, so she asked to take the tests. Company wouldn't pay for the expensive tests that they paid for newer techs. She transferred laterally to the travel and marketing department for more pay, less work. This costs the company more to hire a new tech with certification, and 'break in' a new employee, instead of staying with an exceptional employee who they refused provide certification. Stupid. Maybe IT managers need to know technology. Most places where I've worked, they don't.

bellrm
bellrm

If your business is suffering from many of these then I would firstly attend to improving the IT governance ie. getting your own house in -order; as without effective IT governance you will be spending money without any real idea as to whether it will actually deliver any benefit to the business. Secondly, IT needs to urgently talk to the business; as either the business is happy with what it has got or it just hasn't bothered to tell IT about all the stuff it's done to workaround/avoid IT. In either case to move things forward, you are likely to have some substantial issues around the contribution and role of IT (and the IT department) in the business and effecting change (in both the business and IT) to deal with, before you can get down to talking about specific technology refresh and IT-enabled business change programmes. Aside: With respect to the desktop, without specific business needs/demands, practically the only reason to upgrade from XP/Office 2003 to Win7/Office 2010 is to ensure you continue to receive mainstream support from Microsoft on critical desktop software and to take advantage of software you've already paid for (if if you have a Volume License agreement). With business involvement, the upgrade provides the opportunity to deliver so much more (namely IT-enabled business change) ...

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

How does one determine if one is ahead or behind of one's competitors? "Welcome to Cogswell Cogs! How may I help you?" "Hi, I'm from Spacely Sprokets, and I'd like to look at your IT shop!" "Security!"

TheLip95032
TheLip95032

"No, you do not want end users to attempt to dictate IT policies. " this is very old school thinking where IT is god and users are the serfs. The users are IT's CUSTOMERS what they need to do their business functions takes precedence over IT's need to pamper their ego.

alan.routier
alan.routier

At a job that I left in 2011 the company is still running Windows XP and IE7 because a proprietary database won't work with anything newer. I considered myself lucky to have a workstation with 1 GB of ram (most machines have 512mb) despite having shared video, and was told by IT that I didn't need any more ram to run the multiple programs I needed to keep open, and their "fix" for my workstation was to increase the size of the swap file on the ...vintage 80 GB hard drives. We also won't get started on accessing a client's copy of an outdated version of IBM CICS over an unreliable Citrix connection or being told by my supervisor that the fillable PDF forms I created with OpenOffice to allow us to email information to clients instead of faxing handwritten forms required a full copy of Adobe Acrobat on every workstation instead of the copy of Acrobat Reader that was already installed... Methinks it's time for the company to spend money on the tools to let employees be more productive in order to let us help the company to make more money!

danekan
danekan

we're still running Office 2003 here, on Win7 it's a complete buggy nightmare. It's funny to think that the new, out of college hires coming in as of May will be using software that was released when they were finishing Jr. High / Middle School. Funny or sad? We're planning to upgrade Q3/Q4 finally... doesn't go unnoticed by the un-tech-savvy, not a day goes by where people don't ask me about it. How many companies out there are still running Office 2003, even on brand new systems?

a.portman
a.portman

Last week we interviewed for an IT technician. Candidate 1 spent a good ten minutes on his work with NT. We kept looking.

bobijub
bobijub

the problem with bellrm's approach is that this approach does not apply the structure of the mainly useless but often goodselling "become successful in x easy steps" collections :) :(

spdragoo
spdragoo

Although we're also running XP here. Surprised you're having bugs, though. I'm also running it at home on Windows 7 (64-bit Professional), & I haven't had any problems with it.

bellrm
bellrm

The candidate's enthusiasm rapidly fades and they terminate the interview having realized you are not particularly interested in the last 5~10 experience on their resume nor their latest product certifications. [Aside: A few years back I had exactly this problem with a datacentre transformation and virtualisation project, where we uncovered 100+ NT servers and needed to assemble a team to "unravel the spaghetti".]