Tracking client systems, software, security, backups, and network configurations is a complex process; worse, the process is fraught with error. It's very easy to overlook simple but important issues when first meeting a client and reviewing the client's technology infrastructure. Determining and logging technology weaknesses and vulnerabilities that require attention, as well as tracking which recommendations have been provided to clients (in writing, no less), are difficult tasks.
A simple checklist can help. You should complete the fields within TechRepublic's network, PC, and server audit checklist to catalog critical client network, workstation, and server information, identify weaknesses and issues that must be addressed, prioritize the issues the checklist reveals (issues that bear addressing can be highlighted in orange, while critical issues can be noted using red font), and assign cost estimates to needed upgrades and repairs.
The checklist provides a method for auditing a site and assembling an inventory of systems; it also presents a framework system for developing needed recommendations and applying costs to those recommendations, and storing all that information within a single file. In short, the checklist is a single document that you can use to perform all of the following actions:
- Record client contact information.
- Create an inventory and health report for each workstation.
- Create an inventory and health report for each network location.
- Create an inventory and health report for each server.
- Add relevant notes to a site audit.
- Associate client comments with each audit.
- Present recommendations for moving forward.
- Prioritize recommendations, upgrades, and repairs.
- Present cost estimates associated with each recommendation.
You can also use the checklist to gauge the quality of a client's technology infrastructure. One of the most significant benefits of using the checklist is it will help you gauge the client's willingness to properly invest in the systems necessary to achieve the client's stated business needs and objectives.
My office has been burnt more than once by clients who talk a big game but, when it comes to crunch time, balk like rookies seeing their first major league curveball. We've invested numerous hours in understanding a client's specific business needs and security requirements, only to be told at the eleventh hour that the $9,000 project the client said they wanted to complete really needs to be completed for just $4,000.
By completing this checklist upfront, you can learn what's required to close technology gaps and implement appropriate security controls, properly license software, and meet best industry practices. In other words, the checklist provides you with a barometer to learn just how professional and serious a client really is.
If the checklist generates numerous red flags, and the client requests you overlook them, it's likely your office should jettison that client before becoming too invested in a deadbeat customer. Clients who hesitate to replace student/teacher versions of Office software, upgrade consumer-grade computers with business-class models, or replace free residential-use-only antivirus applications with professional versions aren't clients with which professional IT consultants should be working anyway.
CYA included free
Should a client choose not to proceed with a recommended repair, as sometimes happens, at least your office has written documentation that you identified the issue, recommended a repair, and even budgeted associated costs. A client cannot come back and complain they did not receive your recommendation. Best of all, no longer can clients claim (sometimes a month later when trouble arises from a repair the client chose not to address) that you overlooked an important issue during an initial audit; the checklist provides proof.
Customize the checklist
The document is easily edited to meet any special needs your clients or office may have. Further, sample notes are included within the Workstation 1, Notes and Recommendations pages to help you understand how to use it (just cut-and-paste the network, workstation, and server entries into as many pages as there are networks, workstations, and servers).
My objective wasn't to create a fancy document with lots of design; it was to provide a comprehensive checklist that IT consultants can use to quickly and efficiently audit a client network, determine weaknesses, issues, and vulnerabilities, prioritize needed follow-up, and assign cost estimates to the resulting recommendations. It's already changing how our consultancy brings new clients on board.Automatically sign up today!
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.