Data centers don't run themselves

There seems to be a major disconnect between management and tech support people in some small businesses. For some reason, owners and managers don't always appreciate the need for ongoing maintenance and support. Is it just a small business mentality to think that servers and networks take care of themselves? Neglect in this area can be disastrous. It's a risk that some SMB's are managing poorly.

I picked up a new client yesterday. They are a small business with about eighty employees. They invested heavily in their network infrastructure about seven years ago. They have a half dozen servers dedicated to specific functions - domain server, e-mail server, file and print server, web server and some application servers. They have a huge data center UPS that can power the place for many hours. Impressive!

What wasn't so impressive and somewhat astonishing to me, was the mindset of management in the way they considered their IT support function. They had none. The stuff they put into place so many years ago was complex. Up until last year it was maintained by a professional IT Manager. When he moved on, the company managers thought that their complex tech environment would run itself. Amazing!

Ongoing support is necessary

My partner and I were called in because of an emergency situation. The reason the previous IT guy had moved on was because management would not spring for the bucks to upgrade the aging servers. He had been nursing them along for years, trying to keep enough disk space free so that nothing crashed. Of course, nightly backups create new log files, AV solutions download updates and employees create new documents.

How can the management of a company so divorce itself from their involvement in the IT function of the company that they naively think that they can do without professional support? When we got there we were supposed to fix a DHCP problem and conduct a server inventory. When the employees discovered there were techs on-site, we were inundated with numerous requests for help on a multitude of computer issues.

Lights-Out is greatly misunderstood

I am familiar with the "lights-out" concept of a data center. It is an admirable goal and one that can work if managed from afar via Remote Desktop and Terminal Server. Apparently the management of this company had a different concept that did not include growth. We found that the OS drives on three of the servers were down to less than 1% of free disk space. On one server, they had 5MB free on a four gig partition.

We immediately advised management about the problem and our suggested solutions - to expand the arrays on the servers by adding additional hot swap drives. The reply was, "Oh yeah. Our IT guy said we needed to do that last year. We asked for details but that was right when he quit." Their neglect almost cost them a failed domain server. We freed up enough disk space to keep them running until the drives arrive.

Tech support is a critical function

Yep, that's why you need techs. You see, we understand this stuff. We work with it every day. When we tell you that you need more disk storage, it could just save your business. Yeah, we may be geeks, but we really do have your best interests at heart. We want the network to run efficiently and trouble-free just like you. Sure, new technology can be expensive, but can you afford to be without your network for even one day?

When we're not spending your money buying new servers and switches, we tend to make ourselves useful by answering employee computer questions and maybe even helping them do their computer work more efficiently. And if you keep after us, we might even try to document all the technology settings that make your network go. It's not our favorite job, but a professional courtesy the next tech guy will appreciate.