When a new IT administrator starts at a firm, the first look at the network is often overwhelming. As a managed services provider, we have encountered this experience countless times. Here are some basic steps that we have found useful when supporting a new client.
Documentation is often overlooked in favor of technical concerns, but a proper understanding of the baseline makes later planning and troubleshooting infinitely easier. As the picture of the network becomes more complete, you can identify the critical systems and services, as well as the short and long term gaps in best practices.
Ensure backups are configured properly.
It’s not enough just to verify that the backups complete successfully; all critical servers and files must be backed up in a timely and effective manner. Backups play a key role in a disaster recovery plan. They offer many options for troubleshooting technical issues, like providing a snapshot of a file share for comparison or reverting user settings. There have been plenty of cases where the backup jobs have been failing for months, domain controllers and new servers were not added to the jobs, or that tapes (!) were not being rotated every day, if at all.
Monitor key systems.
Some typical examples of systems that require close attention are hypervisor hosts, mail/Exchange systems, ISP connectivity, and electrical power. Monitoring allows you to intervene as problems develop, rather than responding only after users notice that they can’t access their email. For monitoring options, there are native features, such as bad battery alerts for a APC UPS, or third party solutions, such as the synthetic transaction monitoring of mail-flow via Mailive!. Kraft Kennedy has a workflow that triages these alerts so that urgent problems are addressed quickly and chronic problems are identified.
These steps help us pave the way for a successful transition and place our clients on a solid foundation before we start remediation of pain points and planning improvements to the network.