I’ve been in IT for a long time - perhaps you have too. In the late 80’s, when this industry was in its infancy, there were mainframes, minis, PCs and ATs. Forget laptops–they didn’t exist and these new desktop computers (PCs and ATs) were (in my opinion) the first models which could realistically handle business functions.
As time went on, we saw the value in sharing the data we were working with, thus the concept of File Servers and Networking developed. Along came the internet and we had access to a world-full of information. We could share information with other companies and access their information too, faster than ever before. Instead of measuring data amounts in MB, we now measure it in GB and TB. Instead of waiting a couple of days for snail mail, we now are impatient if we don’t receive information in an hour. Waiting 30 seconds for a program to load is intolerable!
When this industry began, companies knew they would have to invest in an IT infrastructure and that it would be expensive. A normal life span for that File Server or desktop computer was typically 5-7 years: the OS wasn’t frequently coming out with new (required) updated versions and any hardware issues were affordably fixed. Machines got faster and more sophisticated. Software allowed us to work more productively. The price of hardware dropped. We began accessing large volumes of information faster than ever before.
Then, thieves discovered the truth about computers and data: the real value to a company is not in the hardware that we show as an asset on our Balance Sheet. The true treasure lies in all of that information we type into our laptops, phones, handhelds, desktops and other devices day after day. Think about it – we spend our days entering information into all sorts of places – sometimes purposefully, sometimes without thoughts of possible consequences. Hacking is now a vocation – well funded and supported by people who discovered they can extort and/or use your information for their purposes and profit.
We no longer can responsibly expect to invest in our company’s IT once every 5-7 years. The speed of technological developments is now congruent with the advancement of vulnerabilities and threats. Whether you are a sole proprietor or a Fortune 500 company, your IT world requires a well thought out infrastructure plan and strategy – and a budget. The Asset to your company does not appear anywhere on your Balance Sheet – the new asset is YOUR DATA.
Consider all the obvious (potential) components which are the Foundation of Business Technology (using a Traditional Workforce Model):
Computers Router/Firewall/Switch Security Backup/File Storage Wireless Access Email (Commercial Grade) Phones Modem Internet Service Provider (ISP) Printers (networked or standalone) Web Presence
Any of these can be vulnerable to attack or intrusion.
Let me make some of you squirm in your chair a bit:
- Is the password to your phone system or networked printer the default from manufacturer?
- Do you know if any of your people are saving critical files to their desktop which are not a part of your backup set?
- Do you have an annual IT Strategic Plan and budget in place?
- Are the patches and updates to all the above-mentioned hardware and software current?
- Do you provide email best practices or Acceptable Use training to your people?
Now for two alarming statistics:
Alarming statistic No. 1: According to the University of Texas, 94% of companies suffering from a catastrophic data loss do not survive–43% never reopen and 51% close within two years.
Alarming statistic No. 2: Seven out of 10 small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year, according to DTI/PricewaterhouseCoopers.
We work so hard to keep our businesses profitable and productive. Why would we willingly give away the company’s greatest asset, its data?
Patty Zinn is the CEO of MicroSystems Management.