Consulting as a Disaster Recovery Specialist, I often find things that need to be changed to avoid a disaster, much like a loose rug over a threshold or too many things plugged into one circuit; which would be an issue in your home. In the business world it comes down to security issues both IT related and physical, as well as simple things like a lack of fire extinguishers or the wrong type of fire retardant system in the computer room. I am trained to notice the smallest of details including things like cable management issues.
When Best Practice scenarios are not followed by sys-admins or networking guru’s, they too trigger red flags. There is an art to designing data centers. I have designed and built many over the last 30 years complete from the ground up; from air handling to power requirements to working with ADA compliance issues. I have designed cable management for many companies that include the MDF and IDF’s and working with building management to handle communication through multiple story buildings making sure that they pass fire code. You would be amazed at how many data centers that I walk into that are under wired, lack proper air handling and have a sprinkler head above the equipment! The cable management looks like Spiderman installed it, nothing is labeled, and there is absolutely not one shred of documentation. And the boss / owner is oblivious to the immanent disaster, as he thinks his guys are pretty good!
When business’s start up, often times they don’t contact the brightest and best to build it as they are on a tight budget. When I am called, their data center is generally a candidate for one of those web sites that post “what not to do.” The exercise of unraveling the Gordian knot comes into play before anything can be changed. Many times a family friend is called to assist or the business owner has a home network and thinks that a business network is no different.
When these knots are constructed; most if not always there is limited or no documentation and the original creator has long since abandoned ship as he undoubtedly realized the ice berg ahead was not too far off. To that end there are many land mines that have to be discovered and diffused. This practice is akin to changing the tires on a racecar, while it is going down the track, and part of that track is in no mans land! The catch 22 is that no business can afford down time but, if they don’t address the issues they will have un-planned down time! Un-planned is always much longer than planned, and always more expensive!
As an SME on this and many subjects regarding IT, I can offer many things to mitigate any issues and put them on a road to setting things right. Whether that is working with their current IT staff, or bringing in hired guns to knock it out quickly!
The business must be willing to want to change, and have Executive buy-in as well as buy-in from the local staff. The process can take weeks to months depending upon the situation; but after it is all said and done, procedures and processes are put into place to keep up with change.
Some policies addressed are Change Management, Incident analysis; complete with root cause analysis, documentation with the introduction of the concept of a living document. The run book, what is it and how does it work? Testing the Disaster Recovery plan and then implementing changes from things learned. Other topics include SAM (software asset management,) and of course hardware management including lifecycle, and the budget process.
All too often the CFO or CEO is told that IT needs X thousands of dollars for this, that, or the other thing; not because it is a new project but because something failed! With proper asset management this can be mitigated greatly and things can be budgeted for.
Much like any other audit, I don’t guarantee anything will be pleasant other than the knowledge that when it is done you will have the documentation you need, your network will be running at peak efficiency and it will be secure. Depending upon your growth and company needs, a design can be implemented to make sure your data network is robust enough to handle changes and or growth!
The last thing that I can address for you is personnel. As a manager of and director of IT for 2 decades I know people. I know who is right for a job and who is not. If that type of expertise is needed; look no further.