Last week’s article on creating strong passwords struck a chord. We received quite a lot of feedback and appreciate all of your comments. A less-snarky version even found its way into Virginia Business. And yes, you are welcomed to forward any deTECH article to your staff, boss, neighbor, kids or parents.

Password security is very important in keeping your information out of the eyes and hands of those with malicious intent.  However, this week I was reminded how important it is to actually have access to the important data we need. Information is only usable when it is accessible, and often we take information accessibility for granted.

Knowing what you need without being able to access it causes anxiety, stress and frustration. Think about the last time you locked your keys in your car. The keys are there, in the cup holder. They give you freedom to move about but until you can access them, they are useless.

Small and Medium Sized Businesses (SMBs), pay attention because this impacts you the most.  If you own a business or are part of the management team, then it is your responsibility to make sure provisions are in place to access the data. Owners should be engaged in the technology that runs your business because if you are not, risks exist that will adversely impact your business.

Ok, the harsh talk is finished.  How can you, a non-technical SMB Owner or Decision maker, gain a level of comfort that you can access the data you need when you need it?  I’m glad you asked.

  1. Have Two Administrators—Administrators to your network are the gatekeepers.  They give and take away access, add and remove users, and can see and get to anything on the network.  If one administrator wins the lottery to never return to work, then you can rely on the second one to carry the administration function.  This is applicable to the network as well as applications like accounting, engineering, or accounts payable.
  2. Divide and Conquer— Segal’s Law says, “A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure”. That’s good for time pieces but not for IT systems. Have two go-to people who can answer your questions about the IT system. Most SMBs have an in-house IT person and a key IT vendor.  Independently ask both people the same question and compare their response.  If you don’t understand their response then ask them to tell you again in simpler terms.  Have them show you were the data resides on the network.
  3. Be a Pest— If you don’t know much about servers, network shares, data locations or user accounts, it’s never too soon to start learning.  Have your go-to guys show you the server, how it works. Have them give you demonstrations of transferring a file between network locations.  When you meet someone new at a networking event who “does Information Technology” for a living, ask them lots questions.
  4. Documentation—Have your IT guys prepare documentation showing where data is located on the network, and how to access it. The knowledge of your network should never be contained in one person’s head.  Some documents to be prepared include:
    1. IT Policies—How IT people and employees are allowed to use the IT resources
    2. Network map—A graphical depiction of how the network is laid out and connected
    3. IT Procedures—Shows how to access certain areas of the network. This could include a list of network drives and their corresponding server folders

These are just a few ways to improve your understanding of your systems.  SMB owners and managers wear many hats and have very limited time. But learning the technology aspect is becoming more important with every new piece of information we store on a computer.