Summer Vacations Snag SMB Security Safety Nets

IDC-MCS offers preparation list for network administrators to check off before leaving on holiday

San Diego, CA - July 27, 2004 - Small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are at greater risk of security threats and data disasters when IT managers leave on summer trips, according to Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDC-MCS), a leading IT infrastructure consultancy.

With fewer resources than larger organizations, SMBs often rely on as little as one staff member to run the company's IT systems. This means that security and data protection can be neglected when a network administrator is out of the office. Advising numerous companies on their IT infrastructures over the past six months, IDC-MCS found that in almost 75% of SMB site visits, there was no comprehensive IT backup plan if the network manager was not available.

As a result, IDC-MCS has developed a checklist for IT administrators to complete before going on vacation, enabling them to avoid dealing with work issues while away. In a 2003 survey by IDC-MCS, it was found that almost a quarter of network managers (23%) said that while on vacation, they received calls relating to IT projects or requests for help to deal with technical problems.

The following IT tips will help ensure network managers are prepared before bidding farewell this summer season:

  1. Develop or update the business continuity plan (BCP). A BCP addresses all aspects of the enterprise; recognizes likely IT failures; provides alternatives to maintain critical enterprise services; and provides a 'playbook' for any staff expected to handle the crisis. In addition, a good BCP will establish communication protocols among key IT staff members, top management personnel, essential equipment vendors and service providers, such as electrical utilities and backbone providers.

  2. Test critical backup infrastructure. Develop, implement and commit to a regular schedule of testing and inspection of all backup systems per manufacturers' recommendations. This will ensure all equipment is maintained regularly and any problems can be solved in advance.

  3. Appoint and train alternate employee(s) to handle general IT issues and emergency situations. Even in an organization with one IT professional, consider cross-training a non-technical employee in basic emergency procedures. The training can even be limited to simple reboot procedures and how to contact a support contractor.

  4. Ensure the BCP is available, accessible and understood by select employees. In addition to training a staff member on IT problem solving, make sure all key employees/managers are aware of the firm's BCP and are well versed in their role should a network crisis develop. This understanding should include roles and responsibilities, communications protocols and detailed recovery and continuity procedures.

  5. Double check that there is a backup equipment plan for switches, file servers, wireless network equipment, Internet connections, desktops and laptops. An equipment backup plan accounts for potential network failures and how to develop a replacement should a key component fail. Most small enterprises, due to budget constraints, may have several single points of failure. Each should be addressed and have a replacement strategy in place. If possible, negotiate with vendors for loan gear as well as price and guaranteed part delivery dates should equipment need to be repaired.

  6. Ensure multiple employees/managers have copies of important phone numbers and contact points for any relevant IT matters. This can include contact information for the company's Internet service provider, IT technician and/or equipment vendors.

  7. Be diligent in the execution of daily backups. If for some reason daily backups are not a part of the standard operational protocol, include them immediately. Install a backup and restoration solution and use it. This is the foundation of any recovery/continuity plan.

  8. Maintain copies of backup tapes offsite, preferably in a facility designed for the storage of backup data. This ensures that company information can still be recovered in the case of any physical disasters.

  9. Create rack elevations and a network patch matrix that details where specific IT hardware is located and how it is interconnected. This will prove invaluable to staff or outside vendors who may have to deal with an emergency in the IT administrator's absence.

  10. Check that all hardware and software systems are running smoothly. Spending some time in preventative maintenance can pay significant dividends in uptime.

  11. Install an Uninteruptable Power Supply (UPS) to protect against possible power outages. While small enterprises may not have the financial resources for large UPS solutions with backup generator capabilities, critical systems should be supplied with a UPS that will allow the server to be secured and shut down to eliminate data loss. As part of the BCP, critical pieces of equipment should be identified (such as database servers) and supplied with a UPS.

  12. As a last resort, always leave an emergency contact number in case the office needs to reach you. Many IT professionals prefer to be contacted in an emergency with text messaging devices, such as PDAs, as it is less obtrusive than a cell phone. In any event, when possible, leave contact information with the office so you can be contacted in the event of a serious problem

"Without the budget to invest in top notch security tools or the need for a dedicated IT disaster recovery team, SMBs are typically left with just one employee to handle all security and other IT-related matters," said Steve Ritzi, director of marketing at IDC-MCS, Inc. "Leaving organizations' IT matters up to chance is far too risky, so we developed a useful checklist for IT administrators to run through before taking time off."

About IDC-MCS, Inc. Infrastructure Development Corp. provides consulting, design, facilities, assessment planning, program and project management expertise in the development and implementation of e-business applications, networks, telecommunication infrastructure, data centers and mission-critical facilities.

For further information on IDC-MCS' infrastructure consulting services, please visit