8 Warning Signs of IT Disaster

8 Warning Signs of IT Disaster

“Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.”  For thousands of years mariners have used this simple saying to try and spot trouble and adjust their course if needed.  In 2019 it still holds wisdom as business owners strive to look for early warning signs of trouble to come.  To help with that we present the 8 warning signs of IT disaster.  The hope is to help educate our readers about early indicators they can spot while they still have time to adjust course.

Backups Haven’t Run

One sure fire way to navigate right into disaster is to avoid checking your backups.  This is something that is often out of sight, and out of mind for many of us.  We assume that there is a backup, and that it’s running as it should be.

Hard experience has shown us that these assumptions are not good to make.  Far too many businesses have been left hanging by broken backup processes or negligent IT providers.  Take the time to confirm that you have a backup system in place.  Know what those backups are and how often they are supposed to run.

Once you know that you have a system in place, make sure it’s working!  To many IT providers set up a backup solution to run automatically and then walk away.  They don’t monitor the solution, they aren’t alerted if backups start to fail.  Typically, business owners in these situations don’t know that their backup has been failing until they have a server crash and they need to recover the data.  At that point, it’s woefully too late.

You can avoid this disaster by making sure you have a solid solution in place for backups.  We recommend using software to automate the process and putting tools in place to alert you if backups ever fail.  This way you can ensure that your backups are successful and there when you need them.

Flashing Lights in the Server Room

Most servers do their best to tell you when they have a problem by flashing amber lights.  This gives you a visual cue that something is wrong and needs immediate attention.

The most common cause of flashing amber lights on your server is hard drive failure.  Most servers are set up in a RAID configuration where several drives work together to store your data in a redundant fashion.  This allows you to have a single drive fail without losing data or having the server go offline.

However, if the failed drive is not replaced in a timely fashion and a second drive fails you run the risk of losing your data and suffering extended downtime.

In addition to hard drives you can have amber lights because of power supply failure.  Servers again often have redundant power supplies, but if you don’t catch it before they both go out you can be in a big mess.

There are a lot of other reasons why you might have amber flashing lights on your server.  It’s enough to know that you shouldn’t be seeing them.  If you are, contact an IT professional and ask them to take a look right away.

Even better, you can put monitoring software in place that will give you alerts if your server is giving off any errors.  This allows you to be more proactive still and catch things before they fully fail in some cases.  Increase your peace of mind and get a solution in place today.

Frequent Server Reboots

If you’re required to go into the server room and do a hard reboot on your server on a regular basis, its likely you have a significant problem.  Servers are built to run 24/7 for extended periods.  They should be rebooted by IT professionals on a scheduled basis as part of regular maintenance.  If your server hangs up, stops working, or otherwise has problems that require a reboot that is NOT normal behavior.

You should have an IT professional diagnose the situation immediately.  This could be linked to a hardware failure of some kind, a software conflict, or a problem with the operating system.  No matter what it’s a sever symptom and requires help immediately.

A better solution would be to monitor your server’s performance.  There are software packages out there that will keep a heartbeat on your systems, and alert you if something goes wrong.  They can identify the problem and notify you before it becomes a disaster.  This also adds another level of proactive management to your network that helps prevent little problems from becoming big ones.

No Firewall

If you don’t have a business class firewall in place to help protect your business from outside attacks, your data is at risk.  Here’s how you can tell.

Find where your internet comes into your building/suite.  You’ll typically have a router from your internet provider that has a coax (cable tv) connection or a fiber connection coming into it.  There will be a cable plugged into the LAN portion of the router (frequently marked with LAN or yellow) that uplinks to the rest of your network.

If the very first thing that cable plugs into isn’t a firewall you have a problem.  Firewall hardware devices typically look like another router.  Most are a small box, but some can be rack mounted.  Common firewall brands are Sonicwall, Cisco, Sophos, Palo Alto, and Watchguard.  They will typically have the brand name printed on the device somewhere.

If you don’t have a firewall in place and that cable from the internet connects directly into a switch or other device that distributes internet throughout the office, it means you have little to no security.  Any one that knows what they are doing can likely get to your data without too much trouble.

Call an IT professional and have them install a business class firewall right away.  Secure your data and protect yourself from threats.

Insecure Remote Access

Hackers frequently don’t target specific businesses, but rather run automated tools that search the web for vulnerabilities.  One of the vulnerabilities they have been exploiting more often lately is insecure remote access to the network via the remote desktop protocol.

What does that mean and how can you spot it?  It means that your network is configured in such a way that you can use Microsoft’s RDP functionality to connect to a machine on your network from outside.  If you can connect to a machine at work using RDP from home or outside your network without having to first authenticate via VPN or another secure login method, you have a problem.  There are a lot of secure ways to gain remote access, but RDP direct to a machine without some security in place isn’t one of them.

To enable this, an IT guy at some point would have to open RDP ports on your firewall to the world.  This enables users ease of access from outside.  It also is an exploit that is used by more and more attackers that want your data.  This can lead to ransomware, or other more sophisticated attacks.

If this is you, have an IT professional close this access immediately and set up an alternate secure method for remote access to the network.

Hot Hot Hot!

If you ever walk into your server room and it feels like a sauna, you might have a problem.  Servers run optimally between 68 and 71 degrees.  Server room temps should not exceed 82 degrees.  Some systems can start to have component damage if it gets much warmer than that.  Many systems have an auto shutdown build in at 105 degrees to keep them from burning out.  A server room that is too hot could cause your servers to go offline.

You can avoid this by monitoring the temperature in the room.  Most IT professionals can set up a system that will automatically alert them if the temperature passes desired thresholds.  If your server room is hotter than the Sahara, contact an IT pro to look today.

Server out of warranty

Most people know that dog years are 7 to 1.  What most people don’t know is that computer years are 13 to 1.  That means when your server is 5 years old in human years it’s 65 years old in computer years.  It’s ready for retirement.

While that may not be super scientific it’s a good rule of thumb.  Statics show that server failure rates increase steadily with age.  A new server only has a 5% rate of failure.  A server that is 5 years old has an 14% chance of failure, and it continues to rise on an escalating basis from there.

We recommend keeping your servers on a 5-year rotation.  This allows you to maximize the useful life of your server while keeping your risk low.

Most server will tell you how old they are.  Both Dell and HP servers typically have a tag that identifies them.  Dell has a number printed on the server hardware called a service tag.  HP has a serial number.  Either one of these numbers can be plugged into the providers online database to check warranty.  This will also tell you the age of the server.  If your server is over 5 years old, it’s ready for retirement.  Talk to an IT professional about new hardware today.

Nobody wants to talk to IT

There could be various causes.  Maybe you have an IT guy with a particularly prickly personality.  Perhaps they’ve asked for help numerous times in the past without getting their issues resolved.  They’ve become resigned to the fact that they just have to “live with it” and that answers aren’t available.

No matter what the issue, if your staff is reluctant to take their problems to IT you should consider it a serious problem.

We typically see this when taking over for a competitor.  The staff has lost so much trust based on poor experience after poor experience with the previous provider that they think all IT guys are the same.  They think that we won’t listen or won’t care.  All IT guys are NOT created equal!  If your staff has an attitude like this about IT, then it’s time to make a change.

If you don’t make a course correction your users will start to hoard their problems.  This will hamper productivity and force them to create alternate workarounds.  These workarounds are almost always time wasting and are also frequently insecure.  In addition to these items they can be devastating for moral.

Look for a new provider.  If you have in-house IT with a toxic attitude like this fire them.  There are plenty of great IT providers and IT staff out there that will give you the service you need without the headache.

Conclusion

We hope that these tips have been helpful to you as you navigate the seas of business technology.  If you find yourself lost or identify that you need help adjusting course with your current IT solution, i.t.NOW is here to help.  With 20 years of business IT experience, and a small army of qualified technicians we can get you back on track.  Call us today!  The longer you wait the harder it is to get back on course.

Here’s to fair wind and calm seas!