Common Misconceptions – What the hell is your IT guy talking about?

This week has found me knee deep in meetings and reviews with various clients about their technology. The biggest common theme I found recently was that they all had some kind of misconception of their IT infrastructure based on “things they heard/saw on the internet”. Even though I have been working with some of these clients for years, it was a little surprising to hear them make assumptions about things we previously had discussed.

That being said, have your tech top of mind is not what most people do, so naturally if they are not in a technology business, forgetting things or misunderstanding things is understandable. This is further compounded when you have different “expert” sources giving you conflicting informaiton.

For example, if a software provider makes comments on what hardware you need, it may conflict with what your hardware vendors are asking for. In the same vein, if your infrastructure provider (cabling, power, communications) does not connect with your business “designer” then elements of technology could automatically be ignored when any kind of construction, brand change or move happens.

Some of the biggest misconceptions this week were actually PHYSICAL questions in nature. So I’ve compiled a list of 5 misconceptions I’ve encountered with my corresponding answers:

5)”Why can’t we use the existing cabling for our data network when we move in to this new space?”
The short answer – Because most of the cabling is in the wrong locations for your equipment.
The long answer – Because most of the cabling is Cat 5, which is a very old outdated standard and we are currently at a Cat 6 standard for all of your new gear. Some of the cabling is showing signs of damage. Most of the locations are not where you are going to put your equipment. None of the existing cabling was audited to even determine if it could be used prior to your commitment to move.
Summary – When companies move nowadays, they inevitably forget their IT infrastructure. When they do remember, it is usually because the contractor, electrician or IT support person asks the question AFTER they have committed to the move/lease/rent/purchase of the space.
Recommendation: Bring your IT people into the loop BEFORE you commit to a move or change of any kind. They can bring insight and planning to your goals to save money and surprise costs after the fact.

4)”I just bought two 24″ monitors. Can you install them side by side on my desk.”
Short answer – Get a bigger desk.
Long Answer – Your desk is only 4 feet wide. Have you actually measured the space? Also have you considered the cables and the fact that your computer may not have 2 video output ports. Have you considered the HEAT generation. Yes.. they still produce heat.”
Recommendation: Before jumping into any technology purchase, it might be wise to ask what considerations have to be made when going with technology you have not used before.

3)”We want wireless access in our space now. Why do we need more than 1 wireless access point and more cabling installed?”
Short answer – You need more because of the size of your space.
Long Answer – Your space is large. Your space is divided up into many rooms and zones that are separated by all kinds of different constructions and materials and therefore the signal does not travel throughout the whole space with only 1 access point.
Recommendation: Irony = need more wire installed to make more wireless access points work. People perceptions about WiFi is that its just like radio stations. If you put up a wireless “box” you can access WiFi anytime anywhere. The truth is that WiFi is an extension of your wired network and needs to have security, reliability and accessibility considered before implementing.

2)”How come my backup takes so long to complete? I thought I had enough space on the drive.”
Short Answer – Yes, you have enough space, but your 5 year old server running USB 2.0 can’t keep up with 450gb of data every night.
Long Answer – Your backup solution is no longer sufficient to the volume of data you are trying to backup. Either you need to trim down what needs daily backup vs. what needs to be archived permanently. Further, you may want to invest in the newer technology to handle faster operations including faster backup.
Recommendation: The amount of data that is stored for most businesses today is significantly larger in size than in past years. People frequently store attachments in both their emails AND saved to a local drive without realizing the redundancy is costing them space and time. Even though there may be no issues directly with their technology, it may be already overdue for a change if the data they are accessing overwhelms basic operating parameters of their day to day business.

1)”Why is our Server so big?”
Short Answer – It is more than just a workstation PC.
Long Answer – Most servers are designed to be operating in a redundant manner with redundant power, redundant hard drives, and redundant backup. As such, the physical box is larger to accommodate the extra gear.
Recommendation: Theoretically, any computer can be used as a “server”. The difference is that servers are much more expensive because of the power, redundancy and security they provide as the backbone to your infrastructure. Some people ask me why their existing desktop computer cannot suffice and the answer I always give is that their desktop does not have the capability to stay running when a hard drive dies, or continue running when the power goes out, or notify you when a particular component needs repair or replacement. Servers do this both with a higher operating system and much higher hardware.

All these scenarios are a result of over-information or misinformation from all kinds of sources from the internet, to different IT providers, different manufacturers, to people family members who have spent time working on IT.

It is why at the Apple store “Anti-virus” is a bad word.
It is why laptops sell at Best Buy for $400 but when you realize all the things you need to add, it still comes out to $1000.
It is why you can backup online for free, until you hit a limit or have to restore and they ask for your credit card first.

That is not to say in technology there is only 1 way to do things. That is not the case. There are many ways and some people prefer to do them differently, but what needs to be understood is that technology has become affordable and accessible to the consumer market. Anybody can buy and iPhone, or a tablet, or download software or purchase a projector. That means it is subject to misinformation just like any other product or service out there.

To battle all the info that is being pumped at you on TV and on the internet, you have to find a good IT person to explain and monitor things for you but then you need to TRUST them. If you don’t trust them, find another person you can trust. Then once you have found the right person, let them work with you to attain your goals. Tell them of upcoming plans. Ask for input on business structure, not just IT. Most IT people have to delve into other areas of business in order to get IT to function. Many times IT consultants have experience in construction, finance and even law in order to provide technology to a business.

Just as you would ask your accountant about upcoming tax planning, or asking a lawyer about trademarks, copyrights or protecting your brand you should look at your IT provider in a pro-active relationship and not just calling them when something needs fixing.

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