What to Include in a Year-end IT Review

end of year checklist

When the year is coming to a close, it’s the perfect time to plan for the future. Most businesses begin the year with the hope of growing and improving operations. Much of how a business operates depends on technology. So, it makes sense to look to your IT for areas of optimization. 

A year-end technology review provides an opportunity to look at several areas of your IT. The goal is to take time to focus on improvements you can make to boost your bottom line. As well as what tactics to take to reduce the risk of a costly cyberattack. 

A recent study by Deloitte looked at digitally advanced small businesses. Small businesses that make smart use of technology are well ahead of their peers. Here are some of the ways they excel: 

  • Earn 2x more revenue per employee 
  • Experience year-over-year revenue growth nearly 4x as high   
  • Had an average employee growth rate over 6x as high 

The bottom line is that companies that use technology well, do better. They are also more secure. According to IBM, businesses that have an incident response plan reduce the costs of a data breach by 61%. Using security AI and automation can lower costs by 70%. 

This year-end, take some time to do a technology review with your internal IT team or have BDS assist you. This will set you up for success and security in the coming year. 

Considerations When Reviewing Your Technology at Year-End

The goal of a year-end technology review is to look at all areas of your IT infrastructure. Security, efficiency, and bottom-line considerations will be the key drivers for future initiatives. 

Technology Policies 

When technology policies get outdated, people stop following them. Review all your policies to see if any of them need updating to reflect new conditions. For example, if you now have some staff working from home, make sure your device use policy reflects this. 

When you update policies, let your employees know. This gives them a refresher on important information. They may have forgotten certain things since onboarding. 

Disaster Recovery Planning

When is the last time your company did an incident response drill? Is there a list of steps for employees to follow in the case of a natural disaster or cyberattack? 

Take time to look at disaster recovery planning for the new year. You should also put dates in place for preparedness drills and training in the coming months. 

IT Issues & Pain Points

You don’t want to go through a big IT upgrade without considering employee pain points. Otherwise, you might miss some golden opportunities to improve staff productivity and wellbeing. 

Survey your employees on how they use technology. Ask questions about their favorite and least favorite apps. Ask what struggles they face. Let them tell you how they feel technology could improve to make their jobs better. This, in turn, benefits your business. It can also help you target the most impactful improvements. 

Privileged Access & Orphaned Accounts

Do an audit of your privileged accounts as part of your year-end review. Over time, permissions can be misappropriated. This leaves your network at a higher risk of a major attack. 

You should ensure that only those that need them have admin-level permissions. The fewer privileged accounts you have in your business tools, the lower your risk. Compromised privileged accounts password open the door to major damage. 

While going through your accounts, also look for orphaned accounts. You need to close these because they’re no longer used. Leaving them active poses a security risk. 

IT Upgrade & Transformation Plans for the New Year

If you make IT upgrades and decisions “on the fly” it can come back to bite you. It’s best to plan out a strategy ahead of time, so you can upgrade in an organized way. 

Have a vulnerability assessment performed. This gives you a list of potential problems your company should address. Eliminating vulnerabilities improves your cybersecurity. Planning ahead allows you to budget for your upgrades and avoid unplanned expenses. 

Cloud Use & Shadow IT

Review your use of cloud applications. Are certain apps hardly used? Do you have redundancies in your cloud environment? A review can help you cut waste and save money. 

Also, look for uses of shadow IT by employees. These are cloud applications that are being used for work but did not go through approval. Management may not even be aware of them. Remove this security risk by either closing the accounts or officially approving them. 

Customer-Facing Technology

Don’t forget to look at the customer experience of your technology infrastructure. Go through your website and contact process as a customer would. 

If you get frustrated by things like site navigation, then your customers and leads may be too. Include optimizations to your customer-facing technology in your new year plans. 

Schedule a Technology & Security Assessment Today!

We can help you with a thorough review of your technology environment to give you a roadmap for tomorrow. Contact us today for a free consultation. 


Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

Posted in IT

6 Discontinued Technology Tools You Should Not Be Using Any Longer

IT Updates

One constant about technology is that it changes rapidly. Tools that were once staples, like Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash, age out. New tools replace those that are obsolete.  Discontinued technology can leave computers and networks vulnerable to attacks. 

While older technology may still run fine on your systems that doesn’t mean that it’s okay to use. One of the biggest dangers of using outdated technology is that it can lead to a data breach. 

Outdated software and hardware no longer receive vital security updates. Updates often patch newly found and exploited system vulnerabilities. No security patches means a device is a sitting duck for a cybersecurity breach. 

Approximately 1 in 3 data breaches are due to unpatched system vulnerabilities.  

Another problem with using discontinued technology is that it can leave you behind. Your business can end up looking like you’re in the stone ages to your customers, and they can lose faith and trust. 

Important reasons to keep your technology updated to a supported version are: 

  • Reduce the risk of a data breach or malware infection 
  • Meet data privacy compliance requirements 
  • To keep a good reputation and foster customer trust 
  • To be competitive in your market 
  • To mitigate hardware and software compatibility issues 
  • To enable employee productivity 

Older systems are clunky and get in the way of employee productivity. If you keep these older systems in use, it can lead to the loss of good team members due to frustration.  

49% of surveyed workers say they would consider leaving their jobs due to poor technology. 

Following is a list of outdated technology tools that you should replace as soon as possible. Are any of these still in use on your home computer or within your business? 

Get Rid of This Tech Now If You’re Still Using It

Internet Explorer

Many moons ago, Internet Explorer (IE) used to be the number one browser in the world. But, over time, Google Chrome and other browsers edged it out. Including its replacement, Microsoft Edge. 

Microsoft began phasing out IE with the introduction of Microsoft Edge in 2015. In recent years, fewer applications have been supporting use in IE. The browser loses all support beginning on June 15, 2022.  

Adobe Flash 

Millions of websites used Adobe Flash in the early 2000s. But other tools can now do the animations and other neat things Flash could do. This made the tool obsolete, and Adobe ended it. 

The Adobe Flash Player lost all support, including security updates, as of January 1, 2021. Do you still have this lingering on any of your computers? If so, you should uninstall the browser plugin and any Flash software.   

Windows 7 and Earlier 

Windows 7 was a very popular operating system, but it’s now gone the way of the dinosaur. Replacements, Windows 10 and Windows 11 are now in widespread use. The Windows 7 OS lost support on January 14, 2020. 

While it may still technically run, it’s very vulnerable to hacks. Microsoft Windows OS is also a high-value target for hackers. So, you can be sure they are out there looking for systems still running this obsolete version of Windows. 

macOS 10.14 Mojave and Earlier

Because of the cost of iMacs and MacBooks, people tend to hang onto them as long as possible. Once these devices get to a certain point, updates no longer work. This leaves the hardware stuck on an older and non-supported macOS version. 

If you are running macOS 10.14 Mojave or earlier, then your OS is no longer supported by Apple, and you need to upgrade. 

Oracle 18c Database

If your business uses Oracle databases, then you may want to check your current version. If you are running the Oracle 18C Database, then you are vulnerable. Breaches can easily happen due to unpatched system vulnerabilities. 

The Oracle 18C Database lost all support in June of 2021. If you have upgraded, then you’ll want to keep an eye out for another upcoming end-of-support date. Both Oracle 19C and 21C will lose premiere support in April of 2024. 

Microsoft SQL Server 2014

Another popular database tool is Microsoft’s SQL. If you are using SQL Server 2014, then mainstream support has already ended. And in July of 2024, all support, including security updates will stop. 

This gives you a little more time to upgrade before you’re in danger of not getting security patches. But it is better to upgrade sooner rather than later. This leaves plenty of time for testing and verification of the upgrade. 

Get Help Upgrading Your Technology & Reducing Risk 

Upgrades can be scary, especially if everything has been running great. You may be afraid that a migration or upgrade will cause issues. We can help you upgrade your technology smoothly and do thorough testing afterward. Get in touch to schedule a technology review today. 



Article used with permission from The Technology Press.  

Posted in IT

Working with Legacy IT – Modernization Options for Digital Infrastructure

I recently spoke at the AFCOM Data Center World Conference in Chicago. One of the topics I touched on was saving thousands of dollars by adjusting the ASHRAE set temperature points within the data center. Even a couple of degrees upward in temperature can save organizations thousands. After the presentation, an attendee came up to me and let me know that they tried doing this very initiative; but began to experience some serious hardware issues.

Why? They were running 7-year-old data center gear.

“We are at an inflection point as digital transformation efforts shift from ‘project’ or ‘initiative’ status to strategic business imperative,” said Frank Gens, Senior Vice President, and Chief Analyst at IDC. “Every (growing) enterprise, regardless of age or industry, must become ‘digital native’ in the way its executives and employees think, what they produce, and how they operate. At the same time, digital transformation is happening much faster than most expected, and early competitive advantages will go to those enterprises that can keep pace with the emerging digital transformation economy.”

This level of digitization is happening on all fronts, with cloud solutions helping lead a trillion-dollar effort. Gartner recently indicated that more than $1 trillion in IT spending would be directly or indirectly affected by the shift to cloud alongside other modernization efforts during the next five years.

Still, even with all of this modernization, I find that organizations from all walks of life are challenged to understand how they can bridge the gap between legacy and next-generation, digital, IT solutions.

These trends also signal a watershed where the remaining business-critical and platform-dependent applications (that cannot be replaced) must be shifted to allow user-centric computing. This translates to the ability to modernize, respond faster to market trends, and work at a faster business pace.

With all of this in mind – how do you bridge legacy IT with new business and technology goals? The good news is that there are powerful platforms that can help create that bridge and allow us to get along.

  • What to do with challenging applications. There’s a decent chance that you have an app or workload that can’t move or be migrated. Maybe it can’t even be virtualized? Working with applications and legacy data points can be a real challenge. In these situations, you’ll need to understand your business’s direction and the value of the challenging application.
    In some cases, this means running analysis to see if the application can be moved into the cloud, modified for virtualization, or if it needs to be upgraded in general. Hanging on to a legacy application just because it works is not a great reason to let the app live. It could be slowing your business process, creating a poor user experience, or even causing security issues. In some cases, you might have to rip the bandage off and move to a new platform.
  • Try cloud and automation for those legacy services. In working with older applications and data center services, you quickly find that they’re really limited to the functions assigned. The scope of their capabilities is pretty paltry. Next-generation automation and orchestration services dive deep into applications, desktops, virtual workloads, and even the data center to help organizations respond faster to market shifts. If you have siloed processes or operations working around legacy IT services – look for new tools that can integrate older components with your newer infrastructure. For example, solutions around ITSM and ITOM are allowing organizations to shift many of their legacy data center services into the cloud. By removing these aging pieces of infrastructure services – you can integrate newer services and have a better field of vision into your entire ecosystem.
  • Better management can help with legacy IT. Legacy IT can be extremely fragmented and complex. Because of this, significant challenges revolve around visibility, management, and monitoring. In many cases, customers don’t even know the full extent of their legacy IT infrastructure. Good management tools can give granular visibility into your entire business and IT platform. From there, you can identify legacy IT components, how they impact your data center, and where you can make real-world changes. Deep analytics can help you find everything from poorly configured servers to an unpatched switch in an almost forgotten network closet. By utilizing better infrastructure management, legacy IT admins have a clearer picture of the components they might need to migrate or upgrade. This means less guessing and better capabilities around making good decisions.
  • You don’t have to throw it all out – integration is a good option. The idea isn’t just to rip out an older piece of your infrastructure. Some older systems need to be integrated into your digital framework. Just look at what IBM has done with their AS400 platform and integration capabilities with things like cloud and big data. Yes, you’ll need to plan around this type of migration and identify your legacy IT systems’ pain points. Still, new IT components can easily be deployed in parallel to legacy IT to ensure the transition or integration is least disruptive and most beneficial to IT, users, and the business. This integration or transition can be done via management tools, cloud integration, and even virtualization. Most of all – this does not have to be a complicated process. The entire process can be very empowering for all associates, IT leaders, and business stakeholders. By integrating and evolving from legacy IT, you learn more about your organizations and the capabilities you require to support an emerging market.
  • Explore new compute and converged options. Just because you might have an app or service that’s considered legacy does not mean your hardware has to be. As part of a modernization effort, IT leaders must closely examine the kinds of workloads they’re running and the associated physical pieces of the data center. Working with converged or hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) allows you to create greater density levels, work with dynamic hardware and software provisioning profiles, and deploy modern applications alongside legacy instances. Too often, there is a misconception that a legacy workload must remain on the old server that’s it’s been running on forever. Leaving legacy apps on legacy gear can actually compound your challenges in the near-term. These challenges can range from resiliency issues to security flaws in older equipment. If you have to retain a legacy app or service, see if you can at least move it to more efficient and agile hardware. HCI options are great to run modern workloads alongside legacy instances.

If you still have legacy components in your data center, please don’t think that you’re alone. Many companies from all walks of IT life are always finding ways to become a more significant part of the digital revolution. An ongoing process, in my opinion. However, you can’t ignore the process of digital transformation. It’ll catch up to you if you miss it, or it can empower you if you embrace it. Evolving legacy IT is something organizations will continuously have to work with. However, this isn’t a journey you have to go on alone. Cloud providers, partners, and new technologies are all ready to help your unique use-cases and help you evolve. The big point here is that you get on this digital journey sooner rather than later.

Posted in IT

The 2021 Information Technology Budget: What Leaders are Doing to Creating an Effective Strategy

If 2020 has thrown us any curveballs, it’s that we should be actively expecting the unexpected. It feels that this has been the summary of this entire year. We’ve seen organizations of all sizes become impacted by today’s trends, and many have become far more creative in how they leverage technology to stay ahead.

So, when 2021 budgets were being done, many thought that IT budgets would take a hit despite the criticality of technology. As it turns out, this isn’t the case.

The latest Spiceworks Ziff Davis report shows us some exciting details into what organizations are doing with their technology spending.

Here are some interesting findings:

  • Among all businesses, 64% enabled a remote workforce in 2020. More than half of all companies plan to retain flexible work policies even after the pandemic ends — which will necessitate additional technology investment.
  • 80% of businesses surveyed expect IT budgets to grow or stay steady over the next 12 months.

One of the most interesting findings in the report was the small and medium enterprise segment metrics. Even though economic fluctuations greatly impacted these smaller companies, they’re still investing more dollars into technology.

As the report points out:

Mid-size businesses (100-999 employees) and enterprises are significantly more likely to increase budgets in 2021 due to supporting a remote workforce during COVID-19. Enterprises are significantly more likely to increase IT funds due to changes in business operations during COVID-19 and changes in regulations.

In diving a bit deeper, we saw that this spending on IT, even though it’s increasing, is much different in how dollars are actually allocated to technology. These changes became evident when some small and mid-sized businesses faired better during today’s climate than others. It’s also those organizations that got creative in how they achieved innovation, alongside increasing their IT budget spending.

Here’s what some of those leaders are doing.

Taking the Technology Dollar Further Than Ever Before
Feedback from industry leaders has primarily been that technology continues to serve important purposes for the business. This includes everything from basic back-office operations to ensuring a company can stay alive during uncertain times. However, specific points were made in how the technology dollar is going further and what it’s doing to support a much more digital economy.

  • Remove clutter, and simplify. Complexity can grind a business to a halt. This is especially true in today’s business climate. It’s critical to remove management, infrastructure, software, and even access complexity from your environments. This includes portals, pieces of hardware, end-points, security solutions, and more. Just because something ‘works’ does not mean it’s bringing value to you or your users. Stagnant technology that requires investments needs to have a focus on your budget. Spending money to simplify is a crucial way to become more agile in the digital market.
  • Find your balance between cloud and data center. Neither is here to cannibalize or take away workloads from the other. The good news is that we’re mature enough in the technology that leaders know when to be on-premise versus using the cloud. To that point, if you’re heavily invested in managing a data center, and it’s just burning cash, look to the cloud to offload some of those resources. On the other hand, if you’re experiencing cloud-sprawl and are spending too much on resource costs, look at a colocation or data center partner to offload.
  • There is no more comfort zone when it comes to new technology adoption. This was a key consideration. Leading vendors around converged, hyperconverged, storage, virtualization, and security solutions have all indicated that demos and request for proof-of-concept projects have skyrocketed. And, the time between demo and deployment is much less. The feedback? If there is a technology that can fundamentally revolutionize your business approach and competitive stance in the market, try it out, validate results, and quickly jump on it. You’ll have a lot of success when involving business IT and non-IT personnel in the decision-making process.
  • Convergence, cloud, and virtualization are your friend. Agile organizations remain relevant even in the hardest of times. Companies that have adopted containerization, cloud-based microservices, new virtualization solutions, and converged infrastructure are all seeing their IT investment dollars pay off. For example, convergence allows for a deep reduction in space and infrastructure required to support your business. Virtualization can help you deliver desktops and applications to users leveraging any device, and the cloud can give you the agility to support distributed users and customers. The feedback here is to know where you lack in your business in these areas and what you can do to improve. It’s not just physical infrastructure savings either; there are significant performance gains as well. Converting from legacy spinning disk to all-flash, for example, can help reduce space, create less heat in the data center, and vastly improve user experience.

Finally, there was a significant consensus regarding working with critical gear, which’s sometimes bought second-hand. That is if you’re planning on working with the ‘gray’ market, be very careful. Yes, buying products through the gray market can save you a tremendous amount; but you have to consider the cost. This can be everything from concerns around warranties to unknown tampering before the device went in your rack.

Some things to consider:

  • Only work with trusted and certified OEM partners.
  • Challenge suppliers and validate sources.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
  • The last thing you want is unsupported or untrusted infrastructure.

More than ever before, organizations are findings ways to get creative with technology. That includes how they spend their IT budgets. We know that technology isn’t going anywhere, and we also know that IT is critical to surviving in a data-driven, digital world. A final point of feedback revolved around simplifying your technology ecosystem. Like our first point earlier, leaders stated that working with good partners helped them make better decisions and improve their technology investments. We’re asking our technology budgets to be stretched and work ever harder for us. A good partner can ensure you allocate those dollars to solutions that bring you as much value to your business and users as possible.

Arguably, that’s the most significant difference. We see fewer ‘nice-to-have’ purchases and far more investment in ‘must-have’ solutions. Like business leaders are doing today, it’ll be essential for you to know where your spending is going and how you can ultimately stretch that technology dollar.

Posted in IT