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Use Slow Business Time to Update and Streamline Your Systems
by Lynne Lawrence, president, USNet

Many companies are experiencing revenue and operational slowdown due to the sluggish economy plus the natural end-of-year business cycle. Rather than losing valuable productivity to these factors, take this time to review your information-technology infrastructure. You could save resources long-term by investing your time near-term. This does not have to be a cost-intensive proposition. In fact, we advise our clients that taking such proactive, streamlining procedures now will save them money – and hassle –in the long run. Using in-house or contracted expertise to help guide the process, we recommend that all companies follow these five steps to maximize IT resources:

First, companies must review their current hardware and software. To do this, we suggest having a qualified technician review your systems to ensure all of your company workstations are operating optimally. If this review locates deficiencies, upgrade your system to improve performance. The two most common culprits resulting in poor performance, RAM and disk space, are inexpensive and fairly painless to upgrade.

Second, we recommend that companies do a little file system "housekeeping." Just as you would periodically purge and organize traditional paper files, you need to defragment ("defrag") your company’s complete network and its individual workstations on a scheduled basis. This simple process reorganizes a hard disk’s essential operating and supporting software, greatly enhancing system performance. Defragmenting a hard disk groups like files and programs together, limiting resource-crunching and time-costly data searching across data storage devices. Another step is the compression of files and preventive maintenance on all peripherals. Don’t forget to look for software upgrades on all of your company’s hardware and software. Outdated drivers often result in lower-than-peak performance data-transfer rates as well as a poor exchange between the individual devices composing an IT hardware and software network.

Third, companies should review their operations and procedures, and the role IT plays in these processes. Your IT systems won't be efficient if they're based on outdated and/or archaic practices and procedures. Prevent wasted space or lack of integration by implementing a more automated, reliable and IT-friendly system-wide operation. This creates a seamless synergy of hardware and software into an existing operations foundation.

Fourth, we advise companies to conduct IT-focused customer reviews. Consult with your customers to uncover any problems they perceive in your current systems or any improvements they would like to see. If your customers are local, invite them in for a system demo and ask for their feedback. They will appreciate that you value their opinion and want to improve operating efficiencies with them. In addition, customers may come up with ideas for improvements that you are simply too close to the problem to see for yourself. For example, is your customer relationship management (CRM) system lacking applications that could substantially increase its performance, or does your Web site e-commerce tool and related graphical user interface (GUI) need to be more user-intuitive?

Finally, memorize the three most important rules of IT maintenance: Back up, back up, back up. The time and expense it takes to establish a regular – at least daily – complete system back-up procedure is only a fraction of the time and expense (not to mention pain) you might incur if you do not back up regularly. Many cost-effective, off-the-shelf back up programs are readily available, complete with solid customer support from the software manufacturer. Even if you need to have a program custom-written for your company, it will pay for itself many times over in the event of a data disaster.

USNet, a 15-year-old company based in Santa Ana, Calif., provides a network of expert technicians throughout the United States and Canada. The company is a one-stop shop for business site cabling, hardware installation and service. President Lynne Lawrence can be reached at or (714) 571-4613.


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