Regular IT maintenance will help your business IT systems run more smoothly and make them less likely to break down, ensuring effective performance and reducing support costs.
Alongside computer systems maintenance, businesses can benefit from taking a regular look at their IT policies, procedures and documentation. And yes, although this may not sound fun, it's one of those jobs that can prevent major headaches in the future.
Basic IT maintenance
Basic IT maintenance ('housekeeping') should include archiving old material, deleting redundant files to free up space and defragmenting hard drives so things can be accessed more quickly.
As you'd expect, failing to perform tasks like these is unlikely to lead to immediate disaster. However, neglecting them for long periods can cause niggly problems, slow systems and a create shortage of space for new files. And as anyone who has to wait an age for their computer to switch on every morning will tell you, when small issues are neglected, they become big ones.
Computer systems maintenance and security
As well as keeping on top of general computer systems maintenance, businesses need to make sure they perform regular security-related IT maintenance. Failing to do this can have a direct impact on the security of IT systems and crucial business data.
Security IT maintenance tasks include performing regular scans for viruses and spyware, backing up data frequently (ideally, you should take a back up of everything that's changed since the last back up, every day) and changing passwords every month or two.
With the wealth of useful free tools to protect your business, there's no excuse for failing on security. The web browser is a central focus for cyber crime and its vulnerabilities are commonly exploited, particularly when users visit a malicious website.
Automating your IT maintenance
With the right combination of software and hardware, it's possible to automate many regular IT maintenance tasks. For instance, most anti-virus software and backup systems can be scheduled to run at a convenient time, without any human intervention.
If these tasks can be performed automatically, it usually makes sense to do so - just be sure to choose a time when disruption to your business will be minimal. And check the task is being performed properly. For instance, backups should be tested regularly - the worst time to find they haven't worked is during a real-life crisis!
Some computer systems maintenance requires manual intervention. It's important this is not neglected, so make sure every job is someone's responsibility and ensure they are given enough time to perform these tasks, even if that means other projects take a little longer to complete.
Alternatively, if your business works closely with an IT supplier or support company, you may be able to outsource IT maintenance to them. Make sure you consider this during the process of selecting a new support company or supplier.
Good IT maintenance involves good documentation
Where your IT systems are concerned, maintaining good documentation is important. All too often the important knowledge is possessed by one or two key people - which is fine, until when they leave or happen to be absent when something goes wrong.
Make sure your documentation is up to date. File new software discs safely, record licence keys when you buy and download software online - and be sure to save passwords as they're changed. Finally, make sure people in your business know where to find this key information.