IT Maintenance Scheduling Best Practices

I described in a recent blog how the scientific principle of entropy holds true in IT.

Components and entire systems will degrade over time when left alone. Without a calendar to enforce routine IT maintenance and device upgrades, the forces of entropy will slowly but surely bring your systems and/or network down!

Since most midsized companies don’t have a comprehensive IT department, they typically rely on an IT managed service provider (MSP) like Analytics to take the lead on IT maintenance scheduling and performance.

Server Maintenance Schedules – 4 Weeks
At Analytics, we use AEM (automated endpoint management) software to continually monitor clients’ servers—including server error and event logs, memory, drives, and battery backup life. We also go onsite every four weeks to review these same issues along with each server’s environment. Are they in a secure location onsite? Are they in a controlled environment ensuring that they don’t overheat? Are they reasonably protected from dust and other contaminants?

Other recommendations:

Every two years, replace the backup batteries on your servers, routers, and any other infrastructure equipment with this feature.
Plan to replace your servers every seven years, but do it sooner if they run low on capacity or are no longer under warranty.
Desktop Maintenance Schedules – 8 Weeks
Here again, our approach is a combination of remote AEM monitoring and onsite, hands-on attention. In both settings, we review all the desktop event logs to uncover systemic or hardware errors. While on site, we’ll also check on the office environmental factors mentioned above. And we get on each computer every eight weeks to proactively look for problems—and more often than that if it’s mission critical hardware.

Other recommendations:

Don’t forget to enforce file management procedures and protocols. Even the best backup systems will not capture files they can’t find. (That’s why we check to see where employees are saving their data and whether those files are synchronizing with backup servers and programs.)
Plan to replace desktops every five years, or even sooner if the operating system (OS) is no longer supported. While it’s easy and advisable to increase RAM as necessary, changing out an OS inevitably triggers a cascade of additional upgrades, maintenance requirements, and performance failures.
More on the Automated Endpoint Management (AEM) Tool
There’s very little an MSP can’t do to—or learn about—an IT system remotely through an AEM. For example, from our control room we can:

monitor device usage
patch applications
deploy computers and servers (pretty much everything except plugging them in!)
maintain an inventory and history of all devices and software

AEM capability provides great peace of mind and is critical for addressing emergency situations. But as we mentioned above and discuss below, it should not give an MSP a pass from visiting the workspace on a regular basis.

Onsite = Optimal Maintenance Support
Proactive onsite visits serve an important function. When we’re at a client’s facility, we can spot problems and opportunities to improve IT environments. We’ll see ways to increase productivity like relocating a printer. We might observe unsafe cabling and power cord placement and quickly head off related problems. Similarly, when we see a “spaghetti” of cords and cables, we can usually simplify, consolidate, or at least bundle them to make the workplace look a little more professional.

And we hardly ever have a visit where someone doesn’t make a spur-of-the-moment request or point out a nagging tech problem. These are opportunities to improve productivity and employee satisfaction that we never would have if we were a faceless, off-site presence only working behind the scenes through the back door of a system.

Your MSP should be available and visible to employees just like your HR, Accounting, and Sales Department leaders.

In Short
IT is at the crossroads of nearly every critical function and system in an organization. Ensure its continuity with regular maintenance, proactive replacement and upgrades, quick-response troubleshooting capability, and hands-on personal attention for all your users.