My IT Guy was Hit by a Bus!

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I have known Sharon Bennett for a couple of years now, and enjoy her daily tech tips on Twitter (@bennettbusiness).  After reading her tip a few weeks ago I asked her if she would like to elaborate for a blog article, and she readily agreed.

Sharon is a dedicated small business IT consultant with 18 years of technical experience under her belt. She prides herself on keeping up with the fast pace of changing technology and is a Microsoft Small Business Specialist and Microsoft Certified Trainer.  Sharon holds many industry certifications including MCSE and MCITP. She teaches the MCSE curriculum, Microsoft Office, and Cloud technologies for small business. She chairs the Guelph Chamber of Commerce Technology Committee, and is the "IT Expert" of Guelph's Business Circles.  Sharon is one of the committee members who is bringing Girl Geek Dinners to Guelph.  Her current focus is introducing small businesses to the benefits of Cloud services.  Sharon is writing her second book, about IT for parents. –MDG

I recently received a call from a small business of 10 employees. They were unable to access the files on their server, and they needed help ASAP. Their regular IT support was no longer available, so I stopped in to see if I could assist them. I was expecting their site documentation to provide the administrator username and password to the server; where all of their data, including financials, was being housed. When I asked the business owner for the documentation, her response was, “What do you mean documentation?” You could clearly see the “uh-oh” look on her face. The company server was locked with an unknown username and password, and all their information was in their IT support’s head. The only way to recover the credentials was by using a password recovery program. Once I was able to access the server, the problem was quickly resolved; but the 2-minute fix cost them 60 minutes of troubleshooting and recovery. After the dust had settled, I compiled the server and network information into a document, and emailed it to the user for her future reference.

Unfortunately, I see this type of scenario more often than not. For many small businesses, the cost of hiring a full, or even part-time IT professional is out of their budget. These small businesses rely on the independent IT professional to keep their systems up and running. But what if their only IT support is hit by a bus?

Could your small business client(s) easily pass their infrastructure to a new person, if necessary? How hard would it be to bring their systems back if there was a failure and you were not available? How long can they afford to be without the backbone of their business while another IT professional tries to figure out how you put their infrastructure together, before they can even address the problem?

In order to minimize disruption to your small business client(s), it is essential that you provide a detailed document including (but not limited to):

  1. Network schematics
  2. All administrative usernames and passwords for all devices, including:
    • Routers
    • Printers
    • Servers
    • Switches
    • Computers
  3. All vendor contacts
  4. Operating systems
  5. IP Addresses – including reserved and excluded IPs
  6. Credentials for all infrastructure-related sites, including Domain Name and DNS providers, as well as expiry dates
  7. All licensing
  8. Custom 3rd party applications and configurations

For an example of what should be included in your site documentation, click here.

We all know that life is unpredictable, and things happen. You could become ill, win a million dollars, or even be hit by a bus. As the trusted IT professional, it is your responsibility to ensure that your client(s) can transition their network, and to be prepared to entrust it to someone else, if need be. Update your documentation to reflect any modifications whenever made; and it is to be left with your client(s). The small business should maintain control of their site documentation to safeguard their business. Take the time to sit down with your business client(s) to review their business’s “hit by a bus” file.

*hit by the bus was an expression one of my college professors used, and it clarified the importance of proper and current documentation.

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  • thanks.

  • I work at a company who looks after several business' networks, we have implemented a wiki with all the info for each site's network, router, switchs, passwords etc..  it's not as detailed as the pdf, but it does allow another tech to jump in who's not very familiar with the site.  We also provide a copy of it to the client as well.  I think I'm going to use that pdf as well.

    I would like to know what program was used to get into the server.  Ive read of ways on resetting the domain admin password when you forget (heaven forbid) or go in not knowing like the above scenario.

  • Mike thanks for your comment.  While I am sure there are ways to recover a password, they would be considered hacking, and we cannot supply you with an answer.

    I have never tried to use the DaRT Toolkit on a Server, but it MIGHT work :)

  • Good list - I'd also devote a section to their data locations and backup/recovery situation for those.

  • this is a standard story but it is the true. Documentation is very IMPORTANT.

    Good Job