Check the IT when you buy a business

What is the existing IT worth? Make sure you don’t buy a lemon!

When you are buying a business, ask yourself: what is the existing IT infrastructure like? What do I need to look for? Am I going to be up for a bunch of extra costs right when I don’t need them?

It is well worth getting a second opinion on the existing IT in a business BEFORE you purchase. We have a come across some interesting cases in the last few months that have made us think – for instance a guy bought a business in Wellington, only to find that the server had no backup software, no antivirus and there has been no maintenance done on it for over 3 years. ALL of the PCs needed to be replaced. He is looking at $2000 to get the system updated with backups working and antivirus installed and another $8,000 – $10,000 to get all the PCs replaced.

Some things to look for

Hardware

  • How old is the hardware: the PCs, servers, printers and routers? There should be invoices for the purchases – ask to see these.
  • Remember if these are on the books as assets then they may have been deprecated off the books. It is still worth having a look at the original invoices to see what exactly has been purchased against what is installed AND even if they are old enough to be depreciated off. It is better to know now what future costs you may be up for – then you will have no nasty surprises.
  • What is the mode of the PC/Server ? It is very important to check this out.
  • Is the PC a consumer model? (If so, it means that you may not get as long a lifespan out of it).
  • If it is a non branded machine, are parts easily available? (If it is over 3 years then this is less likely.)
  • Is it still under warranty? If it is a branded machine like HP you may be able to purchase warranty extensions, giving you a bit of piece of mind for another year or so.
  • If the server is backing up to tape, when were the tapes last replaced? What tapes are offsite ?
  • Have the backups ever been tested? That is, can you actually retrieve data off them?

Software

  • What is the software on the machines – i.e. Office? We are still coming across sites that are running Office XP – which is nearly 9 years old. The licence has just been transferred from one machine to the next…
  • What are the current licences? If they are OEM it means that the licence has to stay with the machine, but if they are Open Value/retail they can be moved from machine to machine.
  • Is the site FULLY licensed? Will you have issues if you get audited?
  • What antivirus is running and where are renewal notifications going? If you miss the reminder and don’t renew, then your system can become vulnerable to attack.

Domain Names

WHO owns the domain name for the business?? For instance, I’ve made sure that I own all the names relevant to my business, i.e.

Quaycorp.co.nz

Quaycorporate.co.nz

Quaycorp.co

Quaycoporate.co

And a few more

Where do the reminders to renew the domain go? This is particularly important – if you miss the reminder and don’t renew the domain and if you are using this for your email – i.e. admin@quaycorp.co.nz – then your mail will stop!

Security

Who has access to the system – i.e. administrator passwords – levels of security.

Checking first saves headaches later

Checking the IT of a business before you buy should be part of your due diligence process. These checks save you from unnecessary expense later on and the hassle of interruptions to business. You can make sure that systems are up to date and protected.

What you find during your checks can help you decide on the price you will pay for the business.

Tips from HP on how to extend the life of your notebook

  1. Take care of your battery
    Your notebook battery capacity will decrease with time, wear and tear, but there are things you can do to maximise its lifespan.
  2. Avoid excessive heat
    Notebooks generate a lot of heat. When they get too hot, they shut themselves down or cause damage to your notebook battery, hardware or electronic components
  3. Let air vents breath
    Overheating can quickly result if your notebook’s air vents are blocked. So don’t put it on a soft surface.
  4. Be careful with LCD screens, the most expensive part of the notebook
    When cleaning your screen, be very careful. Minerals in tap water can leave spots, so only use distilled water. Best of all is to use a lint-free dry microfibre cloth.

How regular maintenance of office equipment can save you money

Just before Christmas, on a Friday afternoon, a lovely man come charging into our offices with a very large, very old server tucked under his arm. The server had made a large “bang” and then all the electrical devices along one wall of his office stopped working. When the electrician was called in, he reset all the fuses but took one look at the server and said “I’m not touching that.” (Clever man!)

What had caused this spectacular mess, not to mention the nasty burning smell? The fan that cools the power supply became jammed with dust and stopped working, causing the power supply to overheat. Fortunately, even though the server was nearly seven years old, a new power supply was installed and the client was on his way.

Now this was a happy ending – no data lost, the server fixed, power to wall sorted and only about half a day down time in total. It could have been much worse. Dust could have clogged other fans or shorted other parts, then bye bye server – hello large bill for a new server when the client really did not need it.

So what have we learned here? If you don’t look after it you will lose it. You know that you need to get your car serviced every six months, but your car does not run 24/7, as many computers and servers do. So why would you think twice about getting them serviced, and what is the cost to your business if they suddenly go bang? You can’t expect them to run 24/7 without some TLC. Most PCs run 40 hours a week at a minimum. Computers like a check-up at least once a year (six monthly is better, and quarterly is ideal). A good check-up includes getting updates done, running a defrag and running a program like CCleaner though to clean the cookies etc that have built up – no, cookies are not biscuits, they are internet related files. The ideal for servers is to have a check-up monthly or bi monthly, or quarterly at the very least.

But believe it or not, PCs, like servers, also need a good dust yearly as well, (as essential as an oil change in your car) though this really depends on the environment that the PC is in. For instance, if you have just had new carpet installed in the office then six months later it is a very good idea to get your IT person in to give the machines a good clean out (we all know how long carpet fluffs up for after installation). The cleaning process requires blowing all the dust and fluff out with compressed air (see photos). Do not under any circumstances attempt this yourself. You may end up either breaking components in the machine or blowing the dust back into the likes of the central processing unit (CPU). Now I hear you asking, “How does dust get into a PC and is there really that much that it needs cleaning?” “It certainly does” is my answer. There are two fans in most PCs, one for the power supply and one for the CPU. These suck air into the machine to cool it and as a result suck in an amazing amount of dust etc too. This dust coats the components and sometimes blocks the fans, which then can’t cool the computer. In the short term this can cause the machine to stop or overheat but in the long term it can damage it, reducing the life of the machine. And this is where regular maintenance not only saves you money (you can get four or five years out of that PC instead of just three) but unnecessary down time – which usually happens right when you don’t need it.

Laptops are as bad as PCs for dust and can be even worse. They like a firm clean surface to sit on while you are working – not the bed where your cat sleeps. Make sure you keep the fan area on the side of the laptop clear. Another good tip for laptops: yes they are designed to be carried around but not while they are still on. Hard drives don’t like being moved around while they are going and it upsets them. Turn them off before packing into a bag that is designed to carry laptops (sports bags and handbags are a no-no).

Modern printers are made so that when you replace the toner you are replacing a lot of the machine at the same time. However, it’s important to note that you still need to keep the paper feeder etc dust free. Only use good quality paper (cheap paper tends to have more dust and fibres which end up creating paper feed issues). If you do get a paper jam that you can’t remove don’t be tempted to stick a sharp object in there to get it out. Call in a professional – it will cost less in the long run to do it right the first time. When purchasing a printer pay close attention to the recommended monthly volumes. If you purchase a printer that is 2000 – 3000 thousand copies and you are doing close to 10,000 then you are in for an uphill battle.

Helpful tips

  • PCs on the floor are more likely to collect dust from carpet etc
  • You can void the warranty on PCs and printers by using non-certified repair agents. Make sure you have someone that not only knows what they are doing but is allowed to do it.
  • Like paper, good quality toner will increase the life of your printer.

Avoid reusing paper. Some printers leave a film on paper that is then transferred to the rollers when you feed it back though the printer, causing paper feed issues.