Information Technology Assessment Checklistby David Weedmark
An information technology assessment is a complex document that pulls together all the components of an IT network to determine what an organization has, how it's being used and how it can be improved for the future. This includes software and hardware, data storage and security as well as feedback from users on what works and what isn't working well. The assessment also addresses maintenance of the current systems and plans for future upgrades. Although a team with different IT specialties usually conducts the assessment, anyone with a solid understanding of the current network as a whole can generate the checklist.
Software and Hardware Inventory
The first part of an IT assessment documents all the software and hardware owned by the organization, including every computer, server, router, switch and Wi-Fi access point. Document every operating system, including its version number, software on the servers and any important desktop software such as Microsoft Office. Confirm that the number of software licenses matches the software that is in use. It's not usually necessary to document free software like Web browsers. A small business can document this information manually on a spreadsheet. For organizations with more than 20 computers, using asset-management software automates the process. The organization's current IT partners, such as Microsoft, Novell and IBM, usually offer asset-management software.
Data Storage and Disaster Recovery
Data storage is a central part of any IT network. An assessment should include the amount of data being managed, where it is stored and how it is backed up. Security precautions and current disaster recovery plans should also be a part of the assessment. A common scenario to protect mission critical data stores data on two identical, or redundant, servers. If one server crashes, the other can be used immediately. All important data should be backed up at least once a week, with daily incremental backups to back up only the files that have been modified in the previous 24 hours. Backup files should be stored in a secure off-site location in case there is a building fire. Some organizations store copies of data in a different city in the event of a metropolitan-wide disaster.
User Access and Security
The people who use IT should be included in an IT assessment. Talk to department heads and ask a representative group of employees and customers for their opinion on the current system. Ask them how they usually access the network, what they like, what they don't like and what improvements they would like to see. Keeping intruders out of the network also needs to be assessed. Document the security software and hardware that is used to stop intruders and to monitor intrusion attempts. Include the procedures that are in place -- or should be -- to deal with such a threat.
Maintenance and Upgrades
Current maintenance schedules, as well as planned system upgrades and additions to the IT network need to be included in the IT assessment. This is primarily a budget assessment. For example, supporting different versions of operating systems and different brands of computers can be expensive compared to supporting standardized desktops and laptops all with the same operating system. In some cases, the cost of buying new systems can be recouped by reduced maintenance. If the organization is planning to hire new employees, it needs to know what the effect will be on the current infrastructure. Hiring new employees not only increases the number of computers to support but often requires an expanded infrastructure, such as more switches and servers.
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