© 2013 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved President, Ministry Business Services, Inc. Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine
New year, new beginnings, and new task lists! Are there some things that should be on your IT task list for early 2013? Here are some suggestions.
There are a few things worth looking into regarding your Internet connection and presence.
- Connection. Broadband options continue to improve throughout the country. For that reason, we recommend:
- Contrary to ‘old school’ thinking, T1s are usually not advantageous. The exception is when there is no better alternative. Cable and DSL options are usually better than T1 lines for speed and cost, and often equivalent in quality.
- Because the options continue to improve, we recommend never signing a contractor for a term longer than two years. If your connection is older than two years, it’s time to put it out to bid again. You may even get a better connection from the same provider for less!
- Domains. Check the expiration of your domains and make certain you’re on schedule to keep their ownership current. And if your organization doesn’t currently own your domains, it’s time to start the process of correcting that.
- Firewall. Make certain your firewall solution is current in it’s subscription (that’s usually what is necessary to keep the current one recognizing security breech attempts).
- Switches. Church and ministry offices are often improvised settings to quickly meet needs. What starts as short-term solutions often becomes standards, and an area we see a lot is the introduction of little consumer-grade switches to expand the network. The problem is that team members start bringing in old ‘switches’ from home that are set to function as DHCP servers and routers. A good task to undertake is to look at every device on the network to see how it connects. You may be surprised at what you find! Doing this task will provide the basis for a good switch upgrade strategy and improve network reliability– and often speed.
- Cable. It’s not uncommon to find that patch cables have been damaged and, thus, problematic. We found an excellent and inexpensive source for very inexpensive good patch cables: www.deepsurplus.com.
- Virtualization. Virtualizing servers is the way current networks are strategized– almost exclusively! The software needed is free for most churches and ministries (only those with SANs on their network need to consider the paid solutions). The benefits include lower hardware cost, better network reliability, better disaster recovery, and better network administration. We recommend VMware ESXi 5.1 as the foundation. Though Microsoft’s HyperV (also free) has a lot of folks looking at it, there are solid IT reasons why VMware’s solution is in use in more than 90% of virtual environments.
- Server OSes. Microsoft Windows is the best server OS (server OSes are referred to as NOSes– network operating system).
- If your servers are running anything prior to Windows 2008r2, they are in need of updating (we’re about to begin testing Windows 2012, and will report on our findings soon.) Microsoft charity licensing makes buying Windows Server licenses very inexpensive.
- The database that runs a Windows network is called Active Directory (AD). Microsoft has changed their recommended strategies for configuring AD a few times over the years as their NOS has grown up and come of age. When doing your next server platform upgrade, consider creating a new AD using current strategies to simplify and improve your network operations.
- Structure. When configuring your new AD structure, consider simplifying your server naming convention. We see many who have decided to use biblical names for their servers. We haven’t seen an advantage in that strategy. We recommend using very short server names to reduce typos when supporting them, and using names that help identify the server’s role on the network. Consider:
- Domain Controllers: dc1, dc2, etc
- Mail Server: mail
- Print Server: ps
- EndPoint Server: ep
- Terminal Servers: ts1, ts2, etc
- SQL Servers: db1, db2, etc
- Backup Server: bu
Network users are notorious for not applying software and OS updates in a timely manner. We recommend setting a plan in motion to sit at each workstation and run all updates needed– especially since so many are related to security flaws the provider has identified and resolved. This is a great way to let volunteers help if you are so inclined.
I hope you have a GREAT 2013, and that these tasks help you as you serve and empower those on your team reach many for the Lord.