Well, spring is almost officially over. If your home runs anything like mine, that means it’s time to stop the procrastination and rush to complete the time-honored tradition of spring cleaning. Usually, we have a checklist of what we hope to accomplish. But, when contemplating this annual tradition, it struck me that most businesses have a great need for a technology clean-up, yet very few actually go through any sort of detailed process to fulfill it.
Just like our typical household spring cleaning, we use this time to get ourselves caught up with all of the things that we fell behind on or forgot about last year. Because of this, I recommend that businesses plan on doing a technology spring cleaning that mirrors a number of items traditionally performed each spring around the home.
Deep cleaning the appliances
Generally, most people try to live in a clean environment, but once a year they typically perform a deep cleaning of our major appliances. We remove every shelf, hinge, and compartment that will come loose in order to thoroughly clean every nook and cranny. Likewise, you should make sure that your PCs, tablets and phones are kept clean in order to keep them running in optimal condition.
- Keep your systems up to date. You should be completing operating system updates throughout the year. But if the BIOS (the underlying chip system that runs your computer) hasn’t been updated, then you should take this time to ensure that all improvements have been made so that your system can run more efficiently, as well as for security benefits.
- Keep your software up to date. Most software has regular releases throughout the year. If you aren’t updating automatically, then you should look to see if updates or new versions are available.
- Remove software you no longer use. Most people stop using software and leave it running until they replace the machine. Some software runs in the background using valuable system resources without you even realizing it. If you no longer use a piece of software, it should be uninstalled.
Checking the security systems
While cleaning is generally the primary focus of the spring effort, I include certain checks on various systems and security in and around your home. I make sure that I’m testing the smoke and radon detectors in all areas of my home. While I’m at it, I perform a test on the alarm system to make sure that all of the sensors are working properly. It is also a best practice to review the security surrounding the technology within your business. Performing an annual examination of your environment and updating your documentation allows you to be sure that changes over the last year haven’t impacted the security in your environment.
- Enforce unique passwords. It’s very common to find people implementing the same password for multiple services—it just makes life easier. The challenge is that, if one password is compromised, then all of your others are as well. Verify that you are using separate passwords and take time to correct any shared instances.
- Encourage complex passwords. If you’re using the same password and changing the number at every required change, you are not using a secure password. A password should be longer and should have a combination of capital and lowercase, along with numbers and symbols in order to provide the most effective protection.
- Secure your wireless identity. If you broadcast your Wi-Fi SSID, you may as well be hanging a sign on your door, daring people to try and break in. You have identified who you are, and now, if someone is looking for you, they no longer have to trace what network is yours. Having an obscure wireless network name reduces this risk.
- Secure your wireless access. Letting people who are not employed in your business on your wireless is equal to sharing a glass of water with them. They may not look sick, but you never know what virus could be lying dormant. Have a separate network that allows guests to access the internet, but nothing else.
Every year, without fail, one of the items on our list consists of some form of de-cluttering. Clothes, shoes and toys are all reviewed to see what stays and what goes. In the same line of thinking, you should purge your business technology clutter. Eliminating clutter allows for a cleaner environment to work in, which, in turn, boosts productivity in both system performance and overall user experience.
- Clean up your email. When working with clients, we often see mailboxes that have hundreds or thousands of unread emails. If the email wasn’t important enough to read, it certainly shouldn’t be important enough to save. Delete, archive and/or sort your emails in order to improve the performance of your email application and make it easier to use.
- Clean up your folders. File servers are often filled with digital files that stay around for year after year. These files never get opened, and often serve no real purpose to maintain. Others need to be kept around for longer periods of time. Delete and/or archive old media in order to reduce the amount of data that you store. It will be less expensive for your backup maintenance if you are efficient in this task.
- Get rid of old equipment. Almost every business has a closet or server room full of old electronic equipment. Recycle the old equipment and get rid of the clutter. When recycling, look for a vendor who will shred the hard drives and provide you with a certificate of destruction.
Maintaining the exterior
Along with everything inside the home, the outside requires a bit of maintenance as well. Lawn maintenance, landscaping, and pressure washing all go a long way in keeping your home looking new and fresh. Your online presence also has a need for annual upkeep and maintenance. Just as your yard is a reflection on you as a neighbor, your website is a reflection on your business. It provides the first impression of your business.
- Audit your website. Many companies invest heavily during the creation of their web site, but then make minor updates and tweaks as needed throughout the year. Often overlooked are the details within the site itself. Update any information that is no longer relevant. Verify that all links are still active and functioning properly. Review pages within the site to ensure that it is still an accurate reflection of your organization.
- Review your social channels. Social media can be a valuable marketing platform or outreach program. Make sure that information that exists is still relevant to your followers. Review your social media platforms and purge outdated information. Refresh your social media policy as well, as channels update frequently, your policies should remain up to date with the times.
An annual cleanup of the technology within your business allows you to stay current, stay secure and stay organized. It can be a large undertaking initially, but will then become annual maintenance that is much easier to manage. In the end, your systems will run better, be more secure, and allow you stay up to date. To help you get started, I’ve created a cleaning checklist for you to track your digital cleanup.