Wide area networking refers to the interconnection of geographically dispersed offices separated by public rights-of-way. The Internet is actually a huge wide area network (WAN), and if your branches are all online, they’re technically already part of the same WAN. However, the Internet lacks the reliability, security and bandwidth that companies need for certain sensitive data and critical applications. In a library context, circulation records, cataloging records and financial records shouldn’t be sent over the public Internet unless they’re encrypted.
A vulnerability is a weak spot in your network that might be exploited by a security threat. Risks are the potential consequences and impacts of unaddressed vulnerabilities. In other words, failing to do Windows Updates on your Web server is vulnerability. Some of the risks associated with that vulnerability include loss of data, hours or days of site downtime and the staff time needed to rebuild a server after it’s been compromised.
Managing security means understanding the risks and deciding how much risk is acceptable. Different levels of security are appropriate for different organizations. No network is 100 percent secure, so don’t aim for that level of protection. If you try to stay up-to-date on every new threat and every virus, you’ll soon be a quivering ball of anxiety and stress. Look for the major vulnerabilities that you can address with your existing resources.
IT asset management refers to any set of processes and procedures that helps an organization keep track of its technology resources. At the simplest level, asset management is really just inventory control. What hardware and software do you own, and where is it located? In its more advanced forms, asset management can help you better understand how your staff uses technology, with the goal of becoming more efficient and standardized in your purchasing and decision making.
Hiring, at its worst, inspires both boredom and anxiety. Wading through resumes bores us, and the thought of hiring the wrong person scares us. And the fear factor is worse when you’re a non-techie who’s been tasked with hiring IT staff. As with any complicated, difficult decision, success starts with good planning.
Consider the following when considering hiring staff:
As with any other department, your IT department becomes more difficult to manage the more it grows. If you’re the only employee at your library, you probably don’t need formal help-desk policies. However, if there are 500 employees in your system, it’s more important to have some written procedures.
Communication between IT technicians and frontline staff breaks down occasionally, especially in mid-sized and large libraries. Frontline staff submit incomplete information about the problems they’re experiencing, and IT staff sometimes lose track of help requests. Help-desk management software offers several features to help improve communication. Most use a form of some kind to elicit detailed information from staff about where and when and how a problem started occurring. When someone submits a request, it goes into a queue so that no one gets preferential treatment.
Anyone who’s tried to support the computers in a multibranch library system will sing the praises of remote desktop software (aka remote control software). Ten years ago, librarians often had to drive 60 miles or more to reset a password or download a software patch at a branch library. Remote control applications allow you to establish a connection with a computer anywhere in your library system, see what’s happening on that computer and control it using your own mouse and keyboard.
There are many different ways in which you can manage and automate your help-desk…your approach has much to do with your current library environment and available resources. Do you have policies and procedures in place to help your staff handle tech support issues? Are you large enough that you could benefit from some help-desk management software? Do you have a regular maintenance routine for your computers? Are you making an effort to standardize your IT infrastructure?