10 Rules for Non-profit Network Management

Like the blog blurb says… “Nonprofits need reliable IT systems and services just like for-profit organizations”.  Many, if not most of the principals are the same but here are additional ideas for non-profits: 

1. Use Tech Soup.  You can get top-notch Cisco hardware from Tech Soup at pennies on the dollar, as well as Microsoft server and Office products at rock-bottom prices.  (I dream of a Mac office…but have never actually seen one, except my own home office. I would love to see a cost/benefit study of Macs vs. Windows in a production situation… I want to believe that he roughly 2x hardware and software costs of a Mac would be more than offset by the lower hassles of a Mac environment. ).   

2. Even though you “know” you should be using open source software, 95% of the time you can install Microsoft for a slightly higher cost than $0.00,  but have systems that are compatible with what everyone else is using and supporting.  (I’ve installed probably 60 versions of Linux over the years, but put exactly three into actual production.)  The one exception might be a web server, but you’ve outsourced that anyway.   

3. Outsource your eMail to your internet service provider. Running Exchange on an internal server will consume 5% of your user support time, and make people mad at you, because it just won’t be as reliable as cloud-based mail. Use a cloud-based calendar if you need one, or rely on the one in Basecamp for individual projects.  

4. Consider eliminated servers altogether and store your user data in the cloud. 

5. Unless your primary business is delivering computer training,  eliminate all “computer labs”.  At the most, you can have people bring laptops to conference room, if you want to meet face-to-face 
Otherwise, use Web-based training, and phone / Skype conferencing.  I like GoToTraining with is also available from Tech Soup at about $25.00 per month. 

6. Reduce the number of vendors that you deal with for hardware. That reduces the number relationships, transactions, invoices, and maintenance.  

7. Standardize, to the extent possible,  on a single model of each thing.  (Exhibit A of bad behavior…. ink-jet and cheap laser printers). I’m sitting in an office of 25 right now, that has seven different kinds of HP printers,  all with different cartridges. This,  plus a massive OCE copier.  

8. Use LogMeIn for user support. Any IT support person or vendor who is not using remote support is costing your organization barrels of wasted time, travel and money. 95% of all user problems can be dealt with by using LogMeIn. 

9. Buy phone headsets for anyone doing phone support. You want people to be comfortable when helping people on the phone, and able to use their mouse and keyboard. 

10. Have a rational password policy.  You can enforce complex passwords, but for heaven’s sake, don’t force people to change them every month. And let them reuse complex passwords after a year or two. If you force them to change each month, then inevitably you will find passwords taped to the laptop, or on the bulletin board. And you can look forward to a period a few days each month when user support calls are skyrocketing, and business slows to a crawl, because managers and staff can’t get into their machines and eMail accounts. 

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