12 common technology mistakes you should avoid: How many of these 'dirty dozen' do you see in your organization?

Author:Collins, J. Carlton
 
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Over my 30-plus year career consulting on technology, I've encountered many mistakes my clients have made regarding hardware, software, and technology in general. As technology has become more integral and complicated, I've seen an increasing number of companies struggle with it. These problems aren't just minor issues; in many cases they could threaten a company's survival.

Consider these questions: Could your company survive a data breach in which your private customer data are made public? Could your company withstand a computer server crash that wipes out your accounting data? Could your company cope with a flawed accounting system that produces inaccurate inventory reports and financial statements?

In response to the growing complexity of technology, in recent years I've been conducting technology review engagements for my clients that are designed to ferret out serious technology problems and issues, with recommended solutions. My specialized brand of technology review engagement employs procedures based on several dozen workplans, questionnaires, and checklists, each focusing on approximately 30 specific aspects of a company's technology (such as hardware, accounting software, printers, internet, security, backup procedures, training, smartphones, cloud policies, password policies, file-sharing tools, etc.). In conducting these types of engagements, I've identified 12 common technology mistakes made by many of my clients; this article describes those common mistakes and offers recommendations for avoiding them.

  1. Email messages are unencrypted

    Perhaps the top security risk many companies routinely ignore is the failure to encrypt their emails. Some companies forgo email encryption because it can be costly and complicated, while others simply dismiss the threat as insignificant. This is a mistake. You should assume that every email message you send could be intercepted by unscrupulous people and bad actors. Without encryption, all your email messages are vulnerable.

    Solution: Set up an email encryption system to protect all your email messages and attachments. One relatively easy approach is to use a free Google Gmail or Microsoft Outlook.com account, as these accounts automatically encrypt your email messages --but only when sent to other Gmail or Outlook. com users. Another approach is to purchase and install an email encryption system such as Trend Micro Hosted Email Security (tinyurl.com/ trendmicrojoa) (starting at $27 per user per year) or Enlocked (enlocked.com) (prices range from free for 10 messages sent each month, to $29.99 per month for 10,000 messages).

  2. Old computers are still used

    It is common to find old computers lurking around most companies. This can be problematic because these older devices almost always lack new features, freeze up more often, and are slower at performing common tasks such as booting up, launching applications, printing, and surfing the internet. In addition, as we found with the WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks of 2017, older computer systems can be more vulnerable to cyberattacks. Issues related to older computers can rob employees of productivity and put your data at greater risk.

    Solution: Computers should be replaced frequently, perhaps as often as every three years, or within 12 months of each new Windows operating system release. Why so often? In my opinion, most computers typically have a "power life" of approximately three years (though the computer's monitors can have a much longer life span); after three years, newer, more powerful computer models are generally available. Also, new operating systems are typically designed to be compatible with the latest motherboard...

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