Spring is a welcome time of year. Temperatures start to warm up, we have longer days, and lots of plants and flowers transition out of their dormant state. For advisors, spring also brings Tax Day (April 18 this year), after which they should have more time for other tasks and items.
This is also the time of year when “spring cleaning” occurs, whether it is for your home or business. You can apply the same mindset to your technology — and it is often well overdue.
A good place to start spring cleaning for your technology is the data that is stored by your firm, especially data that is readily accessible on servers and cloud applications. Types of data to review include personally identifiable information in old presentations and documents, and even in raw data files downloaded from your custodian or other companies. Do you really need all this information to be available on demand?
You might be surprised by the amount of data you are storing and don't need anymore. And if you are not storing and protecting the old data properly, i.e., using encryption software, you are taking unnecessary risks in the event of a data breach or security compromise.
You should follow the same process for removing outdated software programs. This could be a significant benefit for your staff members, especially if they complain that their computers are too slow. Review the programs that are part of the “start-up” process when they first log on to their computers. It is not uncommon for programs that you installed long ago to be included in the start-up process even though you haven't recently used the software. This could include products like GoToMeeting, Skype, Dropbox and other connectivity programs. This is also a good time to review the full list of programs or apps installed on your computer and uninstall anything that is no longer used.
Your technology spring cleaning should also include re-evaluating any “one off” technology solutions used by your firm (meaning not widely used or worse, not even understood how they are used). This review should include any programs that are no longer supported or maintained under a technology support agreement. Perhaps you had custom development work done years ago that is still used today, or maybe you built extensive macros using Excel or other programs when you couldn't find an “off the shelf” solution. These may not be bad programs, but you want to make sure you understand how they are being used. More importantly, you need to know the potential business risk if they unexpectedly stop working. What would you do at that point? Better to know this answer now and have a response plan identified.
What About Old Hardware?
Do you have old computers around the office, maybe even an old server or two? Perhaps you keep these devices to run old programs that you need only rarely, or for some other “just in case” situation, which isn’t necessarily a bad idea. However, at a minimum, make sure these are “clean” devices that no longer have critical data or access credentials stored on them.
(Related: How Cutting Costs Hurts Technology)
Dust Off Credentials, Access
Spring is also an important time to review how your firm manages employee credentials and passwords for all your systems, programs and other resources. This isn't as simple as telling all your employees that they should change their passwords — although that is a good idea, too. Review the individuals who are authorized to add, make changes to and delete credentials. Do you have a well-defined process and is it clearly documented?
You should conduct the same review for the credentials that you create and manage for the systems used by your clients. Make sure you know which clients are actually using the system regularly. If they are not using it, then it is better to have a defined process for removing or deactivating their credentials.
Finally, conduct a version review of all your primary systems. This is an important step for any installed system. Make it easy for your staff by broadly posting the version details of the latest release for each system. Remember to include apps for your mobile devices in this group as well.
For your cloud-based systems, where version control is already managed, consider highlighting for your staff some of the new features in the latest release. It can be very easy to overlook new enhancements and features, especially when you are not closely following each release update.
Ultimately, technology spring cleaning should achieve similar objectives to other spring cleaning tasks. A little work here and there should provide a better state for moving forward the rest of the year.
--- Read 5 Cybersecurity Trends Dominating the Early 2017 Discourse on ThinkAdvisor.