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Your Hardware Health Checklist

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Most advisors are aware of the technology that requires the most attention in their firms: software, product vendors, processes and best practices. Given this understandable order of things, it often happens that the hardware your firm uses becomes somewhat of an afterthought. Furthermore, if you have an IT firm that manages your infrastructure, often the default is to simply rely on its recommendations. However, you still have to manage the relationship. Regardless of who manages the hardware needs of your firm (or perhaps if no one is really on top of it), here are some areas you want to make sure get regular attention.

Take an inventory of every item in your technology environment. From personal computers to scanners to firewall devices, you should record the specific details of every device owned by your firm. Items to record could include the brand, model and age of the device, as well as how critical it is to your firm: If it failed tomorrow, what would you do? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have no technology hardware because you are a “cloud-based” environment. You should still have computers (including portable devices), printers, routers, firewalls, probably a network switch and other hardware to support your cloud-based systems.

After you have taken an inventory of your hardware, establish a replacement cycle for each item. It’s not that every item will ultimately need to be replaced (and the cycle is certainly not the same for each item), but it is important to plan according to each component’s useful life. For example, for certain critical hardware items (firewall, server, etc.), ensuring the item is still covered by a warranty and technology support is a good idea. You need to budget both the time and expense to replace the item or at least extend the warranty when the initial covered period expires. A well-drafted replacement cycle leads to improved reliability for your technology hardware.

When you do replace hardware, it is important that you remove any access credentials or private information on the old device. Too often, this important step is missed and the item is put in storage or worse, donated or sold to a third party with the private information included. Don’t take these unnecessary risks; ensure it is a clean machine (like it was when it was originally purchased) as the last step before it is officially replaced.

Replacing computers, monitors and other items is fairly straightforward, but auxiliary products like scanners and printers can create challenges, especially if they are older and might not be compatible with your new purchases. Incompatible software drivers and other connection problems can arise. Don’t expect everything will work perfectly, and be ready to make a new purchase if your older product is not able to keep up.

Software is rarely “one size fits all” for every member of your firm; the same is true for hardware. The administrative assistant’s hardware needs are very different from those of an investment trader or reporting specialist. From the processing chip to the memory components to even the number of monitors, these are all areas that can be customized depending on the needs of the position. You can always “overbuy” and make all your technology hardware purchases based on the highest position requirements, but that can get very expensive as you add new employees and replace older products.

Most advisory firms directly handle all the hardware purchases for their firm, with one notable exception: mobile devices. When a firm buys a mobile device for an employee, it is often up to the employee to select it. This is sometimes okay, especially if it is going to be used as both a work and personal device. However, it is important to ensure the device is set up properly for security and data protection purposes when it accesses you firm’s hardware and systems. It is all too easy for a personal device to carry malware these days, so this is an area that you don’t want to leave up to the employee.

— Read “Want to Win the Robo Game? Think Like a Chess Champ: Envestnet CEO” on ThinkAdvisor.


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