Window of Opportunity

Now is the time for those projects we've all been putting off.

This could well be the slowest year Microsoft has ever had in terms of product releases for the IT crowd. I mean, c’mon: How many of you have looked at the upcoming release of Windows XP Service Pack 2 and said, “Man, that really looks hot! I’ve gotta get the beta and see what that bad boy can do!” Now, this isn’t to disparage SP2; it’s a necessary upgrade. But it doesn’t quite tingle your senses the way that new-fangled, mystical “Active Directory” thingy did when you were still an NT grunt, does it? And because it’s looking unlikely that Yukon is going out the door in ’04, all we’ve got to look forward to is the presidential election in November (you are excited about that, right? Right?)

But I’d rather look at the glass as half-full: With not much coming through the pipeline from Redmond to your datacenter, you have time to get caught up on those projects you’ve been putting off and ponder how you can better grease your network. Here are a few humble suggestions.

 Standardize desktops on Windows 2000 or higher. It’s my opinion that a network admin who still has users on Win9x is close to being criminally negligent. That Jurassic operating system is simply too great a security risk to allow anymore, too crash-prone, too outdated in terms of technology. Just say no more.

 Make a serious effort to investigate Exchange Server 2003. Exchange 2003 is a greater advance over Exchange 2000 than Windows 2003 is over Win2K. The anti-spam features alone should merit your attention, and the new Outlook Web Access simply kicks butt.

 Bring in an outside security consultant to pick over your network. Even if you’re good at security, an experienced consultant is likely to find stuff you’ve missed. Have him or her beat on the network the way the Ents beat on Isengard. Have them turn it upside down and shake it. Be ruthless.

 Train your staff, even if you think you can’t afford it. The truth is, you can’t afford not to have a well-trained staff. The benefits go beyond the obvious of being up-to-date on the latest technology: A recent study found that employees whose training was paid for by their employers were more than 80 percent likely to stay with the company. Surveys through the years have also proven that workers who receive regular, employer-funded training are happier in their jobs. And happy employees are hard-working, productive employees.

 Take a hard look at your network topology. This is the kind of task you do when you’ve run out of other tasks—and you never run out of other tasks. Yet, I’d strongly recommend taking a fresh look at how your network is laid out. What you find may surprise you. Is there a single point of failure you’ve overlooked? Is your replication as efficient as possible? Has your token-ring arrangement outlived its usefulness, no matter how well it’s worked in the past?

Enjoy this time of product-release calm. And get to work on these tasks—surely you can complete some of them before Longhorn arrives in 2006, right?

About the Author

Keith Ward is the editor in chief of Virtualization & Cloud Review. Follow him on Twitter @VirtReviewKeith.

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