Backing up data is important. Hard drives are machines that break. When they do it can be very expensive if not impossible to recover the data they contain. Fortunately, it is possible and affordable to make exact copies of digital information. The question is not whether you can afford to back up, it's why you think you can afford not to.
Square Peg, Square Hole
Computers use different connectors for different purposed. Displays are connected via VGA or DVI, Keyboards and mice via PS/2 and USB, and copper ethernet networks are connected via RJ-45. Unfortunately IT is not a realm in which it is safe to adopt an “if the shoe fits, wear it,” or “if the connector fits, plug it” mentality. It's common for both ends of one wire to end up plugged into a switch or hub, which creates a loopback on the network and generates infinite traffic and breaking the network. It's also common for multiple routers to be connected to a network via their LAN ports, often with identical IP information, defeating the network's ability to properly route traffic to the internet. Improperly connected network hardware and cables is a big cause of network downtime and can be extremely difficult to track down.
Reset =/= Restart. Restarting or rebooting a network device is a common troubleshooting technique. Routers and switches and wireless access points are actually little computers. They sometimes crash too, especially less robust models. In that case, rebooting can be a quick and easy and effective fix. Resetting the device, however, reloads the factory default configuration, which is probably not appropriate for your network.
Email and Scope
Email is the first indicator. There are many problems with the same symptom that people notice before anything else. When email stops flowing, our phones start ringing. These problems can exist at any step along a long chain. The local computer, local network, network perimeter, ISP, and the mail server itself are all required for email to flow, and a hitch in any one of them can cause the same symptom. Some of these problems might require professional help to solve, some you might be able to handle yourself. To determine where the problem lies, or at least a likely candidate, run down this list:
- Does rebooting my computer solve this problem? If yes, it's probably something on my computer that's acting up.
- Can I print to a network printer or see file servers on my local network? If yes, the local network is probably healthy.
- Do I get a response from my router if I type its IP address into my browser? If yes, the perimeter is probably OK.
- Can I open web pages? If yes, the ISP is probably in good shape.
- Can I access my email via the webmail login? If yes, the mail server probably isn't broken.
Knowing the answers to these questions might not fix your problem, but it will certainly help us fix your problem.
Businesses are internet addicts. Financial information, email, research, data shared with customers, data shared with vendors, business web presence, instant messages and more all require a working internet connection. It's relatively inexpensive to upgrade your office to a dual-WAN configuration with automatic failover. Save yourself the worry and hassle of internet downtime in your office and make this small investment.
One client insisted that their server's hard drive was being backed up. It turns out that it was not. Data was recovered, but at a cost of $2,400. Another ignored our recommendations for managed switches. Network downtime cost three-quarters of a day of productivity. Both of these problems could have been identified and mitigated in advance for much less money than the eventual cost of cleaning up after a disaster. Rebuilding the levee is cheaper than rebuilding the city.