How IT Companies Can Effectively Manage Client Hardware

Despite the emergence of “The Cloud”, local hardware will always be required. Even the most basic small business client has a router, a network switch, a PC and one or more printers. Other clients may have Firewalls, Servers, Plotters, Multi-Function Units and any array of other hardware – most of it IP-enabled.

Multiply that by multiple clients, and you’ve got an awful lot of hardware that becomes really easy to waste a lot of time and effort trying to manage – if you’re not organized.

From Chaos to Order

The first step in bringing order to the chaos is to buy a Label Printer. My personal favorite is the P-Touch Handheld range from Brother. Anything that you can easily carry with you, plug into the mains (battery operated is fine – but batteries run out, and you then start to forget to label things) and print labels will do the job. If you have more than one engineer, buy them all label printers and get them to label them with their own names – they’ll be more inclined to look after them.

Next, organize a time for an engineer to visit client sites with his labeler at the ready – grabbing and labeling anything and everything with a power plug on the end and making a written note of each to take back to the office.

(Talking of power plugs, get your engineers into the habit of labeling these too, especially servers. Clearly knowing which plug belongs to a PC and which to a monitor is a real benefit when you’re crawling under a dark desk on a dirty floor trying to work out what to unplug and what not to.)

Why Labels?

But why bother labeling things?

Firstly, you’re acknowledging the existence of a device. If it’s labeled, you know about it and can document it for future reference.

Secondly, when new hardware “mysteriously” appears at a client site and a client calls you for support on it (probably outside your support contract) you can save yourself a heap of time trying to work out why Windows 7 Home Edition is installed on it rather than a Business O/S.

Thirdly, labeling hardware speeds up the support process. If a user telephones the Helpdesk to say they can’t print to “That printer in the corner of the office”, then you can ask them to read the label and quickly identify which printer it is that they’re trying to print to.

What to label?

What the label says depends on the hardware, but the label should help you easily identify the hardware in question. Some examples:-

PCs – Workstation name, Fixed IP address (if applicable)
Servers – Server name, Fixed IP address, Domain name
Routers/Firewalls – External IP address, Internal IP address
Network Switches – Internal IP address, Management IP address
Local Printers – Locally attached Workstation name
Network Printers – Fixed IP address, Queue Name (//Server/Queue)
We’re not going to worry about Workstation and Server naming schemes, IP address ranges or any other standards just yet. Right now we’re focusing on documenting what’s already out there.

In some cases the engineer won’t be able to identify network equipment. Rather than ignore the hardware, they should label it as “unidentified” and raise a support ticket or make a written note to investigate how to identify it later.

This takes some time, especially if you have a lot of clients – but it’s time well spent. You should make this type of ‘discovery work’ a part of the on-boarding process of every new client, as the time spent discovering hardware now will pay dividends when you’re supporting that same hardware later – perhaps in a time-sensitive situation.

Document your findings

Going forwards, make it a policy that from now on, every piece of hardware you deploy to a client site should have a label on it.

Document your findings. If you have an RMM tool such as GFI Max, then you’ll already be able to scan networks for devices. Supplement this automated information with your own findings.

Pretty soon you’ll have a good overview of the hardware at all your client sites. It’ll make supporting the client, both remotely and on-site, a *lot* easier.

The use of the labeler as a force of good doesn’t stop there.

Hardware in the Workshop

Whenever an engineer brings a piece of hardware back to the Workshop for troubleshooting, it needs to be labeled. You might label it with the client’s name, a brief overview of the issue, and if you’re using a ticket system, the ticket number.

This might sound obvious, but how many times do engineers walk back into the office, drop off some faulty hardware and then get distracted by something else? In this scenario, a colleague may be left scratching his head over who the hardware belongs to and why it’s here, or worse, think the hardware is “spare” and go and re-use it for another job they are working on…

Talking of spare hardware – it’s worth creating a process to deal with this too. I like to create an area of the workshop that is specifically for Hardware under Repair, Hardware under testing, and Hardware for disposal. Then, as hardware comes in…

If it’s hardware that is to be sent back to a manufacturer under RMA, it’s labeled as such and placed in the “Under Repair” area of the workshop.

If it’s hardware that may be faulty and required testing, a ticket is raised for this and it’s labeled as “For Testing” and labeled with the appropriate ticket number. The hardware is then placed in the “For Testing” area, and you can confidently give your newly employed Junior Technician something productive to do on his first day in the office.

If it’s hardware for disposal, it’s labeled with the fault and marked as “For Disposal”. It’s placed in the “For Disposal” area of the workshop and once every few weeks you arrange for a specialist IT disposal company to collect the pile and dispose of it in an ethical and environmentally-friendly fashion.

Save Time With Labels

The amount of time IT companies can waste trying to re-use faulty hardware that has simply been left lying around, or re-testing known faulty equipment is mind-blowing.

A simple system of labeling such hardware saves hours of wasted time.

I hope this article has helped to describe how armed with a label printer you can build the basis of a series of systems that lay out how your business deals with client hardware.

About the author

As the former owner of an award winning IT Managed Service Provider, Richard Tubb works with MSPs to help them increase sales, take on employees and build up relationships with key industry contacts. You don’t have to do it alone any more – contact Richard and have a chat about your needs and how he can help you.

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Skating Hardware and Accessories

Skating is a popular pastime with millions of people all around the world. In order to skate you will need to own several items of skating hardware. This article takes a look at some of the most common types of skating hardware and accessories that are currently available on the market.DecksA skateboard deck is that main part of a skateboard, while the kicktails are the upward bent tips of the edge of the deck. Skateboard decks are available is a variety of sizes, but most are from 7 to 10.5 inches in width, and between 28 and 33 inches in length.They are available in a huge range of designs, so that you can pick a deck that complements your personal style.TrucksTrucks are metal devices which are designed to be attached onto the underside of the deck. The truck is composed of a baseplate, and axle and a hanger, and it also has bushings which cushion the device to allow it to turn smoothly. A bolt called the kingpin holds all of these parts together.Trucks are available in a range of sizes, the size that you choose should depend on the shape and size of the deck that you plan to fit it onto.WheelsThe skateboard wheels are attached onto the trucks. Skateboard wheels come in all different colours, so that you can choose a style of wheel that goes with the deck.BearingsThe wheels are mounted onto the truck’s axle with bearings. Bearings typically come in an industry standard size. They are also graded with the ABEC scale according to their tolerance level.Apparel, Footwear and AccessoriesHaving the right clothing is essential for expressing your love for skating. There are a variety of shirts, hoodies, crewnecks, jackets, shorts, pants, jeans, t-shirts and caps that are available to purchase. Many of the pro skaters will be sponsored by some of the leading skate apparel brands.Skating footwear not only looks great, but it will adequately support the feet and allow you to skate with ease.You can pick and choose accessories to complement your deck and your personal style. Accessories include belts, bags, watches, sunglasses, bracelets, socks and iPhone covers. DVDs featuring your favourite skating legends and moments are also available.Famous Skating BrandsThere are a huge number of clothing, shoe and hardware brands that create skating products and accessories. Some of the most famous brands include, stussy, OBEY, Huf, RADYO, DC, Vans, Supra, G-Shock, Modus and Skate Mental. Major sporting brands such as Nike and Adidas also manufacture a range of clothing that is skate inspired.Where to Purchase Skating Hardware FromThe best place to purchase skating goods and accessories from is a specialist retailer. They will have the latest products all under one roof. All major skate suppliers will have a website where you can view images and details of all of the products that they offer, along with their contact details. You can also order online and they will be able to deliver the goods directly to your door.

PC Optimization: The Hardware Solution

Think back to the times when you first bought your computer: aside from sporting a smooth-as-silk exterior, it is also remarkable for its snappy speed, opening any file and program you throw at it in a jiffy. However, like most good things, this did not last for quite as long as you wished. Over time, the computer starts to exhibit the annoying frozen screens, lag, and tremendously long processing times when executing various tasks.Although this is not entirely avoidable, there are a few things that you can do in order to reverse the process.A simple Internet search will reveal a lot of tips that you can use to speed your system up using the utilities in your operating system. However, there are a few things you can do with your hardware too in order to give your PC that breath of new life.Get a better video card. Most of us utilize the computer only for basic browsing and similar processes. However, there are also those who are into dabbling with multimedia, such as movies, photo editing, and games. If you fall into these categories or any of the related branches, then a better video card would be a wise investment.As you might have noticed, the best performing computer systems are bristling with high-capacity video cards, allowing the other parts of the computer memory to be free for other uses. If your computer is equipped with SLI or CrossFireX support, then instead of replacing the current video card, you may add a new one and bridge the two.If you think, however, that this is only for die-hard gamers, that is not the case. In fact, a more powerful GPU can also be leveraged to assist in computational processes.Get a faster hard drive. As you know, the hard drive is the major repository of almost everything in your computer, and much of the speed needed in pulling up files and programs come from this. A slower hard drive means a slower response time, no matter how fast your processor is.Solid State Drives (SSDs) are the newest developments in the field of hard drive technology. These drives do not use any mechanical components, unlike their more prevalent counterparts, and act like larger-scale flash drives. Because they do not have to scan the data manually, SSDs are deemed to produce faster boot times and data retrieval times.However, SSDs are also victim to a smaller capacity than the mechanical drives, so if you need all the extra space within your computer (instead of an external drive), it is better to look at faster RPMs, larger cache sizes, and better seek speeds and transfer rates in order to optimize the speed and performance of your PC.Use a RAID configuration. “Redundant Array of Independent Disks”, commonly called RAID, is a type of technology that combines different multiple drive components, mainly as a means to improve performance.There are different architectures of the RAID, usually followed by a certain number (i.e., RAID 1, RAID 0, RAID 6, RAID 10). Each number denotes a different mix between the primary goals of this technology: capacity, availability, performance, and reliability. Those levels higher than RAID 0 also helps performance by providing protection against read errors, as well as the failure of the whole disk.Of course, this is getting into the technical side of things, and thorough research must be done in order to know which RAID configuration is best suited for you. If done appropriately, this little trick can do wonders in improving your computer speed.Regularly update your hardware and drivers. Since the computer is an intricate system, any hardware issues will manifest in software anomalies. Primary among these would be issues regarding outdated drivers that are integral to the hardware’s smooth function.In fact, some of the more notorious computer errors such as the EXE, SYS, and DLL problems can be stopped by simply regularly updating your drivers. Aside from causing annoying popups in their early stages, these issues can quickly escalate to a dead computer unit if left unaddressed. There are lots of good utilities available for download that you can use to monitor the integrity of your drivers.Computers are very versatile systems, and if take care of properly, can mostly fix the minor issues on their own. But like anything else, proper care and periodic maintenance would be the best solution to optimizing your PC’s performance. The tricks shown in this article, when followed, should induce a huge boost in your system’s speed and performance!