In about one-quarter of the time the former consultant had spent in the prior year cleaning up viruses, I was able to ensure that the business was truly protected.
I engage in a standard process that includes a series of meetings whenever a small business owner asks me to take over the operation of their computer network. In one of those meetings I ask them to describe any problems they have experienced with their former computer consultant. There are two reasons for this. The first is to see if I have completely covered all of my bases in terms of developing the desired solution for that business. The second is to see if anything has been overlooked.
For one client, I asked the office administrator to provide me with the prior years’ computer support invoices. I spent some time analyzing the charges and found some startling information.
Of the more than $5,000 that this small business had spent on computer support in the prior 12 months, a total of 15 hours was devoted to virus remediation and clean-up. And an additional 23 hours was devoted to rebuilding computers following malware attacks. To me that indicated three things:
1. The staff was opening emails that should not have been opened.
2. The staff was going to web sites that were not appropriate to visit in a business setting.
3. They were using security software that was not adequate to handle the job of keeping the business free of viruses and malware.
Obviously the first two could be managed with a clear set of instructions of what constitutes safe email hygiene and web site surfing. But only with a detailed analysis could I see what was happening to this small business.
They had hired a computer consultant who simply reacted to the problems in their office and patched what was broken. Fix, patch; fix patch; over and over – which accounted for 75% of the billed issues – but which never managed to address any of the underlying problems.
I don’t work that way.
While I will fix what is broken when someone asks me to, I will always point out that it may not take care of the root cause of the problem. To avoid having incidents repeatedly disrupt your business requires an ongoing degree of computer maintenance. That, after all, is my specialty – and that’s why I offer software maintenance plans for home users and small businesses. Having a safe, healthy, and well-maintained computer system is essential to make any other form of trouble-shooting significantly easier to perform.
In this case, as a first step, I completed an inventory of all the hardware and software. I made the appropriate recommendations to replace obsolete equipment with newer models that could handle the rigors of another five years of service. More importantly, as the next step, I focused on the security software that was running.
Despite having anti-virus software on the server and all of the company’s desktops, two of the computers had been subject to malware infections in the prior two months. In fact, the software (a product called Avast), had only recently been installed on the server and desktops. Unfortunately, there was no indication of what had been running before that. While Avast is a decent third-tier product, a more robust solution was clearly required.
As I went about reviewing the product’s logs I found one computer on which Avast did not detect a problem on the device until four hours after it was infected – and it was not able to get rid of the virus once it was identified! From a business perspective, that is completely unacceptable.
With the owner’s permission, I ordered a set of licenses for Symantec Endpoint Protection. I uninstalled Avast from each of the desktops and the server. I also ran the Avast removal tool to ensure a clean starting point. Then, I installed Symantec on the server, created the appropriate desktop profiles, and installed the software on the desktops. I finished up by running a complete scan of the server, the external storage, and each of the desktops.
Fortunately, the server was not infected. Not unexpectedly, Symantec found and cleaned up files that were backed-up on the external storage device. It also detected and corrected additional malware on each of the desktops that Avast did not find at all!
In about one-quarter of the time the former consultant had spent in the prior year cleaning up viruses, I was able to ensure that the business was truly protected. More important for the client, Symantec performs “live updates” every four hours to ensure that it has the latest defenses. To further ensure that everything is working properly, the product also sends a daily email summary of all activities.
Six months after installation, I was very pleased to tell this small business owner that his computer network was still virus and malware free.