The Spiceworks Review: How to survive IT ‘growing pains’

The popular network admin online community is talking about the “won’t happen to me” security syndrome, women in IT and more

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Spiceworks Canada IT growing pains

While there was discussion over the new Samsung Galaxy S6, commiseration over long commutes and some interesting advice on coffee alternatives (ranging from green tea with coconut creamer to vodka), there were several serious issues addressed last month by Spiceworks’ members — from debate over outsourcing IT functions to a look at women’s issues in IT.

A hot topic was IT growing pains — and when to make the case for a new network admin. Kevin, an IT director, works for a company that has been growing steadily from 50 to more than 500 employees. Sales have increased five-fold, and facilities have grown from one to three. He needs help, but isn’t sure how to approach it with management.

CharlesHTN says the best approach is a full-time, in-house tech, with an MSP to back him or her up. “I am the only network administrator for my company and I support 105 users. I can’t imagine multiplying that number by 5 with no extra help,” he says. He works with an MSP on an as-needed basis, such as upgrading from Exchange 2003 to 2010 and rolling out a VMware cluster.

Paragraph, a network/systems administrator, points out that an MSP is often a lower-cost option than an in-house net-admin, since you’re not paying that MSP 40 hours a week, every week. But, that being said, there still needs to be someone on site every day. “Getting someone in there who can get their hands dirty is going to do wonders for you, and make working with the MSP much easier,” he says.

Another hot topic over the past month was acquisitions and mergers. Network/systems administrator Rick asked the Spiceworks community what he could expect after the private company he works for signed a deal to be acquired by a Fortune 500 company. Is it time to polish off the old CV and start networking (of the human, social kind)?

Gabrielle Lafleur in Halifax is also going through this process and is busier than ever integrating infrastructure into that of the acquiring company. “I’m doing my best to ensure that the integration is as seamless and uneventful as possible for my gang,” says the network/systems administrator, “but I’m also preparing for the possibility that once it’s done, I’ll either be made redundant or end up bored to tears with the new role. Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

Doug H., an IT manager in San Jose, Calif., says the best thing to do is continue to do a kickass job. “If your group gets integrated with the larger IT org, they will see who is awesome and who is not and make their decisions there.”

Another challenge that IT pros face these days is convincing management to invest more in preventative security. Spiceworks talked to ethical hacker Aaron Bryson about the state of cyber-security, common misconceptions about hacking and what IT pros should be doing to protect their networks.

The idea that “it will never happen to me” is still a lot more pervasive than some people think, says Bryson. “If you’re not being proactive in protecting yourself, you’re essentially saying my security protection is going to be luck. There’s a very common saying: ‘Hack yourself first.’ You have got to go out and find your own vulnerabilities and weaknesses and patch them to prevent these sort of news-making incidents from happening.”

But oftentimes businesses will look at the price tag and decide to take their chances instead. “They don’t do their due diligence,” he says, “and they become the next victims.”

Also in February, Spiceworks managing editor Lee Schlesinger gave a shout-out to the community’s Women in IT group, a relatively new group that covers topics ranging from why women are leaving the technology industry to how we talk about women (and diversity) in tech. And yes, there are guys in this group, which speaks to the fact that men are also interested in topics of gender and diversity.

Personally, I’m glad to see there are more than 600 members involved in the Women in IT group — but we need to see those numbers increase. And as for my coffee alternative? If you don’t like coffee, it might just be that you need to drink better coffee.

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