An unkept IT environment can lead to network failure, data breaches, and costly downtime. Your organization can avoid these effects by performing proactive and cyclical IT hygiene practices so that your business never encounters interruptions.
IT hygiene can help a business minimize the risk of cyberattacks and avoid data breaches. It also helps ensure that your systems are always running so that you can serve your customers uninterrupted.
To learn more about maintaining your IT infrastructure with a partner, check out Impact's blog, What Does a Managed IT Department Do?
The graphic below shows cybersecurity trends that highlight the importance of IT hygiene to achieve organizational success.
What is IT Hygiene?
IT hygiene covers the protocols and practices that ensure your business system runs well and your important data is secure and available to those who need it.
IT hygiene is one aspect of information security, or InfoSec. InfoSec aims to protect an organization’s data by leveraging proper behaviors and tech solutions. Watch an animated explainer on InfoSec below:
Identify Your Assets
To maintain good IT hygiene, organizations should take stock of their important assets, both physical and digital. By identifying which data, devices, and tools to focus on, your organization can make the best of its IT resources without wasting technology or energy on less important assets.
Cataloguing your assets will also help prevent important data decay, cloud sprawl—when a company loses track of its cloud solutions and cloud databases proliferate—as well as software sprawl. This can cause data and department silos, slow down operations, and create confusion if many versions of the same data sets exist.
In turn, this will mean a well-managed budget since your company won’t have to invest in unused software programs, data recovery efforts, or surprise IT incidents.
Once you have identified your assets, how can you benefit from basic IT hygiene?
IT Hygiene Tips
To keep your data organized and readily available, follow these recommendations:
- Schedule computer software updates and patches at least once per month; cybercrime evolves daily. Bad actors continuously get better at their craft, which means leaving any software unpatched and outdated increases the number of known vulnerabilities in your environment.
- Defragment your computer at least once a month: Defragmenting helps optimize your hard drive and ensure it works properly.
- Clean your hardware often to prevent damage and overheating.
Cyber Hygiene Vs. IT Hygiene
Many professionals use the terms “cyber hygiene” and “IT hygiene” interchangeably. In fact, both of these aim to ensure IT environments are well managed, secure, and work well.
If we were to differentiate the two, “IT hygiene” refers to managing an enterprise’s IT and network systems and their usability, while “cyber hygiene” protects those systems from cyber threats such as malicious hacks and data breaches.
Without cyber hygiene, a business network is left vulnerable to attacks. Phishing, hacking, and ransomware can cause monetary losses, loss of customer trust, and even closures.
Cyber Hygiene Tips
To increase the cybersecurity of your organization, consider the following recommendations:
- Establish a protocol for employees to use strong passwords, change their passwords often, and use multi-factor authentication.
- Clear cookies from your browser at least once a month. It will protect your privacy and prevent browser performance problems.
- Provide cybersecurity training for your workforce so they understand current security practices such as phishing and social engineering awareness.
- Perform a cybersecurity audit so you can find and patch any vulnerabilities.
- Leverage technology such as network monitoring, next-gen antivirus, endpoint protection, etc.
- Follow compliance regulations and laws to prevent data leaks and preserve customer trust.
How to Clean a Computer System
Now that we’ve covered the digital aspect of your IT environment, let’s dive into hardware hygiene.
How Often Should You Clean Your Computer?
IT professionals recommend cleaning your computer and other hardware every three to six months. Cleaning will prevent dust accumulation and overheating.
How to Clean a Computer
To clean your computer system, you will need:
- A can of compressed air
- A microfiber cloth
- Small brushes or Q-tips
- Isopropyl alcohol, also known as rubbing alcohol
With your cleaning materials in hand, it’s time to sanitize your computer. Follow these steps:
- Unplug and lay out all pieces: It may seem obvious, but don’t forget to unplug your devices from any electrical outlet. In case of a spill or another accident, this will prevent damage to other hardware assets and injury to yourself.
- To clean your monitor, use the microfiber cloth to gently wipe all surfaces. To clean any vents, you can use a small brush to wipe off dust or Q-tips with a minimal amount of rubbing alcohol.
- For your keyboard, turn the keyboard upside down and wipe off any dust. Use the can of compressed air with its long straw attachment to remove any dirt from in between the keys.
- Use the microfiber cloth or a paper towel with a bit of alcohol to wipe your computer mouse.
- To clean the inside of your computer such as your hard drive, use the compressed air to remove collected dust from the drive and any fans. Q-tips are useful for removing dirt from a computer’s ventilation slits.
It is important to note that for some computer brands, opening the hardware with screwdrivers can affect its warranty. Removing any "warranty void" or similar stickers means the manufacturer will not cover any damage on your computer even if it was not caused by the user.
How Impact Can Help Maintain Your IT Hygiene
Businesses with whole IT environments consisting of numerous devices, servers, routers, and other assets will depend on an entire IT team to maintain the integrity of their network.
However, hiring a whole team of IT experts and maintaining entire enterprise environments may not be achievable for small and midsized businesses.
Benefit from expert guidance, continuous maintenance, and cybersecurity protection by consulting with a managed IT service provider such as Impact. Our certified experts have guided many businesses to achieve excellent IT infrastructure as well as outstanding cybersecurity.
To learn more about the benefits of managed IT services, and how they can help you ensure the wellness of your business technology, check out Impact's blog, What Does a Managed IT Department Do?