All posts by Tapas Majumder

How important is to know the network inventory?

What is ‘Network Inventory’?
An IT network consists of various types of hardware (client PCs, servers, printers, and other peripherals) and software as well as the users. The hardware and software are commonly referred to as Network Assets, which constitute the entire network inventory.

At the simplest level, network inventory is a basic list of devices connected within the network. However, at a more advanced level, it can evolve to contain detailed information about software installed, hotfixes applied, services, and much more.

How important is to know your Network Assets?
Managing the IT infrastructure of an organization is undoubtedly a challenging task. The assets in the network get deployed, updated, removed fairly frequently, and often without any set pattern, to support the operational needs of the organization and the overall computing environment (security issues, virus / hacker threats, product updates and enhancements etc.). Keeping track of the users and their access privileges is an integral part of IT management. One of the biggest challenges to managing the network is the lack of comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the network, which are essential for decision-making and planning about the growth and improvement of IT infrastructure.
If you are a network administrator, you have to face these common questions:
  • How many computers (client PCs and servers) are in the network (domain or workgroup)?
  • Which of these computers are active vs. inactive, have been added / modified?
  • What hardware components (CPU, RAM, motherboard, hard discs and partitions, network card / chip, video and audio card / chip etc.) are in those client PCs and servers?
  • What Operating System (Windows) version is running on each PC and server?
  • What Service Packs for the OS have been installed on each PC and server?
  • What software applications (including version, manufacturer etc.) are running on each PC and server?
  • What all services are running on each PC and server?
And many more like these. Without these details you will never know the actual state of your network. Proper network asset management is impossible without the knowledge of the network assets.
What exactly is “IT Network Asset Management”?

IT Network Asset Management (also called IT Inventory Management) is an important part of an organization’s business strategy. It involves collecting detailed hardware and software inventory information, which are used to make decisions about purchase as well as redistribution of hardware and software over time.

IT asset management helps an IT organization manage its systems more effectively, and saves time and money by avoiding unnecessary asset purchase and/or disposing off existing resources.

How do organizations manage their network assets? Is it sufficient for them?
It’s quite common for System Managers / Admins to manually monitor the entire network, at times with dedicated personnel. That’s a challenging task, which is repetitive, error-prone, time consuming, and to a high degree wasteful of qualified systems professionals. A tool that automatically monitors the network for such information and presents a consolidated view helps with the latest status as well as not take up important human resources for such tasks.

SysExpertez: A solution for network asset tracking, monitoring, and management
SARANGSoft SysExpertez is a comprehensive asset, domain, and operations management application with a number of exciting features that help manage IT assets, Active Directory domains, and operations in the network. It automates and simplifies the repetitive tasks and quickly provides accurate results through an easy-to-use interface.

It’s like a set of CCTVs within your network, so that you as the System Manager / Admin can get a full view through the “Admin Console”, as if sitting in a “Control Room”. The powerful Admin Console is super-easy to use with a simple menu-driven UI that also looks and feels great.

Preventing data loss on your computers

Introduction
Data have become intrinsic part of modern human life. We are constantly searching for data, right from the time we wake up every morning. While some of the data are live and online, a lot of data are collected, processed, organized, and stored for quick and easy access at any time. These data (stored in files and folders) are valuable for our personal needs. Those can be photos, videos, music, research outcomes, write-ups, important documents and so on. If those are lost for any reason, it would significantly affect our lives, professionally and/or personally (often emotionally). That’s why it’s easily understandable why we often fear of losing such data due to some unexpected problem.

Types of data loss and some precautionary steps
Though we often think about “data protection”, which includes guarding it against preying eyes and hands of hackers and such, “data backup” is intricately involved in the process. The term ‘data backup’ means to copy data files to another medium (such as a disk or tape) as a precaution, in case the original storage medium (generally the hard disk built into the computer) fails. Data backup is crucial for businesses as well as individuals.

There are many ways that your data can be lost. The common reasons are hardware failure, corrupted files, virus / malware, accidental deletions, and of course natural disasters (storm, earthquake, flood etc.) or man-made disasters (vandalism, theft, terrorist attack, arson etc.). Let’s look at few safekeeping approaches to prevent data loss as part of a comprehensive data protection plan.

a) Create a standardized file / folder organization
It helps to develop a standard way of organizing and storing your files, so that you (and your users) will know where a particular kind of file are expected to be. Once this first step is done, backing up data files will be more accurate and precise, and it will save time and hassle while retrieving any lost data to its original location.

Organizing files and folders is the key to a data protection and restoration plan.

b) Identify which (kind of) files need to be preserved
Once you have organized your files and folders, determine which are important for you. Though you are the best judge deciding what are your important files, here are some ideas for your convenience.

The following types of files are important:
  • The files you can’t do without
  • The files you will need in the future
  • The files related to products & services you sell (for businesses)
  • Files that you cannot re-create
  • Files that you can re-create but don’t want to
  • Files you regularly use and/or refer to and/or update

On the other hand, the following types of files are less important:
  • Files you have not used (not viewed or edited) for a few years.

The following types of files might be good candidates to not be included in backup (or should even be deleted from your computer to keep it clean):
  • Files you cannot remember why those are there.
  • Files you know are not useful for you any more or are known be outdated.

c) Avoid storing documents on the same drive where Operating System is installed
On Windows, most document editing applications save the document file in the ‘My Document’ folder, which is very well known. As a result, malwares and virus often target the files there, making the files vulnerable.

Whether it is a virus or software failure, the majority of computer problems affect the Operating System. Quite often the solution is to reinstall Windows, and at times after reformatting that drive. In such an instance, you must make sure to copy / backup all of your own files (not the system or application files) from the drive, including the ‘My Documents’ folder; otherwise everything on the drive will be lost. You can create a separate drive on the same physical hard disk, and store all your own files and folders on the second drive. If the OS drive needs to be reset, your data drive will still be unaffected.

It is also possible for the hard disk itself to go bad (disk crash), in which case all drives on that disk will be lost. You can replace the hard disk and reinstall Windows and the applications to get it back to working condition, but in this case your files and folders on the data drive has also been lost. To handle such cases, you can use an external hard disk to store your data files. Or you can just use regular backup from your data drive to an external disk.

d) Backup regularly
You can alert yourself to take a set of security measures to protect data loss, but if your data is not backed up, it’s very likely that you WILL LOSE IT. So, ensure that your data is backed up regularly, and test the backup to ensure that your data can be recovered when you need it.

How often should you back up? That depends on how much data you can allow to lose if your system crashes completely. A week’s work? A day’s work? An hour’s work? Depending on that you have to schedule your backups.
There are numerous backup programs with varieties of features. You can easily try out
  • SARANGSoft filexpertez (file-expert-ease) for backing up a Windows PC. It’s a comprehensive file and folder management tool for home, office, school / college, everywhere.
  • SARANGSoft WinBackup Business for backing up all PCs and servers in a Windows network (domain or workgroup) through a centrally managed arrangement.

Both the products are feature-rich and flexible, yet easy to understand and use. These do not cost much, and there is a no-obligation 30-day free trial available.

e) Automate your backup procedures
All of us are busy. There are too many things to do every day, and too little time! Even though you might be very sincere about regular data backup, it’s quite possible that you forget to run backup at times, and that leads to an inconsistent data backup arrangement. Ideally, backup should be arranged to run in a consistent manner without any manual intervention. Depending on the importance of your data, you may schedule the backup operation to run it automatically. The only thing you should bother about is to check that the backup are really happening. It helps if the backup program can send you a notification when it backup is done, either successfully or ending in failure (in which case you can look into the issue and fix it).

f) Encrypt your data while backing up
Using encryption during backup of your data is another layer of protection for the data.
Encryption changes the backed up data in a way to making it unreadable by anyone, except who has the password “key”, which allows him/her to decrypt the data back to its original usable form.
There are various types of encryption mechanism available, and some programs use it.

g) Create a local backup arrangement
All the important files should be backed up locally first. Make sure that the backed up files are available at your office / home. That ensures for easy access and recovery, as well as control of the data.

h) Create an off-site backup arrangement
It’s a great idea to arrange for a different location than your office / home to keep a copy of the backed up files. It provides “redundancy” as well as prepares for “disasters”.
If the local backup is damaged or lost for any reason, the off-site backup copy will save your day.

i) Use of “cloud” as remote storage for backed up data
Nowadays, it’s increasingly common to use cloud as the remote data storage. There are many benefits to using cloud storage, most notable being the virtual indestructibility of cloud storage and its accessibility. Files stored in the cloud are assured beyond any other level for reliability and those can be accessed at any time from any place with Internet access and your own user credentials. As far as the disaster recovery is concerned, data from cloud can be restored without any hassle. Also, the cost of cloud data storage and restoration is significantly lower than traditional data storage and restoration.
SARANGSoft CloudScape is a unique cloud storage browser for the Windows platform to seamlessly integrate cloud storage (AWS-S3 and Azure) with local storage (PC’s hard drive). Its Windows Explorer-like user interface enables easy transfer (including drag & drop) of files and folders to and from cloud, thereby making cloud storage an extension of your local PC storage. It maintains full folder hierarchy between a PC and cloud storage, which is not very common for such tools.

Ending Note
Making plans and implementing those takes time, effort, resources, and costs money. That’s why many of us defer doing it. However, the cost of not backing up data can be so severe, the upfront effort for the backup process is worth everything you put into it.

Importance of Electronic Document Management System

Importance of Document Management
A document – personal, professional, official or academic, has always of importance to us. It’s an integral part of our life, depending on which we carry on our daily activities – at home, institutions, and offices. However, keeping track of and maintaining all these important documents is not an easy task. Who hasn’t been through the search for important data and documents, the common hunt for the latest information or document, and the problems faced when those cannot be found? This document management has become a high priority in our daily life. A good document management system helps organize documents in efficient manner, so that any document can be found whenever needed.

Why Electronic Document Management System came into being?
Document management started as a manual process (when documents were only paper-based), which included storing documents – sometimes with paper-tags / markers of different colors – in folders and boxes, and then filing cabinets / racks. The color coding by tags helped differentiate / identify categories of papers / files while searching for specific documents. These manual processes often turned out to be inefficient, error-prone and time-consuming, but still that was the prevalent process in the absence of any other option. With the advent of automation and computing in our daily life, we naturally turned towards computer-based document management system to take advantage of computer’s speed, capacity, efficiency and error-free operation. A number of different document management systems came to the market, some convert paper documents into digital form and then manage those. Thus Electronic Document Management started taking off.
digipaper is an innovative and versatile software product to manage the growing accumulation of both paper documents and digital documents to create archives or repositories for convenient and efficient operation at any organization.

A common shortfall in digitized document management
Digitization of documents generally focus on converting paper documents into scanned images and storing that. Most of us understand the importance and benefit of digitizing paper documents, but that alone does not fulfill the requirement of managing all digital documents within a ‘repository’. Other than the paper documents, in every office endless digital documents of varieties types (documents, spreadsheets, presentations, images / photos / logos, designs, forms, templates etc.) are created every day on computers. All these files have their own value as per the organization’s operation, rules / policies, and future plans. These files are edited / changed often as needed, thereby creating multiple versions, distributed among different employees or even external parties (such as partners, customers, suppliers / vendors etc.). It happens that a particular file is changed a number of times and all the versions have to be tracked, so that a specific version can be found when needed. That’s why proper design and organization of archives / repositories, along with versioning, is essential for a good document management system.

digipaper as an Electronic Document Management System
Along with converting paper documents to digitized format as well as tagging and organizing those in hierarchical structure, digipaper also helps an organization create a “repository” of all types of important electronic documents, with all their versions, in a central location. Then any version of a document (and its full history) can be found in one place within a very short time. This helps avoid the problems of using outdated or wrong documents / data. It also minimizes time wastage and frustration of searching through endless unorganized documents as well as helps control access for different users. Once a proper document management system is deployed in an organization, the operational efficiency, quality of work, employee and customer satisfaction are clearly visible almost immediately. The benefits grow even more as time passes by and more documents are brought under the system to be managed.