Or: “I just fired my tech guy, my website is down and I’m not getting any email! What’s wrong?”
Excellent questions! I’m glad you asked.
Most business owners understand their finances pretty well. After all, the finances are what allows the business to prosper (or what causes the business to fade away when the finances aren’t strong). And, for the most part, they understand this enough that even if they lost “the accountant”, they would still be able to maintain basic accounting needs for payables and receivables.
However, there is often a reliance on technology within an organization that is dependant on the “techie” being around. For a small business, this dependance can be somewhat alleviated if a second person can be hired who has access to all the information and resources as the primary technical resource. But often, the financial resources may not be available to support this.
In a non-profit organization, this can be even more troublesome, as many resources are volunteers who come and go at their whim. When all technical resources available are offering their time without pay, other priorities outside of the organization may be more pressing and/or interesting for them. And if all your technical eggs are in one basket, what happens when the basket is dropped?
Solving this problem can be a difficult challenge for any organization. If the owner or board are not technical, it may be impossible to understand all of the technology in use within their organization. And this gets to the heart of the above questions. Even if you don’t know how the technology all works, nor have a plan for how to replace an unexpected loss of your primary technical personnel, there are some basic steps that can make the transition easier.
Most people, if they lost their life’s treasures from disaster, would probably make a rough guess of what the value of their goods are. But few people keep a detailed list of their valuables. And then there are the treasures and mementoes that are irreplaceable, for one reason or another.
When it comes to your organization, you should not follow this pattern. The key is to have your technical assets documented. And if you don’t know what your technical assets are, here’s a short list of some of the important ones:
- Your DNS (domain name system) registrar and renewal dates. Without this, your domain name (or online organization identity – e.g., ‘metrex.net’ is ours) may expire, and your customers wont be able to send you email nor find your website. If you conduct business online, this will have an immediate negative financial result.
- Your web host and renewal dates. Like your domain name, if you forget to pay for your website (as well as several other scenarios), your web site may disappear. In this case, you may still be able to get email (if your email is not with the same company) but your customers wont be able to find your website.
- Your email host and renewal dates. Like your domain name, if you forget to pay for your email hosting (as well as several other scenarios), you may no longer be able to receive email from your customers. Although they may be able to get to your web site, you may not be able to easily communicate with them online.
- Where is all your data stored and backed up? In the case of system crashes, or general disasters, or disasters at your web hosting company, etc., you may need to recover data from a database backup. Where is the backup? If you find it, where does the data need to go? Do you have passwords to access the database servers if needed? Or, if your data is outsourced, does your outsourcing company have access to do this?
- What kinds of firewalls, routers, and server equipment is located at your office? Do you have the passwords for all these? Is there a network map identifying how all these systems are interconnected?
The above list is by no means exhaustive. I’m trying to be brief and not too technical, and there are some terms used above with which you may not be familiar. Ideally, your technical staff should be able to prepare a detailed inventory that you could take to a third party organization and identify if the list is reasonable for your organization. However, without an audit, it will be impossible to determine the accuracy or completeness. So expect that there are some costs involved in this process. But without the answers, it could be even more costly.
Of course, I should answer the original question this post posits, that is ‘What does DNS mean, and why should I care’? In a nutshell, DNS means “Domain Name System“, and it is the basis by which traffic gets funnelled to the right computer in your organization for email, website and all your communications. And why you should care? When it breaks, it’s like losing the keys to the technical side of your organization. And unfortunately, it breaks all too often when the technical resources needed are not available to correct it. So build your contingency checklist today. Or get us to help you build it.