“Being proactive” is a statement you hear all the time from technology companies and service providers. At this point, it is expected with every technology product/service purchase, a proactive approach or maintenance plan is built in because of how often we hear that phrase. But what is it really? A product? A service? An ideal? As it turns out, it is all of that, as well as a promise.
For some, it is built into the preventative maintenance plan: We will monitor this thing and setup these alerts then fix problems before they happen! Great, promise kept. For others it’s a continuous maintenance plan: Let’s clean up all of this stuff all of the time so we can avoid problems entirely! That is a fine way to do it as well, as long as you are doing it 24/7, again promise kept. There is the zero maintenance plan: Products or teams that don’t do anything proactively and are purely reactive in nature, never promised, so that’s okay too. Lastly, you have the lazy maintenance plan: Those who promise it but never quite deliver (I’ll not refer to them in this article).
Let’s take a trip to the dentist office for a minute. I am one of the few people that doesn’t mind going to the dentist. I go there every 5 to 6 months for checkups, x-rays and cleaning. I also enjoy my shot of fluoride and the minute of swishing. Why don’t I mind? Proactive maintenance on my teeth. I need these chompers to last, so I follow their maintenance plan in hopes of keeping my teeth healthy for as long as possible. If you don’t go to the dentists regularly, there are quite a few really painful issues that could have been prevented if caught early. So far, this process has worked for me, I haven’t had any major issues.
There are other examples that we could discuss but I want to provide some insight into how we apply the proactive approach. Wait, what? A proactive response from the reactive team, how?? My team is known for reacting to incidents and more often than not, leading the charge to the end. However, there is a proactive portion of support that is overlooked as we address an incident from start to finish.
When we encounter a problem and then resolve it, we often discover that this could be an issue for our other clients. For instance, if we find an e-mail domain sending phishing links or ransomware out to people — we don’t just block it for one person or customer, we block it for all. We take what we learn during the discovery, then apply it to everyone who could be affected. This leads to a lower potential infection rate across our client base.
A week ago, we discovered a new “bug” that would prevent Word 2013 from working on Windows 10 1803 machines after receiving the upgrade. The “fix” was to run it in compatibility mode for Windows 8.1 (Hello, Microsoft are you aware of this?). This bug only affected a limited amount of people but instead of just fixing the people that it affected, we created a portable registry key and a group policy object to apply it as necessary if the issue was found on any other networks. While we may not be preventing the problem from occurring on your domain at this second, we are actively creating a solution that can be used quickly to resolve that issue if it occurs for you. This limits the amount of impact during an incident, decreases downtime for employees and shortens the resolution time.
Another proactive approach that is not often discussed is documentation. We partnered with a few customers that had ongoing time synchronization problems that were discovered during the onboarding process. At some point, the old network time server was replaced and it was never setup again on a new server. To ensure that we created a standard for all customers, we developed a custom document based on Microsoft’s best practice to setup NTP on the domain following the hierarchy. We also have a vast collection of custom and/or obscure power shell commands we have recorded over the years to modify Active Directory, DHCP, DNS, Exchange and other Windows features. The consistent documentation prevents us from searching for the same solutions when an issue strikes again so our time is spent on resolving the issue not looking it up for the 5th time in a year. It also allows for additional availability to research and create solutions for new problems, so we continuously become more effective and efficient.
This is our promise to you! We may not be the proactive team, part of system maintenance, or the joyous dentist’s office, but your best interest is our top priority. We actively look for additional ways to protect your network, make it more efficient, increase your productivity and limit the number of speed bumps you encounter during the work week. Less issues = fewer headaches = happy employees = appreciative customers and that is what we strive toward every day.
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