Horse Sense #140

Zombies, The Dead, Slackers, and The Incompetent

[Cue Creepy Music]

It is not unusual for businesses to be harboring zombies in the workplace: devices that are running, but are not doing anything useful. But, they are not the only problems you have. I see the following on almost all networks: Zombies, The Dead, Slackers, and The Incompetent.

Zombies consume resources, but no one is using them. Zombie devices suck up power, money, and resources for no reason. Zombie software licensing can cost you a ton of money. Zombie devices and software can easily serve as an easy way for attackers to gain access to your network without being noticed. Zombie data can compromise performance, productivity, and security badly and can cost you a ton of money to manage and store. I highly recommend a data elimination analysis and removal of digital detritus on a continuous basis (see Horse Sense 114: Data Elimination). Zombies are much more costly and dangerous to you than The Dead.

The Dead also consume resources. The dead includes devices, software, and data that are powered off, forgotten about, and never used. You often have to pay property taxes on dead and zombie equipment. You might still be paying for licensed software you are not even using! Ouch! Data on dead machines probably is not valuable to you currently and certainly is not readily available, but it has not been properly disposed of. That data might still pose a security risk. Physical assets take up physical space. If you are storing old equipment, records, etc, remember that you are paying for the space they take up. Even if you figure the cost of your space on rental costs alone and an absurdly low cost of $1 per square foot/month, a single PC or file cabinet could well be costing $3-6 per month. Cleaning and other costs are more expensive the more stuff you have. Add up all of your dead items and you could be talking about big money.

Slackers are devices, software, and data that are little used and are capable of being eliminated. In fact, it is normal for PCs to be slacking most of the time. They are designed to answer user work requests as quickly as they can. By their nature, some pieces of software and data are rarely used. Slacker resources, however, could often be handled by something else that already exists. This would increase your utilization of that existing resource with the benefit that you get to "kill off" the slacking one to save money, time, space, and effort.

Incompetent devices are too slow, do not have enough storage, have screens that are too small, have poor mice or keyboards, run sub optimal software, and/or have stale data. They may be incompetent because they are suffering from poor or no maintenance, because they are asked to do jobs they cannot do well, or because they are asked to do too many jobs. In short, if your saw is old, poorly maintained, dulled by use, and incapable of cutting materials, you may need a new saw. No, I am not saying you need to replace everything and do it now. At Iron Horse, we run software that is decades old. Some of the equipment we use every day is almost as old. It still does the job we intend it to do and we are fanatics about maintaining our software, data, and equipment. But....Even we sometimes wait too long. I replaced my personal notebook this year and am very happy I made the switch, but upset that I might have waited longer than I should have, thus sacrificing time and money and making my efforts much more frustrating than they needed to be.

It is easy to turn a competent device into an incompetent one by overburdening it or not maintaining it. Software manufacturers often promote incompetence. A new installation of a program may not completely remove the old software or data. Upgrading your operating system to Windows 10, for example, puts a complete backup of your system on the same drive, clogging that drive with gigabytes of backup information you will probably never use. Old drivers and software may keep your machine from performing tasks efficiently and safely. It is fairly natural to add and remove software and data from your machine all the time. People often tell me they want to "keep everything." No, they just want to keep all the useful stuff. The detritus makes the useful stuff hard to get to. A periodic spring cleaning will help keep your computer competent.

What should you do? You should regularly review all of your hardware, software, and data assets. You should make sure they are well maintained and schedule professional maintenance. You should replace those that need replacing. You should plan that all of your hardware, software, and data will need replacement and figure out what that replacement schedule should be so you do not get caught trying to fix a problem with your tools when you badly need them to work. Oh, and you should call on Iron Horse to help you fight Zombies, The Dead, Slackers, and the Incompetent.....

©2016 Tony Stirk, Iron Horse