Paperwork. Admin. Documentation. Call it what you want, but even the best among us can overlook it, forget it, or just procrastinate. With a limited amount of time each day, many people focus on revenue-generating activities — and keep their fingers crossed that there will be some time left over for IT documentation.
When value-added resellers (VARs) or managed services providers (MSPs) begin working with a new client, it’s not uncommon to have to track down vital IT documentation. It’s rare to find one source of information that includes a hardware inventory, warranty information, software licensing, and security configurations, especially if your client doesn’t have in-house IT resources. So, the job of creating a repository of IT information falls to you.
What to Include in IT Documentation and Why
The types of services that you provide your clients may require that you record specific types of information, but, in general, categories of IT documentation that any business should have include:
- Network, workstation, and server hardware and configuration. Organize information on hardware, including server, PC, modem, router and switch models, serial numbers, warranty information, and steps for filing a warranty claim.
Also, record information specific to the server, such as the server computer’s name and domain, protocols, encryption and services that are enabled, such as WINS, DNS, or RIS.
Basically, keep a record of all information you would need to configure the client’s network again if you had to start from scratch.
- Administrative credentials. Record details of administrative accounts as well as other accounts that have any administrative privileges.
A list of accounts and their privileges are particularly important if employees leave the company or roles change — this information will help you ensure there aren’t any orphaned accounts with administrative privileges that hackers could exploit.
- Applications and services. Keep a record of software licensing, the credentials you’ll need if you need to reinstall, and if additional users are available under any licenses. Also, maintain information on which users need specific applications and any apps that are blacklisted.
This information will help you quickly set up workstations for new users, keep software updated across the network, and prevent purchasing unneeded licenses.
- Devices connected to the network. Keep a detailed inventory of corporate-owned devices, including models, serial numbers, and warranty information. Additionally, document all devices connected to the network, whether corporate-owned or employee-owned, how they are configured, and who uses them. Also, ensure mobile devices can connect safely to the corporate network via VPN.
This information will help ensure that devices are compliant with security policies and enable you to see when an unauthorized device connects.
- Security. Document firewall configuration and information on all security solutions.
Misconfigurations can lead to vulnerability to cyberattack, compliance fines, and downtime that can cost your clients’ revenue and customer loyalty.
Making it Work
Taking responsibility for your clients’ IT documentation can ultimately keep your clients happier with faster service, troubleshooting, deployment, and upgrades. To provide this service profitably, however, VARs and MSPs need to find a way to manage it consistently, accurately and efficiently.
An IT documentation solution, especially one that integrates with your professional services automation (PSA) or remote monitoring and management (RMM) tool, can automate parts of the process of capturing and organizing information. For example, when you order hardware or appliances, model and serial numbers can automatically populate in your customer’s IT documentation account.
You also need to establish processes with contacts at your clients’ organizations to provide you with information related to changes they make — but may not tell you about — such as new users, applications, or devices.
An IT documentation solution alone, however, isn’t enough to ensure your team captures all of the information you and your clients need about their IT environment. You need to build documentation into your culture, train your team, and ensure consistency. When IT documentation is an integral part of your operations, any member of your team will be able to retrieve information about a client’s account quickly and easily. Building documentation into your processes also eliminates the quandary of how to bill for it. When it’s included in their workflows, your team will be less likely to see it as “wasted” time. It will just become a routine part of billable services.
Increase the Stickiness of Your Relationships
The importance of IT documentation will only increase as your clients attempt to keep up with fast-evolving technological and industry trends. They’ll appreciate that you’re making sure all of the information they need to address IT issues quickly and most cost-effectively is accessible, accurate, and secure.
Furthermore, IT documentation will strengthen your position as a vital and valuable business partner — when your clients need information, you’ll have the answers.
Let your clients know that for you and your team, IT documentation is a priority, and not just something you put off until the end of the day. Let your clients know you have their backs.