Eight Things Every Business Owner Should Know About Their Technology

Sep 30, 2021 | Blog

We often talk to businesses that are looking to change IT providers. Changing IT companies is not always straightforward. In this blog post we will discuss what every business owner should know about their information technology and website, and why you need it. We also have a form that list these items, so if you don’t have them, you can use this as a checklist. Like an insurance card, you should have these items at all times in a safe place. And, if you do not have this information before attempting to change providers, you might end up in a costly legal battle. To reiterate, even if you aren’t thinking of changing IT companies, you should have this information.Some of the information in this post is very technical in nature and the terminology may be confusing. We have done our best to break it down. If you feel like you need assistance with anything mentioned in this post, please call us and we will help you anyway we can.

1. Your Domain Name System (DNS)

When you browse the internet, you type in a URL in the address bar, like www.SawyerSolutionsLLC.com. Computers, however, use a numerical address to find and connect to each other. These looks like The domain name system (DNS) is what lets us use URLs, which are easy to remember, instead of numbers, which are hard to remember.If you have your own website or email, you have DNS records. In order to change where your website or email is hosted, you will need access to those records. If you are planning to change IT companies, you need the ability to lock out their access so that they cannot change your records without your consent.There are generally two parts to your DNS records, the domain name registrar and the domain name server. Make sure you get both.

Domain Name Registrar

Domain names are controlled by a domain name registrar. There are only a small number of registrars, and the company that is hosting your website or email may not be the registrar. The registrar has the contact information for your domain. The contact information is the name, address, phone number, and email address that is used to determine domain ownership. Click here to view the information that our registrar has for our website.If your business’s contact info is not listed as either the “Registrant” or “Administrative” contact then you could end up having problems proving ownership and maintaining control of your domain. Sometimes when a domain is purchased on behalf of someone else the correct information does not get entered here. You can click here to check the information on your domain.

Domain Name Server

The company that hosts your website is generally the company that hosts your DNS records, but this is not necessarily your domain name registrar. Your domain name records are hosted on their domain name servers. As such, these are the computers that are used to route email to you and traffic to your website. If you wish to change the company that is hosting your website or email, then you need access to these records. This will be a username and password. If you don’t have access to these records, and your IT provider won’t give you access, then that is one instance where having yourself listed in the contact section of the registrar will become helpful.

2. Administrator Access to Your Computer Systems

If you have a small number of computers, say 10 or less, it is likely that your computers have local login accounts. This means that every computer has its own login(s) and they are not shared between the various computers. Local logins are in contrast to a centralized login system, which for most businesses is a Windows domain (not to be confused with DNS). A Windows domain requires a Windows server, to which all the computers authenticate. There are many good reasons to have a Windows domain, such as increased security and increased control of computers, but those reasons should be balanced against the extra complexity and cost.Regardless of which system you have, you need to have administrator access to your computers. Even if you never use it, you should to have the ability to log in as an administrator. If you have local login accounts, then this would be a local administrator account for each computer. If you have a Windows domain, then you would need either what is called a domain administrator or enterprise administrator account. Once again, this isn’t an account that you necessarily need to use every day, but you do need to have it.

3. Admin Credentials to All Networking Devices

Every network is going to have at least one device on it that is not a computer, such as firewalls, printers and switches. Regardless of how large your network is and what is on it, you need administrator access to every device. This gives you, or someone of your choosing, the ability to change any settings that you need to, including passwords to lock out accounts in the firewall. If you do not have and cannot get this information then the only way to access the devices would be to reset them to factory defaults. That is likely to be time consuming and potentially expensive as everything would have to be set up from scratch again.

4. Virtual Host Admin Credentials

If your business has a server, then there is a decent chance it is running in a virtualized environment. Running a virtualized environment allows you to run multiple servers, which are called guests, on a single physical device, which is called a host. This setup can make your server system more cost efficient and save you space.The biggest players in this virtualization market are VMWare and Microsoft Hyper-V. If you have a virtualized infrastructure, it is likely from one of those two. You need to make sure that you have an administrator login to the underlying host operating system, as well as to the guest virtual machines. It is possible that the logins for the host are different from your other logins.

5. Passwords to other online systems

In addition to the DNS, you will need access to any other online systems being used by your company, such as backup or a file synching and sharing programs like Dropbox. You may not have access to these systems after you leave an IT provider, if it is hosted on their system or it is a third party system they are reselling. However, if you are paying directly for these things then you should definitely have administrative access to them.

6. Physical Access

If your equipment is locked somewhere in your business, make sure you have copies of the keys to get to it. If your equipment is being hosted in an offsite data center then it is extremely unlikely you will ever have physical access to it, but returning it should be part of any contract you sign for the hosting service.

7. Software License Keys

You should have your software license keys. These are the things that prove that your own the software and are generally a long string of letters and numbers. Some commonly used pieces of software that often have keys are Microsoft Office, Adobe Acrobat and QuickBooks.If you have a Microsoft Windows Server then you are likely required to have Client Access Licenses (CALs). While these are not software license keys in the traditional sense, they are the things that prove you are using the software correctly. You don’t need CALs for certain versions of Windows Server, so you should ask your IT company if you need them, and where they are. If you are not sure, then you might want to seek a second opinion on the matter as CALs can be confusing, even for Microsoft.

8. Copies of Sales Receipts

Where possible it is a good idea to keep sales receipts. You should do this not just for tax purposes, but to help prove rights of ownership in the event of a dispute.

Wait! I Don’t Have Some of That Stuff.

The items we’ve covered are the kinds of things that it are easier to get before you need them. If you don’t have some of the information or logins, then you might want to consider contacting your IT company and saying something like, “I was reading an interesting blog post about things that a business owner should have access to, and there were several things on the list that I don’t think I have. Can you give me the logins for…” If your IT company starts to hem and haw about why they can’t or outright refuses to provide the information, you may want to consider looking for a new one.Once again, if you feel like you need assistance with anything mentioned in this post, please call us and we will help you anyway we can.