20 more IT mistakes to avoid

Fall prey to any one of these common IT blunders and watch your company's prospects suffer -- not to mention your own

8. Logging in as root

One of the oldest rookie mistakes is still alive and well in 2008. Techs who habitually log in to the administrator or "root" account for minor tasks risk wiping out valuable data or even entire systems by accident, and yet the habit persists.

Fortunately, modern operating systems -- including Mac OS X, Ubuntu, and Windows Vista -- have taken steps to curb this practice, by shipping with the highest-level privileges disabled by default. Instead of running as root all the time, techs must enter the administrative password on each occasion they need to perform a major systems maintenance task. It may be a hassle, but it's just good practice. It's high time that every IT worker took the hint.

9. Teetering on the bleeding edge

With public beta programs now commonplace, the temptation to rely on cutting-edge tools in production systems can be huge. Resist it. Enterprise IT should be about finding solutions, not keeping up with the Joneses. It's OK to be an early adopter on your desktop, but the datacenter is no place to gamble.

Instead, take a measured approach. Keep abreast of the latest developments, but don't deploy new tools for production use until you've given them a thorough road test. Experiment with pilot projects at the departmental level. Also, make sure outside support is available. You don't want to be left on your own when the latest and greatest turns out to be not ready for prime time.

10. Reinventing the wheel

There's no better way to ensure IT agility than to take charge of your own software needs. But too often, companies employ software developers only to squander their talents on the wrong projects.

You wouldn't write your own Web browser or relational database. Why, then, do so many companies waste energy building custom CRM apps or content management systems, when countless high-quality products already exist to fill those needs?

In-house software development should be limited to projects that confer competitive advantage. Functions that aren't unique to your business are best handled with off-the-shelf software. Failing that, start with an open source project and tweak it to meet your requirements. Redundant development projects only distract from genuine business objectives.

11. Losing track of mobile users

Networked tools make it easy to push security updates, run nightly backups, and even manage software installation for users across an entire organization -- provided, of course, that their PCs are connected to the corporate LAN. But what about users who spend most of their time off-site?

Mobility and telecommuting have changed the game for systems management, network security, and business continuity. Laptops that lack current security patches are a prime vector for malware. Files that are never backed up can mean countless hours of lost productivity. And what will happen to your sensitive data in the event of theft? Automated IT policies offer no reassurance if road warriors can slip through the cracks.

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