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1. Basic Principals
2. Change Control
3. Server Environments
4. Network and Wiring
5. Network Security
6. Software Purchases
7. Documenting IT

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Information Technology Digest:
Stable Computer Environments
by Wolfgang Blauen, CISSP
1. Basic Principals (continued)

Here’s a common question: Should you let every user decide which software to use based on their personal preferences?

The answer: Absolutely not! You own the computers, you own the data and you determine the tools through which that data is maintained. A “pick and choose your own software” environment not only leads to instability of the individual computers but also introduces unmanageable complexity for the Administrator.

Access Control:
Here is your opportunity to minimize the amount of changes a user can introduce to their computer. Most operating systems support the principal of “privileges” granted to individuals by means of identification.

One company I frequently interact with is strictly adverse to utilizing any type of PIN or password. Does that limit the ability for the Administrator to apply access control?  Absolutely not!

The principal in that case is this: You protect the configuration, not the data.

What you don’t want to happen from a system administrator’s standpoint is to allow users to add or remove programs on their computer. In some cases you don’t even want them to change configurations to existing applications. You can separate the two by declaring the lowest privilege level to have the right to use the applications but not to change global settings (which includes adding and removing programs). Then, it is up to you to decide whether or not you want to password protect this layer. Only the Administrator has the global change privileges and since that is not used on a day-to-day basis it should be password protected.

Oh, and talking about the Administrators: There are a lot of techno crazy kids out there that have phenomenal computer knowledge. Unfortunately they rather frequently bring with that an utter lack of business sense. If you happen to have your computer wiz kid from around the corner maintain your network, have them justify the changes to you and explain in laymen’s terms what they’re doing.

These are the first examples on how to stabilize your computer environment. Stay tuned for more in the coming articles.

(read on ...) 

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