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10 old-school IT principles that still rule

Bob Lewis | July 26, 2017
Technology changes rapidly, but beneath the buzzwords, the fundamentals of sound IT strategy remain. Here are 10 graybeard IT tenets that still reign — when applied in their modernised guise.

Credit: Duncan Hull

The more things stay the same, the more they change.

That’s not exactly how the saying goes, but it is the phrase that should be engraved over every door leading to IT. It’s certainly better than “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

Not a lot has changed since our early days, when IT was EDP and programmers were the high priests of the glass house.

Except for everything.

Luckily, much of the fundamental wisdom of the early days of IT still applies, just in a different, modernized guise. Here are 10 old-school principles that will guide you through next-generation IT, and the fundamental differences in the ways you should apply them.


It’s never just about how good the technology is

Old version: “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM”

New version: Open source can provide the same advantages

The technology you buy is a long-term commitment on your part. You need it to be a long-term commitment on the supplier’s part, too.

To play it safe, IT used to buy from big vendors. Now? Not only can open source be just as safe, sometimes you can get it from IBM or other big vendors.

Not every open source technology has a broad enough base of support, but many do. If PHP, for example, will do the job, would you look at Java twice given its awful security track record? And yet Java is supported (perhaps “provided” would be more accurate) by Oracle, one of the biggest software companies in the world.

This isn’t entirely new, either. The open-source-like SHARE library dates to the 1970s, after all.


Good information security starts with good physical security

Old version: Keep the hardware locked away

New version: It doesn’t have to be your locked room

We’ve always kept the hardware locked away, limiting data center access to a small number of employee badges and keeping automated logs of who enters and when. It’s just that now, not every locked room is our own.

For SMBs especially, there are alternatives, ranging from co-lo facilities to full cloud.

But don’t pocket all of the savings from not building out your own data center. Invest some of it in a low-latency, high-bandwidth network connection to your offsite provider. Even better: Apply another old-time principle -- never have just one of anything. Make that two connections, with points of presence on opposite sides of your building, so a back hoe can’t take your business down by digging a hole in an inopportune spot.


Know the threats

Old version: Inventory security threats and implement countermeasures

Middle-age version: Lock down the desktops and guard the perimeter


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