A Day in the Life of Small Business IT

8am – Look at scheduled tasks

I have many repetitive tasks scheduled on the calendar in my business email. On a typical Monday morning usually a handful of tasks have become due. Most of these tasks don’t take much time and are related to maintenance chores, housekeeping, backups, etc. I usually tackle these tasks first. Here are some tasks listed this morning:

  • Backups from our cloud server are automatically downloaded to my workstation over the weekend. I simply need to move them to the proper archive location. I do this with a batch script. In the future I really need to send these backups to another cloud service like an Amazon S3 bucket instead of our local network.
  • Report last month’s office bandwidth. This information is only for myself, to look for patterns. If bandwidth use changes dramatically I might look look in to why that is. I record this data from the router into a simple spreadsheet.
  • Backup email newsletter list. There is no way to automate this so usually every two weeks or so I go in to our company newsletter service and backup/download our entire subscriber list.
  • The company let a particular domain expire, so I had previously set a scheduled task for today to remove all references to it from our server and hosting accounts. This also includes DNS entries, archived backups, saved passwords, links in various places, etc.
    (Note: when doing this, it led me down a rabbit trail of cleaning up some other unneeded password entries and server data. Rabbit trails happen often!)
  • Copy collected newsletter emails into newsletter service. This particular marketing channel doesn’t have automation, so I take any new emails and add them to our newsletter service manually. I need to fix this and automate this marketing channel at some point.
    (Note: went on another rabbit trail, updating some company information in our newsletter service, the welcome email, and added a registration form to a new Facebook group the boss created last week. Rabbit trails are fun! This trail took over 30 minutes.)
  • Do some quick maintenance on one of the ecommerce stores. Just some product housekeeping here.

At this point it is getting later in the morning so I begin looking in to my various email accounts, to clean them out and handle any quick tasks, and mark any longer tasks to get done soon.

I always go on some rabbit trails when clearing emails for the morning. In this case I read a couple interesting white papers, followed some headlines, and did quick tasks as needed.

Back to scheduled tasks:

  • Today is the day I update the network diagram. This is a flowchart of all the main computers and network devices in the building. This I schedule for every 3 months. There are usually few changes to the network so this tends to be a quick task to review. I use Edraw Max for the diagram.
  • Today is also my 3 month scheduled firewall audit. I’ve got a report that I update and list any changes made to the firewall settings. This allows me to keep watch, as the router itself doesn’t have a reporting or notification feature for any settings changed or allow for comparison to previous settings etc. This time I recorded a recent change to our WAN IP, all else was unchanged.
  • Gather sales data from both ecommerce stores. Even though these stores are hosted services and have their own internal reporting features, I find it’s best to download our sales data and import it to my own database. I have to do this manually, there is no automation. This personal database allows me to do SQL queries on the data in ways I can’t do with the hosted carts because I don’t have access to their database directly.
    (Rabbit trail here as I needed to adjust Excel’s encoding for a data import operation with CSVs and Russian text. Then I had to adjust my database for UTF8 as well as some columns were locked in Latin1. Hate bugs!)

At this point, my flow through scheduled reminders starts to slow down as office life picks up. People have requests for me, fix something, email issue, customer service etc.

I have a computer on the bench next to me which is getting an overhaul, so I turn my attention to that, fixing things, managing programs, doing updates, cleaning it up.

After a while, it’s lunch time already and I haven’t got a chance to work on any “big” projects, but am mostly caught up on everything from the weekend. Now it’s time for a lunch break!

After lunch I’ve got a few more tasks to complete. Since it is the 1st of the month, I download all our website analytics reports and get them into my own spreadsheets. Mostly this is Google Analytics on a custom dashboard, but also AddThis and server reports from cPanel. Doing this for all our domains takes about 20 minutes but today I needed to add reports for a new domain, so all the reports and files had to be set up, including the auto-email of my Google Analytics Dashboard.

While doing that, I cleared out some more email until my entire email client was clean. I use Thunderbird, so basically this means there are no unread messages across any accounts and folders.

Due to running two ecommerce stores, it also falls on me to edit products sometimes, and this includes photography and Photoshop! Yes, the IT nerd has to take pictures. I grab our old D5100, turn on the flashes and get to work on a few new products. When the shoot is done, I import with Bridge and edit the keepers in Photoshop. The final photos are copied to our network folder and the boss is notified of the new shots available.

Was this a “typical” day? I think so, but it is not “every” day. Sometimes I’ll work on a single project all day, with a lot of catching up to do the next day. Sometimes there is a big upgrade or service change. Sometimes we hook up to a new marketing channel and need to sort out all the details, graphics, adcopy and so forth.

All in all, small business IT is quick-paced and varies a lot in what you actually do. And there is a lot of weird stuff you need to do sometimes! My duties cross over from computer maintenance to web development to data intelligence and reporting to photography and digital editing to vector design to programming.

4:30pm – Time to clock out!