Russ Levanway, CEO, Tektegrity

Is it healthier for the human body to a) take a walk, b) smoke a cigarette, or c) eat a Krispy Kreme donut?  Tough question, right?

Thanks to academic studies – and plain common sense – we know that eating well, breaking a sweat, and avoiding deteriorative behaviors like smoking and consuming excessive alcohol can lead to longer life expectancy, higher quality of life, and improved mental health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of death in the United States are directly related to obesity, which affects more than one-third of all American adults – and which is entirely preventable. Furthermore, the costs of reacting to obesity-related issues like heart disease and type II diabetes are far greater than those associated with preventive care like healthful eating and exercise.

Just like the human body, your computer needs regular, preventive TLC, including:

  • Consistent updates of antivirus software
  • For businesses, firewall updates with current software
  • Keeping your computer fully patched for all operating system vulnerabilities

Three weeks ago we received client reports that some computers were intermittently “blue screening” or crashing. After digging into the issue, we discovered that the culprit was a specific piece of software we use called McAfee “Stinger.” Stinger launches preventive maintenance scans on computers overnight, catching adware, spyware, Trojan horses and viruses that can get around antivirus software. It’s an additional layer of security that TekTegrity deploys to keep computers clean and optimized. We learned that McAfee had made an error in their most recent software deployment and actually introduced instability into the Stinger software, in turn causing some computers to blue-screen. We immediately stopped using the Stinger software and switched to a different software package to do the same type of preventive scanning on clients’ computers.

This raises an important point: While proactive maintenance is not always perfect, it’s a far, far better solution than reactive repairs.

We are often approached by potential clients who come to us with a catastrophic or extremely disruptive situation caused by a lack of preventative maintenance; for example, virus infections that deleted all their files when no backups had been made. Companies come to us after finding themselves in a situation where they have lost data, need an extensive cleanup done, and never want to experience such difficulties again. In most of these cases, there was no proactive maintenance routine or basic security protection in place such as up-to-date antivirus software and firewalls.

According to a Ponemon Institute study, in 2013, data breaches cost American organizations an average of $5.4 million dollars in 2013 – the highest average of nine countries studied. But, conversely, the greatest reduction in data breach costs also occurred in the United States as a result of “having a strong security posture, incident response plan and CISO [Chief Information Security Officer] appointment,” as well as consulting support – even given the risk of third-party errors and associated costs. (Ponemon Institute, LLC. 2013 Cost of Data Breach Study: Global Analysis. May 28, 2013. Traverse City, MI: Author.)

From time to time, a patch may break a computer or cause instability. However, if your systems are always up-to-date on patches, there is a very small delta between the last time a patch was installed and the current one that caused an issue. This makes it relatively easy to find, fix and remediate any problems a patch might cause.

In conclusion, we strongly recommend a prevention-first philosophy, staying very close to the recommended patch upgrade and antivirus update cycles. The small risk that a patch will introduce instability is worth taking compared with the much greater risk of neglecting to stay updated and the exposure it can entail. In other words, taking regular preventive actions keeps computers, people and businesses productive, without the headache of damaging and disruptive reactive repairs.

In short, Benjamin Franklin was right: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”