Dobrica Pavlinusic, 2002-02-28
The purpose of this document is to provide practical
advice when providing IT support to Due Diligence process. This document does
not discuss techniques for providing due diligence of IT. It is (intentionally)
limited to IT support of due diligence process.
This document is result of my own experience in two
due diligence operations, but I hope that it will be helpful to others too.
The goal of due diligence is to gather data. The goal
of IT support of due diligence (in rest of the text DD) is to support that data
More or less, IT should provide following service to
DD team members.
Those services include:
- Laptops for all team members
- Provide connectivity at data room and at meeting place.
- Provide ability to print things
- Provide telephone line and fax line and machine -- this step is
optional. It's highly possible that this service is provided by hotel that
is rented as data room.
- Provide connectivity to company HQ
It's important to note that DD is usually performed in
data room in which binders with data are located. However, DD team members also
have need for a meeting room that will usually be located at hotel in which
they are sleeping. That location will also have to be supported. Don't settle
with idea that it's enough to support just one of those locations. That
This can be done using local network, IrDA
connectivity or floppy disk transfer. Please use at least two of those
to provide redundancy.
It's extremely important to note that connectivity has
to be provided in data rooms and in meeting room (which is usually other
Under connectivity we think of ability to exchange
files and to send e-mail messages. Those are basic services. Other possible
applications are central printer and repository of all files (which might be an
overkill depending on particular DD).
Usually DD team members will want connectivity to
theirs company. However, they would want connectivity to Internet as well,
trust me. So, if you are using company's dial-in, check that all users have
access to Internet through it. Hotel will probably have some mean to connect to
Internet. It's a good idea to provide web mail service on your corporate pages
that is accessible from Internet to all team members.
Another good idea is to have central repository of DD
documentation that is accessible from company network and from Internet. Of
course, don't do this if it can't be secured. That means password protection
and encryption of traffic to it using at least 128bit SSL (https protocol).
You should consider using VPN to access corporate
intranet. You have basically two choices here: install VPN server and install
VPN clients on each machine. General knowledge is that VPN server is most
commonly used when you must connect a group of people. However, by gut feeling
(based on experience) is that VPN client is much better solution than to take
whole laptop just for VPN server. There might be license question for VPN
clients, but that is really just a good reason to change your VPN software
(again, from personal experience... you will have to trust me on this). There
are also free solutions that are quite good (CIPE from http://sites.inka.de/~bigred/devel/cipe.html
comes to mind if you have Linux server and Windows clients).
It's so much easier and faster to use hotel's DSL
connection (if available) than to call dial-in (RAS). Also, that way you will
need just one telephone line (or DSL connection) for whole group. However, for
VPN server to work with DSL you might need two network cards. Have them.
You will probably need to setup local network, if not
in data rooms (which is probably overhead), surly in meeting room. Bring, lease
of buy network HUBs. They are so cheap and accessible these days that it
doesn't make sense to take them in airplane. Extra change for baggage will pay
for new HUBs.
Take network cables for all team members with you.
They will not remember to take their own. Also, it's much easier for them not
to take network cables.
If you change network configuration to DD team
members, notify your helpdesk and support staff back home to change setting
back to local ones upon return. Don't think that you will have time to write
down network setup during DD and before you change it. If you can't recover
network setup upon return, record it before leaving.
This is fairly easy: you can bring the printer with
you or lease one. However, I would suggest that you bring one portable ink-jet
printer with you (if for nothing else, for backup). It's highly possible that
someone would want to print something on that other location on which you
didn't leased a printer.
Also, have backup for your printer. They tend to break
at worst times: for example when you have to print out questions that should be
handed in five minutes ago.
Of course, multiple printers also mean multiple printer
drivers. Have that in mind.
send IT support before any other DD team members.
send IT support in last round of arrivals -- that just means that DD team
members will not have good support until IT support finish initial setup (which
will probably take a day or two). Most time at the beginning will be spent on
setting up network and power cables and making network connectivity. Provide
that time so you won't be late!
That is hard, because it's usually impossible to send
IT before other team members, so IT arrives at the same time. DD team members
usually want to start working as soon as they arrive. However, if there is no
network connectivity they won't be able to send e-mails. It's possible to
resolve this problem my making priority list (do most important things first),
but it's much better to just organize enough time to make this technical setup
Person that is doing support should make notes.
Not all things can be done at once. Keeping a simple
TODO file (or using a notebook to take notes about thing that has to be done)
will have at least three benefits: 1) you will not have to do all at once, 2)
you will not forget idea that can't be done right now and 3) you will not
forget which thing you have to do
Check if laptops are equipped with needed hardware to
support connectivity. I would suggest providing both network cards and modem to
all laptops. It's also very important to check if all laptops are provided with
adapter cables (little cables which go from PCMCIA cards to UTP cable).
If you are crossing ocean check if your equipment have
support for "that other" voltage. It's easier to leave home equipment that
doesn't support foreign voltage than to find out alternative solution.
Check that you have cables for telephone and network
connection. It's easy enough to think of possibility that telephone or network
connection in hotel will be different than cable you have. Provide adapters or
money to buy them at place.
If you are in non-English speaking territory (common
in Europe) go to computer show and try to speak with someone there about
adapters or cables that you need. Probability that people in computer shop know
English is much higher than probability that hotel manager on front desk knows
why your modem isn't working. If you are connecting to Internet using local
ISP, local computer store is good place to start looking for ISP which doesn't
require registration. You probably won't have enough time to register for full
ISP service. Also, you actually don't want subscription-based account with ISP
in some foreign country.
Check for telephone standards. Some modems must be
switched to country setting (Xircom combo LAN/modem cards comes to mind) for
them to operate correctly. That might not be problem if you are not crossing
the ocean, but be aware. If you need to change dialing from tone to pulse in
Windows 2000, remember that that is under "Dialing rules".
If it's possible take external floppy drives for all
models of laptops that are provided to DD team members. At least take floppies
and CD ROMs both. It might even be more important to have floppy than a
CD ROM. Maybe you should send e-mail to DD team members to take floppy drives
Test and decide if IrDA is good enough solution for
exchange of occasional file and printing. It's possible that it works great
with particular model of laptop, and than again it's possible that it doesn't
work at all. If you decide that IrDA is only connectivity method in (for
example) data rooms (remember, provide backup floppy replacement anyway!) test
IrDA on all laptop models before you leave for DD.
Pre-install some kind of VPN software on all laptops.
We already covered why VPN clients are better solution.
Pre-install printer drives on laptops – this might not
be a problem if you are using standard printers, but at least download printer
drivers and burn them to CD (two copies) before you leave for DD. Another good
idea is to put all available documents on that CD and installation of VPN
Prepare for different kinds of network connectivity:
Connection to local ISP via modem
Connection to local ISP via DSL (basically UTP 10/100
Mbps connection – usually just one)
Connection directly to company's dial-in modems
Provide at least one backup LAN card and modem (PCMCIA
modem will do, external modem will be even better)
Check if you have administrator password for all
laptops that DD team members are bringing
Provide backup team back home that will not have a
grunt if you call them at 2 a.m. at the morning. It's also good idea to leave
your cell phone number on local time back home, so that you can really decide
if you want to call somebody or not without much calculation
Check if your cell phone will work in destination
country. That usually means that cell phones have to have support for tri band
if you intend to cross the ocean
Don't take paper with printers. You can always get
paper at the hotel!
Check if it's possible to connect to company RAS using
GSM modem if everything else fails. Have in mind that this won't work in USA.
You have been warned.
Think about provide portable scanner if applicable to
your environment. You could send documents gathered on DD using e-mail if you
can scan them. OCR comes to mind, but it's not 100% accurate and main purpose
of DD is to make summary data, so usage for OCR is limited. Don't bring scanner
just to send documents electronically: portable scanners are hard to use and
slow: fax machines are much faster and robust.
Floppy disks are known to fail. You could use those
nice-looking USB RAM keys (with 32 Mb or so) to transfer files between laptops.
If you are lucky, you won't need to install any drivers for them to work.
Explore which connectivity is provided by hotel. It's
quote possible that you have modem connectivity, DSL connectivity and wireless.
It's also quite possible that hotel staff don't know that: ask for provider of
Internet connectivity and check with them. If you plan to use VPN server
software check with ISP that it can give you static IP address.
When planning to go to DD:
- send e-mail to team members remaining them to take floppy drives
with them (and that there is no need to take network cables if applicable)
- take administrator passwords for all laptops
- check voltage on equipment
- pre-install VPN software and printer drivers on laptops
- make CD with all pre-installed software (printer drivers, VPN
client) and put all available documents about DD on it too. Make two
copies (CDs are cheap!).
This is just a quick overview for you to go through
before you leave:
- check if you have power and telephone adapters
- check if you have means to buy needed adapters in place (money)
- check if VPN software is working
- check that you packed all equipment