There are so many different components involved in managing a business in today’s modern world. Your technologies are just one in a long list of assets that need to be effectively maintained, which is why IT management often ends up being handled on a case-by-case basis.
You buy new devices when you need them. You update software as the warnings on each device pops up. You find that you’re running out of cloud storage, so you buy more. But this reactive approach to IT infrastructure management is not only inefficient, it’s holding your company back.
What Is IT Infrastructure Management?
Managing IT infrastructure effectively means taking a more proactive approach to maintaining, updating and assigning technology resources for your business. When done right, IT infrastructure management can see your company forming a holistic, rather than a piece-meal strategy to organise your technology. By looking at software, hardware and network as a whole, businesses are able to align resources to their current and future goals, lower operational costs, ensure business continuity, and more.
What Are The 4 Primary Components Of IT Infrastructure?
Effective infrastructure takes into account all of the technologies, IT services, cloud solutions and resources that your company is using. It can be broken down into four main IT infrastructure management components, which many businesses often manage individually, rather than looking at them as parts of a whole.
The devices that your business uses need to work effectively for your business to run smoothly. These can include laptops and PCs for your humans, routers and switches within your office, servers and hard disks that are stored in your data centre, even the minutia like computer mice, keyboards, second screens, headphones, handheld telephones.
Managing your hardware can mean keeping track of different devices that belong to your business, managing their maintenance and repairs where necessary, and budgeting for upgrades and replacements.
Whether it’s the operating systems on your devices, the apps and services that you access on them, your web servers, or the security portal that you’re using to manage the access to your network and cloud services, the software that helps your business to operate efficiently needs regular maintenance.
Managing your software can include putting measures in place to monitor the apps that are being used across your teams and devices, regularly installing updates and patches across entire systems (rather than on one device at a time), and training your teams on how to use your company’s preferred apps and services, increasing adoption, improving productivity, and reducing the risk of Shadow IT having an impact on your business security.
Your network is the platform that you and your humans use to connect to apps and services, access your company resources, and transfer data to and from devices. As you can imagine, in a digital world where everything needs to be accessible at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse, your network is critical to your daily operations.
While part of managing a network means managing hardware like routers and switches, and part of it means managing software updates and web servers, there is also the maintenance of the network itself. This can include the physical maintenance like the laying of cables and configuration of routers, or the virtual configuring of firewalls to ensure optimal network security, managing contracts with suppliers and vendors, and supporting your humans who need to connect to the network across their range of devices.
Business resources come in different forms. There are the humans who help your company to run day-to-day, there are the resources within their devices like memory and processing power which help them to run effectively, and then there are the resources that your servers and networks use to operate at optimum efficiency.
Managing your resources can mean assigning the right people to the right roles, ensuring that they have the tools that they need to work productively, ensuring that devices are running smoothly, and assigning resources like memory, processing power and storage space to your servers and cloud infrastructure to ensure that your data can be maintained and processed effectively.
What Are The Benefits Of Optimal IT Infrastructure Management?
When looking at the components of IT infrastructure, it’s likely that you’ll realise that you are already managing these areas on an individual basis. You may have a manager handling network monitoring, an IT team who know how to troubleshoot software issues, a supplier for your devices. But the real question is whether these areas come together as a whole, or if they are each being looked at in their own little bubble.
When these components come together to form an effective IT infrastructure management system, there are a number of benefits that companies experience:
• Becoming Proactive Rather Than Reactive
When you’re constantly putting out fires, there is little time to look ahead. You are having to implement last minute (often costly) fixes, when your time and money would better be spent on initiatives that tie into your company goals. Because IT infrastructure management is all about looking at your technologies as a whole, it gives you the insight that you need to identify risks and areas that need improvement across the different infrastructure components, and take proactive measures to ensure that these issues are addressed, rather than only dealing with them when they become an immediate threat.
• Enhanced Business Continuity
Time is everything, and downtime can be a business’ downfall. When infrastructure falls over, whether it’s due to age, to an attack, to ineffective maintenance, or a lack of forethought, the result for companies is devastating. But when IT infrastructure management runs smoothly, the potential for this to occur is greatly reduced. When you’re proactive in your thinking and planning, by implementing a business continuity service for example, you can prioritise fixes and upgrades that will reduce the risk of your critical operations becoming compromised, and put measures in place for keeping core functionality available, even if disaster strikes.
• Employees Work More Efficiently
Picture the scene: your computer is running slowly. You call your IT team to try and figure out what the issue is, and they tell you it must be your internet connectivity – phone your internet provider. Your ISP tells you your connectivity is perfect, that it must be the work network. You phone the IT team again, and this time are told that it might be one of your drivers that needs to be updated. Back and forth you go from person to person, trying to find out what the issue might be. And all the while, you are getting exactly zero work done.
Now imagine this scenario happening for every one of your employees, whether on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
This is what happens when IT infrastructure is managed inefficiently. The buck gets passed from team to team, and the result is chaos for your humans, delays for your company, and a lack of productivity across the board. But when you are managing your infrastructure as a whole rather than piece by piece, IT support becomes about more than troubleshooting – it becomes about looking at an entire scenario, rather than just part of the story. The result for your humans is faster and more effective problem resolution, devices that are optimally maintained without their needing to intervene, and fewer interruptions to their workflow, seeing them becoming more productive and working efficiently.
• Reduced Costs And Overheads
Technologies are expensive. There is no two ways about it. And having to implement emergency fixes to bring systems back online becomes even more expensive, as you lose the benefit of being able to shop around for the lowest price, or opt for slower delivery to save on shipping. You need the problem to be fixed yesterday, and the costs involved have to be paid now.
But when your IT infrastructure management is proactive, these last minute fixes are less of a risk. You have the benefit of time, which is a critical advantage in effectively managing and maintaining your technologies. Having a full overview also allows you to allocate budget well in advance, seeing your business operating with predictable monthly expenditure rather than having to pay extortionate fees when systems break down.
What Challenges Do Businesses Face With Managing IT Infrastructure?
If you’ve gotten this far, you can clearly see the benefits of putting IT infrastructure project management in place. And that’s a great first step! But I don’t want to tell you that the road to implementing IT infrastructure management is a smooth one. There are a number of challenges that businesses face when prioritising IT infrastructure.
• Finding The Right Tools For The Job
There are a wide range of IT infrastructure management tools available, and to choose the right one for your business, you will need to have a deep understanding of your needs and goals.
For example, if you’re looking for software that will help you to maintain your on-premises infrastructure, Microsoft Azure won’t be the ideal platform for you, since it is aimed at managing cloud services like virtual machines and cloud storage. Windows Admin Centre, on the other hand, will help you to manage Windows servers and devices that are running Windows 10 all from a single location. Then there’s the Identity and Access Management solution, your Cloud Access Broker, and so many other pieces of technology that you will need to decide on in order to effectively manage your IT infrastructure.
• Outdated Systems & Technology
You may be ready to put more effective IT infrastructure management in place, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your systems are ready to work effectively. One of the biggest challenges that businesses face when deciding to take a more holistic approach to managing their IT infrastructure, is that as soon as they start putting measures in place, they realise how much work needs to be done.
While IT infrastructure management is more effective for businesses in the long term, it can require significant investment of time and resources at the outset as the outdated systems and technologies that need to be addressed are likely to require a good deal of attention.
• Poor Network Structure & Connectivity
One aspect that makes IT infrastructure management difficult to implement is when a company has a poorly structured network to start out with. This places significant limitations on what can be accomplished through infrastructure management, since it will make it difficult to effectively monitor and manage network performance, and ensure the best possible connectivity and accessibility for your humans.
• Ineffective Data Management
Data is at the core of any business, but so many companies are managing their data inefficiently. They store multiple versions of the same files, one more outdated than the last. They gather unending amounts of information but never process or analyse it. They may keep their data within the cloud, but they don’t have backups of it, putting themselves at risk for a ransomware attack. They have no access management in place, making it difficult to keep track of who is accessing which files, and why.
All of this ineffective management of data makes it difficult to implement effective IT infrastructure management. You will need to have a clear understanding of where and how your data is structured, stored and accessed before you can start making decisions on priorities for enhancing your infrastructure and seeing it work better for your business.
• Putting Policies In Place
You can spend hours as a management team deciding on the best possible IT infrastructure security management policies and access policies in place. But putting them into effect is another story, which involves getting buy in from all stakeholders (including your employees), training your teams on how and why these policies are going to impact their roles, and regularly analysing and measuring the success of the initiatives. Without taking all of these steps, you can find that your business is inundated with policies, but without any of them having the desired effect of improving your IT infrastructure management.
• Not Having The Right Team For The Job
Not every business out there has the capacity, the experience or the skills to effectively manage their IT infrastructure. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) especially need to prioritise their company goals and ensure that every human they employ is working towards those specific aims and objectives, rather than filling an IT role. Managing IT infrastructure simply isn’t a priority that they can address internally. Even those businesses who do have internal IT teams often don’t have the time or the right skill sets to holistically manage every aspect of the company’s IT infrastructure.
How Can Solid Systems Help?
Whether you’re an SME looking to enhance your IT infrastructure management projects, are looking for a Managed IT Services partner to provide you with guidance in your IT infrastructure management journey, or need advice on the best next steps that your business could be taking, Solid Systems is here to help.
We work with companies in South Africa and around the world in putting together strategic technology plans that allow for enhanced IT infrastructure management, and ensure that the technologies that you put in place and helping your humans to connect to each other, connect with your business, and live their best lives. Making sure that your IT infrastructure is managed as effectively as possible, that the challenges in implementing a management strategy are considered in full and addressed in the best way possible, and that your technologies are helping you to reach your business goals is all part and parcel of the Managed IT Services that we pride ourselves on.
So if you’re ready to make IT infrastructure management a priority for your business, and are looking for a partner who can help you on the journey, get in touch with us today.