There are many components that all have to work together to ensure a healthy technology environment. From hardware and software, to network and cloud services, businesses need to get a full understanding of how these technologies interact with each other and what dependencies exist that can limit your IT growth. Here are some tips to help avoid “Technology Gridlock.”
Software Drives Hardware Technology
The world’s next best revolutionary software application is always just around the corner. There are 10,000+ new software patent ideas each year that come out of Silicon Valley alone. Not to mention the rest of the world. Commercial software vendors are upgrading their software at a rapid rate. You used to be able to see 1 – 2 software updates released yearly. Now, software manufacturers are kicking out updates and upgrades like baby penguins jumping into the pool at SeaWorld.
With all of that new “advanced” software technology and processing, hardware vendors are forced to increase the performance of their aging products. Microsoft comes out with a new operating system that increases the use of more RAM and faster processors makes hardware vendors step up their game and design better, faster machines to harness that power. At one time it was thought that Microsoft and hardware vendors were in cahoots to keep consumers interested in upgrading their systems.
“So get to the gridlock part already.” Well, here it is. Hardware is limited right out of the box. Your shiny new server won’t be able to run faster than its rated speed. (For this example, we’ll assume overclocking or hyper-cooling isn’t a viable business option.) So as this newer and faster software is released, you upgrade to it. Why not, right? To a certain extent, yes. But where you can get into trouble is supported processor platforms and firmware support for newer technology running on older systems. Many software companies will release system requirement specifications for this situation specifically. The OS you are running may be supported, but your server’s hardware architecture may not. Be sure to consult your software vendor before making a purchase to verify the compatibility with your current hardware situation.
Keep Your Service Agreements Active
Even though it feels like you are paying for an insurance policy that never ends, it is a best practice to keep your hardware AND software service agreements active. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages tenfold. As your environment matures, so does your reliance on technology advancements. Those advancements can only be unlocked using your current hardware and software through upgrades or add-ons.
Failing to hold service agreements can result in back-billing in order to to get your current, or penalty charges to put you in an active support state. Not only can this be a financial burden, you may not be able to upgrade your ERP solution because your storage controller firmware is on too old of a revision. Falling behind on updates, upgrades, or versioning changes, can leave your systems unpatched, vulnerable, or broken.
Latest Isn’t Always Greatest
What about all of those great updates and upgrades you get from your service agreements? Upgrade everything right away, right? Technology can be a tricky business. I was once told that you never buy the first year of a new body design for any car or truck. The manufacturer hasn’t spent any substantial amount of time fixing their design flaws. The same can be said for firmware, software and Operating System upgrades.
Upgrading any of these technologies can cause other technologies to cease functioning at an acceptable rate. Many support companies like Network Center, Inc. will often recommend waiting for a service pack to be released, or a version .1 to come out before fully committing to a new release. In any case, you must be ready to roll back to a previous version if you upgrade and everything goes down. Test, test, test and test again if needed. Setup a test environment if needed. Pick a UAT (User Acceptance Testing) group to look for gaps and make sure everything doesn’t come to a screeching halt. There is no rush into new technology, even if it is just a versioning change.
Take a Holistic Approach to Your Technology
This is the old adage - fixing one thing, breaks another. Your company’s ability to work at a high rate of efficiency is a result of the sum of all of its parts. There are individual technology pieces in your company but not one item can be overlooked. Each part of your daily activities makes up your business process. So any changes, or lack of changes, can have a serious impact on your daily process.
Dependencies are a huge part of the holistic approach. Most pieces of a process have dependencies on another. Once one part of the process is completed, then the next phase can start. This works on the hardware, software and process level. Having all of your technology documented and mapped out can better identify what dependencies your processes have on hardware, software, and other technologies. Just remember it can be a domino effect if you aren’t mindful of all dependencies.
It Sometimes Makes More Sense to Replace Then Continually Patch
Aging of technology is inevitable. Hardware manufacturers will release newer models and no longer support older hardware. Software vendors will sometimes totally abandon a piece of software to move into newer technology. Case in point, dropping a custom database to move everything to a SQL database. In these cases, you are forced to move up and make a significant change.
But what happens when technology is stagnant for a period. And when I use the word “stagnant” I mean slows down greatly. It’s possible that you are running a piece of software that has reached its full maturity. The software vendor has since moved on or shut down completely and just provided patches. Or like in many cases, your needs have outgrown your software provider’s offerings. Your option then is just to patch, or make a complete change in technology and likely process.
In these cases, making a change before you have to, gives you time to plan, train, and execute. Getting caught at the end of the line with a piece of hardware or software forces you to stop your growth or limit your success. So plan ahead, look at your future and the future of your technology. Don’t get caught in Technology Gridlock.
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