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6 Signs You Are Outgrowing Your IT Environment

Posted by Jon Ryan on Jan 11, 2017 10:57:22 AM

You hear it all of the time. “We don’t need to change our IT infrastructure. Everything is working fine.” But in many cases, everything is not fine. In fact, it’s probably worse than you think. Operating on an outdated IT infrastructure can have a substantial impact on your business and the morale of the people working within it. Here are 6 signs that you may be outgrowing that ‘perfect’ infrastructure.

#1 - Hearing Complaints from Users about the IT Department

In many businesses there is unfortunately a negative consensus about the IT department. Personality issues aside, the main reason users view the IT department negatively is that things just don’t work well. It seems like IT is always fixing something, or performing updates on something. Granted you can’t please everyone all the time. But you can recognize when your environment needs to be addressed. Keeping a pulse on the feelings of your users is important. I recommend starting a “Technology Committee” made up of power users. It’s a great place to think up new ideas, understand each department process, and monitor changes that may need some IT backbone to support it. 

#2 - Bottlenecks in Production

Your IT infrastructure is the highway for your data. But it’s not just about data only. It’s about supporting your company’s business process, production schedule, and labor requirements. Having an outdated infrastructure can have an impact on how smoothly everything is running. See sign #1 above.  If your infrastructure is making your production slow down, it’s time to reassess. Having a clear understanding of what those requirements are is crucial when making IT changes or technology purchases.

#3 - Users are not Working Efficiently apple-desk-office-working-8841.jpg

“Wait, you do that every time you run an order?” You’d be surprised what users have adopted as their ‘process’ to accomplish their job. Especially if the technology doesn’t support them to be more efficient. Get into the mind of your users. Take an honest look at what they have to do on a daily basis and ask yourself if you are providing the best infrastructure and tools for them to be successful. Making your users happy is important, but keeping upper management happy is paramount. If management realizes they are wasting labor on inefficient processes, you don’t want to be the cause of it.

#4 - Users Start Suggesting or Are Using Other Programs 

You have these ‘perfect’ tools and processes in place for everyone to do their job. But then you start to hear users recommending other ways to do things. Whether it’s a different program or a different way to handle data, a good sign that it is time to take a look at your infrastructure is when your users are using other tools than the ones provided. This can be a nightmare to manage and support. One user is using Google docs, another is working off an external hard drive, and some people just don’t know where to put their data.  Standardize on your technology. Pick programs or processes that support the majority of your users. Implement it and TRAIN your users how to use it. Adoption of any technology can be difficult.

#5 - Server Resources are being Consumed Past Its Limitations

This is probably one of the easiest ones to react to. But, sometimes the hardest to get in front of. Everything seems to be running like clockwork, then all of a sudden, your data drive has 1% open space left. Or you get a call that people can’t log into the Citrix server. Time to start putting out fires. But what if you could budget and prepare for growth ahead of time? You can, it just takes some checks and balances when it comes to your infrastructure. Do routine checks of server resources. Set quotas on server shares for end users. Make sure your IT processes are efficient and perform to support the size of your user and data workforce.

light-bulb-current-light-glow-40889.jpeg#6 - Don’t Actively Support a Mobile Workforce

“Get with the times, man!” Mobile data and application usage is the future of computing. Other companies are doing it and giving their users access from anywhere on the globe. Opening that technology to your users can drive productivity and increase the overall profitability of a company. In many cases adopting the mobility model of business is no more expensive than the old technology. Like using Office 365 for email instead of buying and supporting an onsite exchange server. Your users are talking to other companies too and hearing about mobility. Make sure to bring it to the table before your users do.

Becoming content with your IT infrastructure is easy to do. Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken, right? But changing your perception of what ‘broken’ means is the key. Actively review your environment. Take those free lunch and learn meetings. Explore new technologies. You may be surprised how outdated your current technology is. Contact Network Center, Inc. for more information on future technology, free technology presentations, and how we can help you avoid having an outdated IT infrastructure.

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Topics: IT Infrastructure

7 Future-Proofing IT Practices for Your Business

Posted by Jon Ryan on Jul 17, 2015 2:00:00 PM

futureSo here it is, the answer to all of your business questions. Ok, so maybe not the answer to all of them, but at least some insight on looking forward and being as prepared for the future as possible. We all know that it’s not what you deal with in life, but how you deal with it that makes all the difference. Being prepared for diversity and change within your business will help solidify future IT infrastructure. 

As with any article, everyone’s IT environment is unique to their business. So while these practices may not exactly match your environment, they are thought points to get you thinking of ways to help future proof your company for years to come.

1. Plan for Expandability

When choosing your IT Infrastructure, you have to be cautious not to limit yourself for future expandability. It’s important to look at your current resources and plan for approximately 20 - 30 percent growth over the next 3 – 5 years. This will account for average to good growth. Even if you don’t grow at that rate, you are at least capable of growing to that size without making a significant investment in your infrastructure.

That doesn’t mean you have to buy a bunch of processing, memory, and storage up front. But you can choose hardware that is expandable. This is where some of the higher server cost comes from. Entry level servers are often times limited to specifications such as a single processor and maximum of 32GB of RAM. For a business looking to eventually get rid of onsite hardware, these are great servers to buy you a couple more years until you can phase it out completely.

Essentially, expandability means not painting yourself into a corner with your technology. Make sure to share your growth predications and expectations with your IT consultant to design the best fit for future expandability.

2. Look at More Than One Option to Solve a Problem

Sometimes the hottest problem is the one that gets all the attention when upgrading your IT Infrastructure. It’s easy to get “caught up in the now” of an IT limitation especially when it is a forced upgrade. In many cases the immediate problem is a pre-cursor for more problems to come. You should try to ask yourself “What else is affected by this?” “How will this change impact what we are looking at doing in the future?” “Is there a change that we can make that will fix this problem and prepare us for future changes?”

You don’t want to purchase the same hardware 18 months later. It’s easier sometimes to use the band aide method of “patching” a problem. Depending on the issue, many times it’s your infrastructure telling you there is a need. So instead of replacing the same hardware with newer same hardware, look at options of changing the current way your infrastructure is setup to accommodate future changes.

3. Have a Documented Disaster Recovery Plan and Test It Often

When everything starts to “hit the fan,” what is your plan for recovery? Many businesses have a “plan” or idea of what to do when their systems fail. But having a documented plan will help you react more quickly and consistently if you ever experience a disaster. Many people also relate a “Disaster” to something like a tornado, or flooding. In which case there are more things to deal with than just their infrastructure. But disasters can range from theft, power outage or internal sprinkler damage to the extreme cases. Some may even consider complete server hardware failure due to a power spike or general failure a disaster scenario.

Having an off-site disaster recovery plan will help you prepare for the worst. But in some cases, when it needs to be activated, it fails or is a convoluted process. The easiest way to document your disaster recovery plan is to design it with an engineer and get a clear understanding of what it will take to fire it off. Then, once it’s installed, test it. You should test your DR plan 1-2 times a year. It will give you and your organization some comfort as well as expose weak points in the process. You may need to upgrade your switching if your data processing requirements have grown.

4. Actively Monitor your Network & Server Performance

It’s your daily operation. Pushing data in, out, and around your network. Network and server performance are the veins and heart of your infrastructure. Just like an EKG scan, network and server monitoring can give you insight to how fluidly data is moving, choke points, and predictive failures. Performance monitoring can also help identify trends. At 3pm every day your network may run really slow. Having that information can assist in finding a process that could be pushing too much data during the work day. You can also identify suspicious network activity related to viruses or malware.

5. Review your Business Processes Frequently

As your business grows, so should your business processes. One of the problems a business can run into is upgrading their infrastructure but not their business process. It’s like putting twice the size engine in your car, but still only driving at 20 MPH. Although the growth of your business will dictate the frequency, we recommend you do a business process review no less than once a year. Performing regular Business Process Reviews will help you predict process issues and take advantage of all of the tools you have available now and in the future.

6. Build a Technology Team of your Employees

You would be surprised how many of your employees would volunteer for a technology committee. One of the stumbling blocks in using technology is getting a grasp on it. Instead of just leaving it up to a single IT administrator to train the company on new technology, use a technology team. This will give you more insight to your technology from different perspectives. It will also allow you the welcome input of efficiencies and improvements from your team. Ultimately steering your future IT purchases in a direction that is fully beneficial to your company.

7. Invest in your Technology

It’s easy to see improving technology as an expense instead of an investment. But having visibility in all of the previous points in this blog can help you make decisions that are not wasted. One of the biggest fears is buying all of this technology and only using 10% of it. Getting a clear vision of why you are purchasing the infrastructure you are looking at and what it can do for you now and in preparation for the future will make that decision easier. Quantizing your investment is important too. Instead of looking at the purchasing number and cringing, think about the efficiencies it brings to your business and where it will take you in the future.

For more information on any of the points listed in this blog, please contact us. We’d love to talk to you about where you are now and what you want to do to future proof your business.

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Topics: Network Monitoring, IT practices, expandability, Disaster Recovery Plan, IT Infrastructure

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