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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

To Monitor or Not Monitor Your Network? That is the Question.

Posted by Nick Tichy on Jan 2, 2015 2:00:00 PM

networkWhat is a network? A network as defined by Merriam-webster is a system of computers, peripherals, terminals, and databases connected by communications lines. There are many types of networks. The biggest network is the internet which is a wide area network. A wide area network spans a large distance and is a collection of LANs or local area networks. A local area network connects network devices over a short distance. A school or home would be an example of a local area network.

In today’s networking world it is important to know if your equipment is running at maximum efficiency. There are some great tools out there to help us do that. Some tools are as simple as Angry IP Scanner which makes it easier to scan ip addresses and ports. Some of the more complex tools will not only allow you to monitor your network, but also allow you to monitor devices such as routers, switches, servers and much more. For the purpose of this blog we will talk about the complex type of network monitoring tools such as PRTG and Solarwinds.

All of the monitoring tools are a bit different in some way. The great thing about some monitoring tools (like PRTG and Solarwinds) is they will allow you to monitor the device plus certain characteristics of the device like the power voltage, temperatures, fan settings, and usage. Let’s say you are monitoring a router, and one of the fan’s goes out. You can be emailed and alerted of fan failure and some network monitor tools will even recommend that you replace the fan. Another example could be that you have a router and the temperature starts to climb up. The network monitoring tool can email you a warning letting you know the temperature is rising. This would allow you to hopefully find the issue on the router or at the very least troubleshoot what the issue could be.

prtg_sunNetwork monitoring tools such as PRTG or Solarwinds will allow some sort of map of your network, or tabs that will allow you to click into the device or expand the device to see what you have under the device.

Another handy feature that some network monitoring tools include is the ability to run reports. Running a report can be useful for a number of reasons. First and foremost running a report gives you the ability to see how well or not well your equipment and devices are running. You should be able to narrow the report down. Let’s look at the router again for an example. If we have been having temperature issues with the router we can go back and see if it has happened before. This can be handy and help identify trends. Maybe this has happened 7 times before in the last 2 months. Now might be a good time to look at the room it is in. There might be a cooling issue within the room that the router is stored. Or it could be a fan issue on the router. Running a report would allow you to see if the fans haven’t been running efficiently. This should help you pinpoint what the issue is.

Another option that some network monitoring tools will allow you to do is click into the device you are monitoring and see the history, logs, how much storage is left, usage, memory, free space on drives, and much more.

Since there are many network monitoring tools out there, you will want to research and decide what is best for your network and what is easiest for you and your company. You should have no problem finding one that will give you the features you are looking for.

For more information on network monitoring please contact NetWork Center, Inc.

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Topics: Network Security, Network Monitoring Tools, Computer Network, Network Monitoring

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