5 mistakes you might be making with your company's IT infrastructure
Technology has changed the way that companies in most industries do business. From internal communications to external marketing and PR, market research to customer engagement, and decision-making through to execution, virtually every facet of modern business leans on technology or data in a significant way. Because of this reality, the average company’s IT infrastructure is the beating heart of the organization. Without workable IT, the average business won’t just be slowed down; it will be unable to function.
Most businesses have workable IT. However, many companies could be doing more with technology if they learned how to avoid these five common pitfalls of IT infrastructure design, operation, and maintenance.
Ignoring the cloud
There are two basic ways to operate an IT infrastructure: on-premise and in the cloud. While both setups have their pros and cons (as well as their fervent evangelists), there is no doubt that most businesses can benefit from moving at least some of their IT functions into the cloud.
Cloud systems don’t demand the in-house maintenance and upkeep necessary for on-prem servers. Switching to the cloud can free up your IT team to act as more than just a maintenance crew. Cloud-driven IT infrastructures are also more agile and capable of incorporating new features into your system.
Nearly all organizations (around 96 percent) were using some form of cloud computing in 2018. Don’t be one of the companies that isn’t.
Sticking with legacy systems or software
Getting in the habit of updating equipment and software is important for any IT team. What was a well-designed IT infrastructure five years ago is an obsolete one now. Continuing to use legacy systems might seem like a way to save money and avoid time-consuming overhauls, but it’s actually a costly and time-consuming burden.
A 2016 report from the American Council for Technology (ACT) and the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) estimated that federal agencies spend 75 percent of their IT budgets on maintaining legacy systems. Upgrading systems that are starting to look a little long in the teeth will minimize the burden of upkeep, bring new features into the fold, and offer greater stability and security for your IT system.
Not looking for opportunities to simplify
According to cybersecurity firm Bricata, most security professionals believe that securing a company’s network is likely to be more difficult in 2019 than it was in 2018. The number-one reason for this growing challenge is insider threats -- but right behind it is IT infrastructure complexity.
Most businesses are using dozens of different software platforms to meet their needs. Add the fact that most employees now access business IT resources from multiple devices (computer, cellphone, tablet, etc.), and it makes sense that IT infrastructure complexity is causing or exacerbating problems for security. There are other problems, too -- chiefly the steep learning curve and loss of productivity caused by complex IT systems.
The good news is that simplification is possible. There are probably software programs or apps in your company’s IT infrastructure that overlap or essentially do the same things. There may be opportunities to replace four or five older programs that each do one thing with a new program that does multiple things.
Trimming redundancies, consolidating your software applications, and looking for opportunities to integrate will make life easier for your employees while easing some of the security concerns of complex systems.
Getting locked into one or two vendors
While simplification of your IT infrastructure is a smart goal, don’t overdo it. One of the fastest-growing concerns in the IT world is the concept of vendor lock-in. A decade ago, hardly anyone was worried about this threat -- now, it’s a top concern for most IT experts.
The reason for the shift is the growth of cloud dependency and the rise of software-as-a-service (SaaS) reliance. Moving to the cloud often means signing contracts with several vendors for subscription-based services. The problem with these contracts is that they can make your business less agile from an IT perspective. Many companies sign longer contracts than they need to thanks to volume pricing offers from vendors. If/when they wish to change vendors, getting out of those contracts is difficult -- if not impossible. If you are using one vendor for multiple aspects of your IT infrastructure, your business may be even more strongly shackled to that vendor.
Paying a little extra for shorter, more flexible contracts is usually the smarter option -- as is balancing the push for simplification with the risk protection benefits of technology diversification.
Overlooking shifting staff support needs
As IT infrastructure as become more critical to the average business’s bottom line, the value of qualified IT teams has skyrocketed. To keep that value intact, it’s important to make sure that your IT employees have the bandwidth and expertise to manage your infrastructure. Check in with your IT team regularly and keep a close eye on how they are functioning within your organization. If they seem spread too thin, consider hiring more support to help out -- either as permanent employees or temporary contractors, a rising source of IT expertise in the gig economy.
Regardless of the type of employment contract you use or where you hire new staff, make sure to conduct thorough background checks on the people you hire. In addition to ensuring that each IT applicant’s skills meet the task at hand, you need to look for the same potential red flags that you might discover for any other applicant (such as a violent criminal history, fraud, or sex offender status).
Your IT workers need to be able to handle technology challenges that stymie everyone else on your team. Their skills, education, and work experience are extremely relevant to their eventual success or failure in a position with your company. Resume fabrications are simply a reality for modern HR departments and hiring managers -- each IT applicant should be checked and verified through responsible employment background screenings.
Your IT infrastructure should support your employees, enable new capabilities within your business, and unlock the power of data and technology. Making common infrastructure mistakes can significantly hamper the effectiveness of your IT. Where can your business improve?
Michael Klazema is Chief Marketing Technologist at VODW.com and has over two decades of experience in digital consulting, online product management, and technology innovation. He is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based backgroundchecks.com with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments.