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What is infrastructure management?

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The term “infrastructure management” applies to many different industries, but in the context of IT, it refers to the hardware, software, on-premise servers, networks and other systems essential for delivering IT services.  

IT infrastructure management can be complex, and many organisations can’t give their full attention to the ongoing process. This can lead to spiralling costs and a slower time to market.  

To enhance efficiency and cost optimisation, many businesses are experimenting with cloud computing and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This, combined with IT modernisation means businesses can take control of IT spend, decrease their carbon footprint, and secure their tech stacks for the future.  

What are IT infrastructure management services?

Servers continually need to be updated and patched for security and performance, which can be both resource and time intensive - but it doesn’t have to be this way.

For businesses unable to devote the time, cost and resources needed to effectively manage their infrastructure, it’s time to consider IT infrastructure management services.

Your IT infrastructure comprises everything required for you to make use of your technology, information, and data. So, IT infrastructure management services include not only computers and servers, but also the network, data, storage, physical and virtual facilities, and all the functions that help to keep them operating - from software to processes, and policies to security.

However, effective IT infrastructure management is not just an on-call engineering service.

While a Managed IT Services provider will help to ensure your infrastructure keeps up and running – through continual monitoring and proactive support – managing your IT infrastructure means much, much more.

No-one maintains a car engine simply to see it running. The engine is the means to get the vehicle from A to B, quickly and fuel-efficiently. In the same way, effective IT infrastructure management isn’t there just to keep the infrastructure operating. It should also be aligned with your business goals.

It should, for example, aim to make it quicker and easier to:

  • leverage your IT for enhanced productivity
  • retrieve and leverage your business information
  • scale up to meet demand
  • function more efficiently to enhance the end-user experience  

Of course, a crucial element of this will be to minimise downtime and optimise productivity, but always with your business objectives in mind.

Learn how we designed and delivered a revised infrastructure for National Rail Enquiries, enabling them to meet fluctuation demand and remove the complexity of day-to-day management.

What about Infrastructure as a Service?

The ultimate development in IT infrastructure management is to move to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). This utilises cloud computing to reduce the costs and inconvenience of on-premise data centres, save money on hardware, increase IT resource reliability and flexibility, and improve business continuity.

Available as part of a Managed IT Services offering, IaaS operates on the servers, software, network, and storage devices that make up the cloud. It is, in effect, a data centre infrastructure without a data centre, because it’s virtual and utilised over the internet.

No on-premise data centre means no on-premise data centre costs – such as physical servers and infrastructure – for your business. It also means lower costs in other areas because you never pay for capabilities, capacity, and infrastructure that you don’t need or when you are not using them. Each resource is offered separately as an individual component of the service, so you pay for each one when – and only when – you need it, for as long – and only as long – as you do.

The scalability and flexibility of IaaS also means that the resources you need will always be available. If demand spikes, the resources will increase to meet it – almost immediately. And if you decide to launch a new product, project, or initiative, you can expect whatever IT infrastructure you need to be ready in minutes – or hours at most – rather than in days or weeks. Apps can be delivered to users faster and will perform with efficiency and high availability right from the start.

IaaS also enhances business security. With the appropriate service agreement in place, you can benefit from a level of security for your applications which is far more comprehensive and robust than any you could install or afford in-house. And the same applies to maintaining business continuity and preparing for disaster recovery. The vast majority of businesses simply cannot match the resources of an IaaS provider.

Benefits of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

There are many benefits to Infrastructure as a Service. Primarily, an effective IT infrastructure management service can improve a business’s IT operations from simply ‘good’ to nothing less than ‘great’.  

It does this in several ways, but underlining them all are greater ease of operation, greater clarity of information and reporting, and cost savings.

For example, a well-managed IT infrastructure can respond more rapidly to change – whether that’s positive change such as a growth in demand, or negative, such as critical disruption. Greater flexibility will enable it to adjust to evolving industry standards and internal requirements. Procedures will also be more flexible and agile, enabling proactive management strategies.

By automating a larger proportion of work, the well-managed infrastructure will also help to reduce the labour resources required, reduce costs, and mitigate the impact of events and incidents. At the same time, planning for capacity will be made easier and more efficient.  

Overall, IT decisions – such as when and how to change and upgrade systems – will be taken based on more comprehensive information, data, and knowledge, and therefore the decisions are more likely to be the correct ones.

The additional benefits of outsourcing your IT infrastructure management to a Managed IT Services provider are even greater productivity and flexibility, and reduced risk (due to greater security and higher levels of continuity), together with lower costs.

Last but not least, IT infrastructure management as part of a managed IT services provision streamlines your business’s day-to-day functions and operations, giving your employees more time to focus on anticipating and meeting the strategic demands of the business, alongside scaling, and innovating for competitive growth.

Types of infrastructure services

Depending on the size of your organisation, your IT infrastructure will be more or less complex. For larger set-ups, a Managed IT Services company will often divide IT infrastructure management into three separate categories: systems, network, and storage.

Systems management

This category covers the administration of typical data centre IT assets, together with workload automation, configuration management, and cloud-based applications management. Asset lifecycles, maintenance, and service updates can also come under this heading.

Network management

Aimed at ensuring proper allocation of resources to applications and services, this category is responsible for guaranteeing quality and availability of IT services. Network management also covers security, as a well-maintained, visible, and transparent network is essential for protecting against hackers, fraudsters, and other cybercriminals. Both wired and wireless networks, and mobile connectivity, are part of network management responsibilities.

Storage management

This category helps to make the most efficient use of costly and finite storage space, by careful management of storage systems and resources. This can include virtualisation, provisioning, and compression, and will also involve security.

In addition, truly comprehensive and effective IT infrastructure management will take responsibility for network capacity monitoring and planning, energy consumption, and even environmental issues related to utilisation of the network.

Despite the depth and breadth of the services that come under the remit of IT infrastructure management, they are hardly ever noticed – unless something goes wrong. Taking place largely behind the scenes, real-time or near real-time management and monitoring, and being proactive rather than reactive, allows IT infrastructure management to be pretty much invisible - if productivity is maintained.

What are the 7 domains of IT infrastructure?

No matter what size your business is, most IT infrastructures will consist of seven key domains. Each domain will require proper security controls as each one is viewed as an attack portal if countermeasures are missing or failing.  

User domain

The user domain represents the users who can access the IT infrastructure from either inside or outside the network. As people are often the weakest link in IT security, it’s essential for organisations to address any risks associated with users.  

To mitigate risks in this domain, strong security controls and policies need to be in place. This can include robust password policies, multi-factor authentication (MFA), acceptable use policies, access privilege management, and cybersecurity training.

Workstation domain

This domain includes the device that is used to access the IT infrastructure - i.e., computers, laptops, smartphones etc. Workstations can easily be infected with viruses or malware and can be accessed by hackers if not protected.

Risk mitigation includes computer hardening which will make the computer more resistant to cyber intrusion from malicious attacks. Businesses should implement strong controls through software revisions, security patches, system configuration, and the use of anti-virus, anti-malware, and strong passwords.

Local area network (LAN) domain

The LAN domain consists of all technologies that establish the local area network and connect to the IT infrastructure. LANs are a key target for cyber attacks, so strong controls are needed to mitigate risks.  

Businesses can use segmentation to divide the network for different users based on access controls. They can also implement egress filtering on the firewall, network security protocols to encrypt communication, and ensure any data transported through the network’s connections stays safe and secure.

LAN to wide area network (WAN) domain

This domain is where the IT infrastructure is connected to the internet. It’s complex, so security protocols need to be robust. A best practice in security is “defense in depth” which means securing resources through a variety of controls, ensuring that if one fails, there are other defenses in place to act as backups. A firewall should be in place between the WAN and LAN, and another should exist between the DMZ (demilitarised zone) and LAN.  

WAN domain

The WAN domain includes other businesses, websites, and external users, with end users communicating with the LAN via virtual private network (VPN), file transfer protocol (FTP), or secure shell (SSH). To mitigate risks, businesses should prop up the LAN-to-WAN domain and use firewalls, as well as carry out regular penetration tests.

System/application storage domain

The system/application domain comprises all systems and software applications that users access. This could include web servers, application services, apps, and proprietary software. Mitigating risks in this domain should include the following:

  • Data loss prevention systems
  • System/software maintenance and patching
  • Anti-malware and anti-virus software
  • User training and awareness

Remote access domain

This domain is where employees access the IT infrastructure remotely. As the remote element introduces risks, a VPN should be used to provide a secure remote access connection across the internet. Other risk mitigation efforts should include MFA, regular audits, login attempt monitoring and strict firewall access control lists (ACLs).

What are the challenges of managing IT infrastructure?

Just as there are many benefits to IaaS and infrastructure management, there are some challenges too.  

Outdated or slow hardware is a significant challenge in infrastructure management, no matter how sophisticated the operating system is. This problem can make it difficult to integrate new solutions or processes if you’re having to update to new hardware all the time and find pieces that integrate well.  

Ideally, hardware should be repaired or updated over a course of five years – its general lifespan. It’s good practice to start with the oldest hardware and work up to the newest, regularly checking that any updates are made in line with the overall IT and business strategy.

For businesses to operate smoothly, high-speed internet is a must. Working with a managed service provider who has access to the right connections that can provide maximum speeds and high availability can help to overcome this challenge.  

Some other challenges with IT infrastructure management include problems with data management, resource retention, inefficient data storage architectures, capital investment issues, and mobile workforces.  

Nasstar solutions for infrastructure management

Maintaining your infrastructure is essential. Outsourcing this element of your IT function can help to relieve your IT team of infrastructure issues and asset management tasks that take up a huge chunk of time, enabling them to focus on more strategic goals.

At Nasstar, we can take the pressure off, with three core services including inventory and asset management, infrastructure review, and 24/7 proactive monitoring.  

Learn more here or speak to our team today and find out how we can support your business.