What is I.T. infrastructure management?
If you are considering adopting a Managed IT Services approach to your business operations, why stop there? Why not think about outsourcing your IT infrastructure management too? And if you’re going to go that far, why not go even further to enhance efficiency and cost-effectiveness, by capitalising on the capabilities of cloud computing, and adopting Infrastructure as a Service?
After all, without a well-managed, well-maintained, effective infrastructure, you can’t expect IT services to operate efficiently or to deliver the benefits you are hoping for. So, it makes perfect business, financial and operational sense to let your Managed IT Services provider manage your IT infrastructure too.
But whether you choose to move to cloud computing and Infrastructure as a Service, or continue with a more traditional approach, what exactly would managed IT infrastructure management include?
Essentially, your IT infrastructure comprises everything required for you to make use of your technology, information, and data. So, it includes not only computers and servers, but also the network, data, storage, physical and virtual facilities, and all the functions which help to keep them operating - from software to processes, and policies to security.
However, effective IT infrastructure management is not simply some kind of on-call engineering service.
While a Managed IT Services provider will obviously help to ensure your infrastructure keeps up and running – through continual monitoring and proactive support – managing your IT infrastructure means much, much more.
The business of infrastructure
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, an important element of this will be to minimise downtime and optimise productivity, but always with your business objectives in mind.
Divide and prosper
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 will cover 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 is aimed at ensuring proper allocation of resources to applications and services and 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, will be part of network management responsibilities.
Storage management 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 the utilisation of the network.
Despite the depth and breadth of the services which 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.
The benefits of IT infrastructure management
Now it’s clear what IT infrastructure management entails, the next question is: how does it benefit businesses?
The short answer is that 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 underlying 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 of some kind. Its greater flexibility will enable it to adjust to evolving industry standards and internal requirements. Procedures will also be more flexible and agile, which will in turn enable proactive management strategies.
By automating a larger proportion of work, the well-managed infrastructure will also help to reduce the labour resource 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 internal employee resource more time to focus on anticipating and meeting the strategic demands of the business, alongside scaling and innovating for competitive growth.
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-premises data centres, to save money on hardware, and to increase IT resource reliability and flexibility, and 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 resource you need will always be available. If demand spikes, the resource 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.
So now you know exactly what IT infrastructure management is, what could possibly be stopping you from using it for your business? Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you.