To keep up with the pace of innovation, businesses must be on their A-game. Alan Conboy, Office of the CTO at Scale Computing, discusses how businesses should be aware of unproductive, bad IT industry habits to avoid failure and destruction within their IT departments.
IT departments want to reap the most benefits from their IT infrastructures – there is no question about it. Having spent a lot of time and money building them, it is only natural for their return on investment to be top of mind. However, many IT departments make it very difficult for themselves to be satisfied with the quality of the infrastructure they buy. This is due to bad habits that the industry as a whole has developed over the years when it comes to spending. In honour of Halloween, here are five terrifying IT habits that will play mischief with your data centre budget.
1. An inability to let go
One of the key differentiating factors between IT and many other industries is that IT technology and hardware should not, and often will not, last forever. Investments such as houses, cars and even fashion warrant the mindset of ‘don’t fix something that isn’t broken’. The IT industry on the other hand, doesn’t, as it is constantly changing and developing, so much so that equipment and software can become a liability faster than many IT departments can plan for. Businesses should treat technology solutions as though they aren’t going to last forever – as perishable goods with a ‘use by’ date that may be sooner than expected.
New IT technologies are developed for a reason, so it is important for businesses to stay in-the-know when it comes to the latest solutions and understand the benefits they can bring over their current infrastructure. Continuing to deploy older solutions may be inefficient and lead to higher costs, which will put businesses on the back foot compared to those businesses that have implemented modern solutions which are often faster and more efficient. Organisations should begin to think of IT as less of a cost centre and more an investment centre that drives the business forward with improved technology. Refusing to let go of older technologies will cost businesses, since they will be held back from investing in technologies that give them a competitive edge.
2. Only investing in big brands
It is understandable that businesses want to place their trust in well-known brands with good reputations that deliver solid solutions. However, IT is an innovation industry fuelled by startups and entrepreneurs. Those larger brands that everyone has heard of are often startups that traded the energy they put into creativity for a focus on profit. In doing so, they can gain recognition for their brand name in order to raise prices and lock-in customers to lengthy contracts, as well as high maintenance and support fees.
Larger brands also have the tendency to acquire smaller companies in order to leverage their innovations. By taking on the technologies these smaller businesses have created, larger organisations can stamp their own branding on the product, along with a higher price tag. It is time for businesses to pay closer attention to startups in order to make use of the newer, more creative technologies they offer, often at a lower price. Businesses will therefore be paying for the merits of the solution and not for the brand name.
3. Separating technology into individual buckets
In the past, it made sense for the technology industry to divide IT infrastructure into individual components such as storage, servers, virtualisation, backup and disaster recovery. The problem with this is that it prevents IT professionals from taking a step back and seeing how all of these components can interact with each other in the bigger picture, while achieving their maximum potential. Unless the entire IT department can think about the whole IT vision, these individual technology ‘buckets’ cannot operate efficiently together.
It is therefore important that businesses look for opportunities to simplify and combine these technologies in order to avoid over-specialisation by IT professionals. Since complexity and isolated components can make efficiency and cost-effectiveness difficult, IT departments should be looking into solutions that combine varying technologies to make them more efficient and profitable.
4. Investing in too many vendors
Along similar lines with trying to keep track of too many technology ‘buckets’, investing in too many different vendors can become very complicated and costly for IT departments. Since each vendor will have different management interfaces, they will also have different documentation, different support contacts and different training and certification. There are also different versions, maintenance and patch schedules. This creates an entirely incompatible, unstable overall solution which is almost impossible to keep track of.
Of course, it is important for businesses to remain on the lookout for new vendor technologies that will improve business operations, but each of these components does not have to be provided by a separate vendor. There are some technologies that can be combined together – such as servers, storage and virtualisation – into a single vendor solution. Doing so simplifies training, management and support, as well as lowering costs.
Historically, vendors have tried to convince businesses to buy more than they had to in order to ‘plan for the future’. The only issue with this is that in IT, it is almost impossible to ascertain what a business’ technology needs will look like three or four years into the future. Solutions and their pricing change frequently, so in two or three years businesses will likely be able to purchase newer and improved technologies at a lower price than one might pay now. Over-provisioning now by attempting to guess what a business’ needs will be in the future is not a worthy investment.
One answer to this conundrum is for businesses to seek and invest in solutions that are easily scaled up or down. With this capability, IT departments can buy exactly what they need, when they need it. In the future, they will be able to scale with faster and bigger capacity when necessary. With this flexibility, businesses can make use of the latest technologies in the future, when they become available – their IT infrastructure will be ‘future-proofed’.
As IT is constantly challenging its users to do more with less, businesses should be wary of these unproductive, bad IT industry habits so as not to turn their IT departments into horror shows. By taking note of new technologies from smaller companies that can be easily managed as one solution, companies can prepare for the future without breaking their budgets. Moving past these old IT habits will allow IT departments to do more with less, making IT simpler and more efficient, both now and into the future.