Properly done, IT can be a profit center rather than a cost center. IT can make you money if you do it right. Your IT systems have to ability to handle routine tasks and reveal new ways to do things if you use them with some forethought. Let’s look at some ways to do this.
1. Stay Current-or Not: Upgrade your equipment on a regular schedule when needed.
The IT world changes very rapidly. One of the hardest things to do is stay current on the latest in technology and methods. This is where a good partner becomes an asset. Work with a trusted partner and develop a relationship. They can guide you into the latest and greatest for your needs.
Equipment is typically designed for a three-year lifecycle. It can be used longer, but you may not be doing yourself a favor as newer technology can give you a big boost in performance of your systems or a reduction in the amount you need to have. As systems get more powerful, you can do more with less, or if you are forward thinking, you can use the extra capacity to do more for your company.
Always pay attention to the tax depreciation on your systems. You will need to talk to your accountant, but you may find it advantageous to cycle your equipment out when the depreciation runs out. Investigate leasing too. For some companies, leasing has advantages.
That being said, with accurate requirements planning, proper sizing, configuration and regular maintenance, IT systems will serve you well beyond the typical 3-year refresh cycle. As an example, Dell/EMC guarantees support for 7 years from your date of purchase. So long as the systems are meeting your requirements for performance, reliability, and security you may extend your return on capital investments and not disrupt mission-critical systems every three years.
So yes, we said to stay current, but sometimes holding on to what you have if it performs the way your users, business, and customers need is sometimes the best choice. Even if it goes beyond OEM support life, companies like Abtech will maintain environments for several years beyond the OEM.
2. Size your systems correctly
Abtech has a customer who said they needed more CPU power as their systems were slow. After talking to them for a while, they agreed to let us run a performance check on his system. Lo and behold, they had plenty of CPU power available. It was the disk systems and memory that were causing the issues. We upgraded both disk and memory and their system doubled in performance – no upgrade to the CPU was required. In fact, with proper system design and tuning, the CPU should be the limiting factor in how fast you can go.
Abtech’s clients call upon us whenever their systems are not meeting their performance, uptime and/or security requirements. Together with our clients, we evaluate their systems using non-disruptive performance monitoring and analysis tools. We combine the results of these tools with an in depth understanding of our clients’ applications and user environments. Together, we can provide recommendations for upgrades and configuration changes to keep users happy, applications running at peak efficiency, and systems and data fully secure.
Abtech has access to tools to evaluate the performance of your systems, for example Dell Live Optics tools for Windows and Linux as well as some in-house developed tools for the various Unix versions. Using these tools, along with a discussion of how you use your systems, will give a good basis for developing a design for your platform without overspending or getting an underperforming system.
This brings us to “how fast is enough”? There is an old saying in racing: “Speed cost money – How fast do you want to go”? We can apply this to the IT world by asking how fast is fast enough? A standard that seems to apply well to this: “If you are consistently waiting for your IT systems and it is feasible to speed the task up, then it is time to upgrade.”
Abtech takes time to understand and “right size” your new systems, so you have enough horsepower to meet your needs today and into the future.
3. Consolidate where possible
Many clients are still using individual servers for each task. Performance analysis shows that these servers are typically running at well below their capability, wasting money, space, and power in the process. Virtualizing the existing processes into a smaller cluster of virtual machines provides multiple benefits: smaller number of servers, power savings, software license savings, increased reliability, and simpler maintenance. Most virtual clusters can move the individual processes around among virtual servers in the cluster. In a virtualized environment, hardware failures do not cause applications to crash, the jobs just restart on another server automatically. With a meticulously designed cluster, you can move processes off a server that needs maintenance, allowing the work to be done with zero downtime.
Many companies have already consolidated their individual servers into virtualized clusters, reaping the savings there, but tend to just build new virtual machines without thought to the long-term effects of the actions. It is easy to click a button, tell it to build a new virtual machine of such and such specifications and click OK. After a while, you end up with a vast number of machines that become harder to manage and allocate resources. Take time to review each virtual machine in your cluster and eliminate duplicate functions.
Which leads us into…
4. Shut down hidden VMs:
However, watch out for the resource and money siphoning danger of VM sprawl! With VM’s so easy and convenient to deploy, they are also easy to forget about while you pay for licenses as it eats away your storage, RAM, and CPU. This is especially true for cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service platforms such as Azure and AWS. With these VMs chugging away out of sight and out of mind, your accounting division dutifully pays the invoice. Maybe that’s why there is less money in the budget for crucial staff, raises, or upgrades?
5. Automate repetitive tasks
Almost any task that you must do more than three times is a candidate for automation. A professor once said: The best engineer is a lazy engineer because they will do the task the most efficient way the first time, so they do not have to do it again.” If you apply that thinking to your everyday IT tasks, automating anything you do repeatedly makes sense and frees your time up for more productive work.
6. Use your data to show you trends
IT systems, especially databases, are incredibly good at gathering data. Careful thought can reveal ways for you to analyze that data and spot trends that reveal business opportunities.
For example: Looking at weekly sales figures for a year or two, with detail showing what types of things sell best when, can reveal items to push at times of the year. Big companies like Walmart use that information even further, but you do not have to spend millions to get positive results. The human brain is a great inference engine when presented with data from which it can draw a pattern. A day or two spent mining the data and review with your IT partners can reveal patterns that can be profitable.
There are products on the market that can help automate this but start with a review with your IT partners. Many data trends are simple to identify and deal with proactively without an inflated cost to implement.
7. Look for ways to leverage your computing capabilities
IT systems are always used for the typical mundane tasks like accounting, ordering, communications, and such. Have you thought of other ways that could benefit your company? Workflow automation, shipping automation, the list is almost infinite. Make a list of things that you would like to accomplish – dream big – and then talk to your partner about possibilities.
8. Protect your data
After designing and managing Abtech’s StorTrust cloud backup and recovery platform for 8 years, I noticed a trend: many companies do not pay attention to proper backup and more importantly, how they are going to recover from data disasters. Saving money on your IT systems includes proper backup and disaster recovery practices that allow business continuity even in the event of a regional natural disaster, power disruption, cyber-attack, and human error.
Putting too much time into something that will likely never happen is a bad use of your time and so most companies never test spinning-up the environment. When the time comes to spin up, nobody knows how to get up and running making the disaster fatal. The worst time to figure out how to spin up is when the building is literally on fire! Instead, find a partner that will spin up your environment for you during a disaster since they do this all day, every day.
Forward thinking IT leaders make the investment in proper security, backup and rapid restore capabilities in advance of a major catastrophe that takes their mission-critical IT infrastructure offline. Even clients hit by ransomware who pay the ransom or rebuild their systems from scratch spend more than a proper business continuity practice will cost. Ransomware attacks usually cost far more than the cost of the ransom. Even with the ransom keys, the data is usually seriously damaged and requires time and effort to restore, if it can even be done. Extended outages impact day to day operations and profitability, not to mention the impact to brand and reputation.
Security is not just backup and recovery. It also includes intrusion detection, mitigation, and other facets of information security. In today’s world, these are critically important.
If you need guidance for any of the above, please contact Abtech at email@example.com