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Business Continuity

Five Things You Need to Know About Hardware Maintenance and Mission-Critical IT Infrastructure Management

Five Things You Need to Know About Hardware Maintenance and Mission-Critical IT Infrastructure Management

Your data center infrastructure is mission critical and needs to be managed using best practices. Here are five critical areas you need to focus on:

What and where are your mission-critical IT infrastructure assets?

Simple as it sounds, keeping an up-to-date asset inventory of critical IT data center and remote location assets is anything but. In larger enterprises, asset management software is typically deployed to track valuable IT assets; however, many smaller organizations rely on manual inventory lists that are hard to maintain and quickly become outdated or forgotten as IT asset management responsibilities are reassigned within IT support departments. If you don’t know what you have deployed, it can be challenging to maintain operational budget compliance, pass internal and external audits, and identify hardware maintenance schedules or end-of-life infrastructure, which increases your risk profile.

Quest’s KACE asset management and end-point deployment software tool offers a good value for small to medium-sized businesses. More info at: https://www.quest.com/kace/

Are your mission-critical IT assets currently under some type of support agreement, either through the OEM’s warranty or extended warranty agreements?

There are three parts to this question. One is licensing compliance. The second is firmware and software revision control, and the third is when the support and licensing agreements are to be renewed. It's important to engage all stakeholders within the enterprise in an annual review to ensure that systems meet current and future growth and performance requirements. Decisions regarding system refresh, performance tuning and planning for future growth should be encouraged at these times.

Dell’s DPACK, a free, memory-resident performance gathering tool is an excellent solution for reporting all physical and virtual systems performance and resource utilization. More info at: http://www.dell.com/en-us/work/learn/dpack

Is there an opportunity to enhance mission-critical IT infrastructure?

Many IT organizations are asked to continue to support workload and user growth with little to no increase in operating and capital budgets (sound familiar?) This can force a “set and forget” practice of installing and configuring IT resources initially, then moving on to other priority projects, having no choice but to leave the old resource configurations in place until retirement. What many IT department leaders may not realize is that with some relatively inexpensive software tools, it is possible to put a “dollars and cents” figure to this practice.

Quest’s vFoglight is a tool that applies value to each resource, and can identify savings that are available, based on recommended reconfigurations. More info at: https://www.quest.com/foglight/

Are internal infrastructure support resources being utilized properly?

In today’s heterogeneous computing, storage and networking environments, it is challenging to maintain the necessary depth of certifications and knowledge within the organization’s support structure. For this reason, third-party maintenance options from trusted partners, such as user groups and online forums — or, if budgets permit, professional services available from independent support and service organizations like Abtech Technologies — are critical to maintaining your infrastructure. More info at: www.abtechtechnologies.com

Should you engage an independent (multi-vendor) IT infrastructure support partner?

The answer here is…why not try? Tap your professional network and ask your associates at other companies who they've used for hardware maintenance in the past, and how they rate the experience. Select one or two recommendations for potential support partners and engage them in discussions regarding your environment, goals and objective (such as performance vs. cost, high availability vs. hardware costs, etc.) Check their client references and speak with not only the account reps, but also the customer engineers, both local and remote.

Randy Henniger is a Senior Support Specialist at Abtech Technologies, based in Carlsbad, CA. Randy has more than 30 years of experience in enterprise solutions and services with IBM, Dell/EMC, HP, Western Digital and Data Switch. Abtech Technologies is an independent IT support and services company with thousands of clients and support centers around the U.S. More info at: www.abtechtechnologies.com.

Why You Need a Holistic Approach to Business Continuity

If you conduct a 360-degree evaluation of your organization, it's possible to find different points of vulnerability. Many of these points occur where your company uses computing systems and software applications to automate business processes. Within these systems, you may use various business applications licensed from third-party vendors. Each application may include your servers accessing their software through a virtual connection. History has taught us that each relationship with a vendor introduces a new set of risks to your business. If your objective is business continuity, or continuous operations, your company must assess the risks associated with each vendor relationship. You must also take preventive measures to keep those risks from disrupting core operations.

The Background

When you consider IT risks from a holistic perspective, it's easy to assume that your company is equal to the sum of its parts. Another viewpoint is pondering how those parts fit together. You want all relationships to stabilize in ways that minimize the points of vulnerability. For example, every software application that your company adds to an existing server network will be affected if it fails during a security breach. Or, servers could be corrupted by a virus or temporarily offline due to a power failure in the data center. While you can't prepare for every potential risk, you can consider the advantages of spreading out known risks. In one company, this could resemble locating backup servers in a separate location from its primary servers.

The Core Business Relationships

To manage your business well, we recommend that you also review how your people interface with the IT infrastructure. These interactions are affected, sometimes permanently damaged, when there's an adverse event of a grave nature. If you aren't prepared for different risks, then your company might begin to lose sales and not serve customers according to the business model. Let's take the example of the third-party vendor providing a web-based application for order management/order fulfillment. If their ordering system fails, then does your company have a secondary way to process orders? Do you have a backup system that keeps track of all inventory levels and stores each customer order? These are features to look for when choosing the software vendor for order management/order fulfillment. They are part of a comprehensive business continuity plan.

The Fear of Interruption

When an organization must temporarily shut down because of an adverse event affecting its IT network, there is the fear that the interruption will cost the business money. There is the reality that the event's related costs (whether expected or unexpected) might not fall under the limits of the organization's disaster insurance policy. On some level, you have the cost of IT personnel working to restore your data infrastructure, especially when they get pulled from other projects to mitigate the problem.

The Need for a Holistic Approach

A holistic approach to business continuity means that your business must address every point of vulnerability within your IT networks, especially through comprehensive vendor management. The goal is ensuring that all computing systems keep functioning after an event while minimizing effects on consumers. But, if your company has already taken a holistic approach to business continuity (i.e. having a backup system for every server), then you could be out of ideas. You might benefit from an outside expert who can objectively evaluate your current operations.

You cannot afford to leave your company exposed to known risks to business operations. Evaluate all vendor relationships and ensure that each of them doesn't introduce new risks into the infrastructure, especially those that didn't exist before. Switch to vendors that offer higher levels of security without escalating your costs to the point that their products are not affordable.