When computers go bad Featured

12:08pm EDT May 23, 2005
In today's business environment, computers are far more than data entry tools or glorified word processors.

Consider when e-mail is down, even if only for a couple of hours. Or when a desktop screen flashes illegal operation or when printers aren't online, servers malfunction or, inexplicably, the whole system freezes.

Panic attack. And finding a fix isn't as simple as turning the system on and off, especially considering the number and complexity of software applications businesses load onto their networks. Companies rely on technology, and when things go wrong, the help desk, whether an internal IS specialist or a software provider, is in system overload.

The missing piece is an infrastructure expert to design, assemble, deploy and support the technology puzzle and to ensure that both the short-term and long-term needs are met. Information technology today is the heartbeat for any organization. Managers want assurance of a smooth-running computer and telephone system technology environment., and employees don't want to deal with productivity stop-ups such as server or wiring issues.

From a management standpoint, acquiring and supporting technology is frustrating. Infrastructure includes everything from cables to e-mail communication to Internet service providers to the server and telephone room -- the foundation for running a firm's business software application and its communication to the world.

Consider these infrastructural elements:

* Telephone system and servers

* Computer desktops and printers

* Wiring closets

* Local area networks

* Internet, data and voice circuits, security and failover

What's more, today's sophisticated business world demands remote access capabilities, another component in the technology picture. Continued Internet access is increasingly business -critical so that employees can access vendor information, sales tools, shipment tracking, e-mail and even educational tools, such as Webinars.

Simply put, computers are information hubs. And because of technology's growing complexity and its critical role in a company's overall operations, organizations require more support than a software provider can offer.

Business software is the core of a company, but the software provider should be a best of breed solution, living and breathing the company's business and fitting the software to their needs. Rarely can software providers also secure an organization's big picture technology needs. Enter the infrastructure expert.

What does an infrastructure company do? Imagine two curved hands, placed one on top of the other. The bottom hand represents the technical foundation to run software; the top hand is technology that relates to outside communication (e-mail, Internet access and phone system). That's what an infrastructure supports.

The business software is in the middle. Dealing with thousands of clients and confronting a variety of technological scenarios, specialists are current on industry changes and information solutions.

When is it time to introduce an infrastructure company to your organization? Here are some red flags.

* Do you understand all technology elements and their functions in the organization?

* Are you installing new business software?

* Have you conducted a systematic technology failure impact analysis? Are you aware of potential damage, should technology errors occur? Do you have a plan for resolving failure issues?

These scenarios are ideal times to consult an infrastructure expert, who can ensure the company's technology bundle is wired so employees are productive and the business is profitable. What's more, infrastructure specialists can manage security gaps. An ideal partner will view technology from a global perspective, double-checking that all components are operating smoothly to support a business' objectives.

Rather than waiting for accidents to happen -- and, rest assured, technology is no more perfect than the users controlling it -- consult an infrastructure specialist. Consider it technology insurance.

The more you depend on software and associated framework, the higher your risk if failure occurs. Protect yourself with a plan.

Randy Wear is president of Decision Systems Plus Inc., a member of the Technology Assurance Group (TAG). DSP provides computer and telephone technology infrastructure sales and support nationwide to increase clients' productivity and profitability. Reach him at rwear@dspi.com or (847) 544-5818.