Are you getting a return on your IT investments? Featured

5:57am EDT July 28, 2003
You got the approval to implement a new technology solution that will provide huge productivity gains for your business. You've spent countless hours selling the business impact to your partners.

Several months after completion, employee productivity has decreased, project timelines have slipped due to unknown variables, and what was expected to have a large business impact has become a burden. What went wrong?

Unless proper due diligence is completed prior to implementing projects, the solutions rarely pay dividends.

There are five key pillars of an IT infrastructure to evaluate prior to project implementation that can save businesses time, money and heartache.

1. Network

The network is the lifeblood of the business. All data moves across it, and depending upon your network structure, efficiencies in moving the data are either highly optimized or inefficient.

Inefficient networks cost business dollars due to lost productivity. Users often complain about responsiveness, dropped connections, or an inability to get to certain data. Many business owners aren't aware of how their infrastructure is being utilized. Often, users have loaded the network with streaming video, music and radio that slow data transfer, leading to unnecessary network bandwidth upgrades.

Often businesses add sales offices or upgrade their main business applications and fail to understand the impact this will have on the network infrastructure. Without aligning the business objectives with the network infrastructure, businesses are exposed to additional costs.

2. Security

Security goes well beyond anti virus software and firewalls. All firewalls are shipped with a factory default setting that allows them to work out of the box. This leaves businesses exposed and vulnerable to attacks because the firewalls are not properly configured. Hackers and intruders don't attack specific businesses, they attack vulnerabilities. Do you have a security policy that enables you to manage proactively your security risks?

3. Back-up and recovery

Seventy percent of the failure with respect to back-up and recovery is due to people and process. It's critical to understand how, when and where your data is being backed up. To best control data, all data should reside in a central location. This includes field sales data.

Ask yourself, "If my salespeople were to go away today and I lost all customer data, both prospect and current, how long would it take me to regain that knowledge?" This could be very costly, and pose not only an internal issue but also external due to customer image, credibleness and capability.

4. Software

How many users have installed software brought from home? When was that last time you evaluated the impact of this software on your IT infrastructure? Maybe the problems you're having aren't due to the new application you just installed, but to the conflicts created when employee download music streaming software applications.

The other cost is due to variations in operating systems that create incompatibility issues when changes are made in your environment, creating costly downtime or lost productivity. Creating a standardized software environment allows for greater agility and less disruption when other infrastructure changes occur.

5. Hardware

New, more robust server operating systems enable businesses to look at how to minimize the costs of multiple servers and the associated administration and backup costs, and how to consolidate them. Minimizing the number of servers not only results in costs savings but also reduces associated management.

The time to think about this is now. As of January 2004, NT servers will not be supported by Microsoft, leaving you vulnerable to attacks and exposures. Mark Wilson (mwilson@pconcall.com) is vice president of operations at PC On Call. PC On Call focuses on small and mid-sized businesses, first understanding your business goals and objectives, then aligning technology to reduce costs, increase productivity and provide competitive agility. Get your free business technology assessment, a high-level summary of how your business stacks up in these five areas, by calling PC On Call at (888) 726-6225, ext. 2124 or by visiting www.pconcall.com.