Businesses with multiple locations or branches, in many cases, are not leveraging computer network efficiencies by taking advantage of existing technologies to limit equipment deployment and enhance cost efficiencies.
“Branch offices are too often set up with unique data centers instead of having centrally located servers,” says Pervez Delawalla, president and CEO of Net2EZ.
Deploying a great deal of equipment at each office diminishes the computing power of servers at the individual branches.
“Their capacity isn’t being utilized completely at a branch and is unavailable enterprise-wide,” he says.
Smart Business spoke with Delawalla about leveraging data centers for maximum efficiency in cost and use.
What are some keys to centralizing a data source?
One important element is connectivity. If an enterprise sits in a major metropolitan area, then connectivity infrastructure should be reliable and readily available. However, when outsourcing to a data center, the connectivity piece is the least of a company’s challenges because data centers offer higher-capacity connections through multiple technologies, such as Multiprotocol Label Switching, point-to-point connection or bandwidth compression. This enables an enterprise to limit the amount of equipment it needs to deploy.
In what way does connectivity affect a business?
How a company sets itself up to utilize a data center hinges in part on the number of user accounts at that location. A smaller office with 10 or fewer employees could be well served by multiple 10-megabit connections that link to centralized hardware at a data center. Consider using an authentication server at each location. Employees log in through this server so passwords and usernames don’t travel outside of the building. Once a user is authenticated, he or she has access to all of the company’s data, enterprise-wide, housed in the data center.
Bandwidth capacity can always be added through a local provider as a company grows. From a technology perspective, it’s simply an upgrade to the connection and not a deployment of new equipment. Operationally, it amounts to simplifying that connection so it’s easier to support, monitor and track. The increased capacity of that connection helps facilitate the centralization of hardware, which allows the hardware burden to be decreased.
What savings can be realized through centralizing hardware?
A multi-branch enterprise is often using applications that are common across offices. Centralizing those common applications in a data center helps improve application management, which eliminates the need to employ IT personnel at individual locations because support can be provided at one site. It also means not having to deploy multiple servers for multiple sites, so cost savings can be realized by not buying as many server boxes.
Maintenance and upgrades also are made easier with a central data center because those don’t need to be accomplished on an individual basis. And if a security patch comes in it can be handled from one location. Further, having fewer servers means purchasing fewer licenses for software. Updates become easier, and license fees are less of an expense because software doesn’t have to be deployed in all locations.
However, just because hardware is centralized doesn’t mean everything is housed on a single server. The number of physical servers needed depends on capacity and redundancy needs of the company.
What can companies expect after centralizing their hardware?
The main benefits of centralizing are that the efficiency for support to the end user improves, deployment of upgrades becomes simpler and cost savings can be realized from reducing physical hardware. Having centrally located hardware also provides better security, management and handling of company assets. Security is improved because hardware can be physically monitored from a single location and server access can be better controlled. With less equipment to manage, limiting access becomes easier, meaning there’s less chance a costly mistake is made.
Pervez Delawalla is president and CEO at Net2EZ. Reach him at (310) 426-6700 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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A data center is the infrastructure a business uses to house its IT assets — space, power, cooling, network connectivity, wiring, etc. Depending on the business’ size, it may be a spare closet, a dedicated building or space leased at a public data center.
“The data center itself is infrastructure and doesn’t generate revenue or create differentiated business value,” says Mike Tighe, executive director, Data Products at Comcast Business. “So, the CFO frequently says, ‘Rather than utilize precious capital to build or expand a data center, there are other options including great public data centers where we can lease space.’”
Smart Business spoke with Tighe about data center best practices, including network and bandwidth considerations.
Why are data centers so important today, and what’s in store for the future?
The function of a data center is to ensure availability of IT applications and data. If employees don’t have access, they can’t be as productive and in some cases, the business can’t run. The trend to place IT assets -—applications, servers and storage — in public data centers is rapidly evolving for businesses of all sizes, either as a main data center or as part of business continuity strategy.
Over the next five years the trend of renting rather than owning IT infrastructure will accelerate as businesses utilize cloud-based infrastructure and applications. This is not just because of better economics, the ‘cloud’ enables rapid deployment and the ability to scale applications that drive better productivity.
When should you look at outsourcing a data center?
When IT becomes an important component of how you run your business, you have to ensure high availability. If, for example, you install specialized applications used for resource planning and creation of content, but the server starts going down because of power or network connectivity loss, it impacts your business’s ability to run.
Another factor is economic. As businesses make IT decisions, they may not have the capital to build or upgrade data centers, so they’ll look at alternatives.
What are some options to consider with public data centers?
By their very nature, there are more capabilities in a public data center because everyone is sharing the cost of the generator, the physical security monitoring, having multiple network providers, etc. However, some things to consider are:
- Physical security procedures.
- Redundancy of critical components.
- The ability to expand as your IT infrastructure requirements increase.
- Network for primary and backup connections. What providers have extended their network into the data center to provide connectivity and ensure access?
- Location. Regional events including loss of power and natural disasters dictate that the backup site be located far enough from the main data center so as not to be affected by a single incident. Hurricane Sandy certainly brought home the point that a redundant data center far enough inland on a separate power grid helps ensure application availability.
How can companies build the right network?
Strong network connectivity becomes more important as IT assets are put into public data centers. Know how much your company’s bandwidth requirements are growing, and your network’s ability to scale for future requirements. On average, over the past decade, a business’s bandwidth requirements have grown around 50 percent per year. Look at network technologies that can cost-effectively scale — from 10 megabytes, an average site requirement, to one gigabyte, for example. Ethernet technology, which local-area networks are built on, is one solution that businesses are leveraging for their networks.
How do data center solutions impact a business’s bottom line?
With the economic downturn, use of company capital became a focus. Executives decided that the data center, while important, doesn’t produce any intrinsic value. And you can lease the space and preserve capital for projects that improve the bottom line. Companies can rent space by the square foot, rather than having to build another data center as IT needs expand.
Mike Tighe is a executive director, Data Products at Comcast Business. Reach him at (215) 286-5276 or email@example.com.
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Technology moves fast, and advances in information technologies, along with changes in work force behaviors, are driving the need for faster, higher-bandwidth data solutions.
Businesses that want to stay ahead of the pack need tailored, fast data solutions.
“It’s critical for businesses today to map their current and future data needs and to partner with a data provider that can offer customized access solutions,” says Jitesh Bhayani, vice president of marketing for the Midwest Region, Time Warner Cable Business Class.
As data-intensive activities such as online collaboration, video viewing and Web conferencing grow more prominent, businesses need the bandwidth to support these functions. Clients, vendors and colleagues expect to communicate with businesses online, and your systems need to have the speed to make it happen.
Smart Business spoke with Bhayani about innovations in data and bandwidth and what opportunities are available for businesses.
What data trends are driving the need for more bandwidth?
Forecasts show that business Internet traffic will double between 2009 and 2014, and in 2010, Internet traffic demand among businesses in North America grew by 17.2 percent. The way employees work today in a Web-connected world is driving this demand.
There’s an emphasis on continued collaboration and companies are interacting online with customers through platforms such as e-commerce. Work environments are highly dependent on being connected to the Internet — a Forrester Research survey revealed that 72 percent of employees use a Web browser hourly or daily. Over time, a business can easily exceed its available bandwidth, and the answer is a higher-speed data solution.
What technologies give businesses greater capability to collaborate online?
Internet-based technology and software have advanced so that businesses can collaborate more readily with satellite offices, vendors, partners and customers. The days of passing paper are over as the ease and speed of sharing documents electronically increases and businesses recognize the cost effectiveness and environmental friendliness of using Internet-based tools for collaboration.
For example, with Web conferencing, employees do not have wasted travel expenses and unproductive time spent en route to a meeting location. Web conferencing is an alternative to in-person meetings, and it’s an ideal tool for conducting product demonstrations or service calls with customers.
Meanwhile, cloud computing with the use of Web-based business software frees up employees to work anywhere, anytime and still be connected to the office. These tools are often called Software-As-a-Service (SaaS), and include e-mail, calendar, project management and accounting systems. Basically, a business rents the amount of the application it needs and accesses it through an Internet connection. As more businesses use cloud computing, these firms will require higher-speed solutions and more bandwidth.
How does social media impact a business’s need for higher-speed solutions?
With the rapid growth of social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, businesses have new opportunities to reach more people and respond to customers more effectively. They can share their corporate environment through blogs. They can use social networks to connect with potential clients, build relationships with peers, vendors or prospects, and get the word out about their products and services.
Looking ahead, social media will integrate even more software applications and advanced Web services, which will put more of a strain on existing data solutions. Businesses need to assess whether they will have enough speed and bandwidth to accommodate emerging technology. Now is a good time to consult with a data solutions provider and take an inventory of what your business’s current data capabilities will allow. Do you have room to grow? What are your plans for technology integration? Discuss your current and future needs with a provider that can act as a partner and customize a solution.
How can a business customize data services and add bandwidth?
The amount of bandwidth you need will depend on the number of employees in your company and the Web-based applications you use. Take stock of your current business situation. What high-speed data challenges do you face as you prepare for the future? What are your current bandwidth levels? A data solutions professional can help you understand what tier of power and speed you will need for optimal business performance.
What options are available for power and speed?
There are several tiers of power and speed, so first consider what your businesses needs on a day-to-day basis. Then think about goals for the future. Will you do more cloud computing with Web-based software programs for accounting or project management? Are you ramping up your video conferencing to avoid windshield time? Will more employees work outside of the office from satellite locations or home offices?
For businesses that use e-mail and basic Web applications, broadband Internet access can provide ample bandwidth and speed. Businesses that do more data sharing and use Web-based applications and require advanced connectivity are better served by wideband Internet access. For businesses that need a dedicated, scalable solution to meet growth and security requirements, there is dedicated Internet access. Start by talking with a solutions provider who can explain how each of these options works, and help you understand what level of power and speed you need to accomplish your business goals today and in the future.
Jitesh Bhayani is vice president of marketing for the Midwest Region of Time Warner Cable Business Class. Contact a Time Warner Cable Business Class account consultant at (877) 407-4260 to discuss your communications needs.