As organizations world over intensify the use of IT services, the need for prudent IT Infrastructure management has become even more pronounced. This is fueled by the humongous costs that companies incur to implement the kind of elaborate IT Infrastructure that they own. Understandably, it would be a waste to not get the most out of these investments and sound IT management is what makes this possible. In fact, many CIOs are looking to IT infrastructure management as a means to drive business transformation.
So it's become necessary that business owners and managers understand what exactly is IT Infrastructure management and why it’s imperative now more than ever to operationalize it.
Let's do this.
What is IT infrastructure?
Put simply, IT Infrastructure refers to the whole set of hardware, software, storage facilities, and networks that allow day-to-day operations to run smoothly within an organization. This may include everything from physical IT assets such as computers, servers, and networking components to virtualized storage clouds and shared applications. The scope of an organization's IT infrastructure will typically depend on the size of the company and their needs.
Components of IT infrastructure
Regardless of the size of an organization, there are three key components that make up an IT infrastructure. These include hardware, software and network.
The hardware component consists of all the various physical devices. This could include personal computers, mobile devices, data storage and network communication equipment such as servers, data centers, routers, firewalls, and switches.
The software component refers to the various operating systems and applications running on each device. The operating system is the most basic software type that every organization will always need. Other common examples include ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and CMS (content management systems)
This is the connectivity element, the one that ensures that all the internal and external hardware and software components that an organization relies on are in sync, always communicating as needed. It is here where data flows between devices within the office space, remote connected offices and sometimes with other organizations that you might partner with or share services with.
IT infrastructure domains
The typical meaning of the word domain is an “area of territory”. In the context of IT Infrastructure, domain refers to a distinct territory within the infrastructure. The domains of an IT infrastructure are derived by joining together all the three core components above, then grouping them into key categories based on uses and functions. This makes it easy to handle the infrastructure. You can think of these as the main «departments» of an IT infrastructure.
Here are the key domains:
This encompasses all the employees, vendors, customers, and other external users who interact with the organization’s IT Infrastructure.
This deals with computing equipment such as desktop computers, laptops and tablets used by staff members.
The system/application domain includes all software applications such as word processing programs or customer relations management systems that are integral to business operations. All these domains form an interdependent network.
The Local Area Network domain provides capacity for multiple devices to share data over short distances, or simply within the organization’s premises.
The Wide Area Network domain allows connected sites across different locations to access the same resources over a long distance.
As the name suggests, this spans both LANs and WANs by providing high-speed connectivity between them. A firewall usually separates the boundary line between LAN and WAN, ensuring that both incoming and outgoing traffic is monitored to protect against malicious traffic.
7. Remote access
The remote access domain enables users who are located a distance from the offices to access the corporate LAN, normally via a VPN.
IT Infrastructure management: What is it?
IT Infrastructure management is the monitoring and maintenance of the organization’s IT infrastructure as defined above, to ensure efficient resource utilization. This includes monitoring and maintaining the routine devices, servers, networks, and databases that make up the infrastructure, as well as ensuring that all the systems are securely configured and operating properly.
A successful IT Infrastructure management approach generally involves continually assessing the current state of equipment, evaluating new options when needed, updating system configurations regularly and being proactive to handle potential issues before they become serious.
Benefits of IT Infrastructure management
IT Infrastructure management definitely bears a lot of benefits for organizations. The goal is to ensure that all components of the infrastructure are operating within expected performance standards. By proactively managing and monitoring hardware, networks, applications, users, and data, an organization can keep its tech costs low while reaping the rewards of its technological investments.
Here is a breakdown of the benefits:
1. Optimal resource utilization
By monitoring performance metrics and system availability, IT professionals can make sure all parts of the system are working properly and that availability can remain consistent.
Setting up rules and processes for how hardware and software are used across the organization enables managers to ensure that resources are deployed in the most optimal manner.
IT Infrastructure management keeps costs low by providing proactive maintenance rather than reactive solutions after major issues have arisen. This can mean cost savings over time that accumulates as minor problems do not become major ones before they can be addressed.
For example, IT teams will proactively review existing dependent scenarios to identify those systems that may no longer be necessary or where services can be bundled to reduce or eliminate duplicate cost structures over time.
3. Improved productivity
IT Infrastructure management enables businesses to automate and streamline routine processes, such as software updates, upgrades and more. This not only reduces the amount of effort and hours required to stay on top of these tasks, but it also provides peace of mind that these processes are taken care of professionally and reliably.
On top of this, it helps free up valuable time for technicians to focus on tasks which could bring even more benefit for the organization.
4. Technically informed workforce
Since regular training is normally part of IT infrastructure management, this ensures users have adequate knowledge to perform tasks quickly. This leads to less user frustration.
By setting up processes, networks, and systems of communication, and providing appropriate data analytics tools, an enterprise can ensure that its staff members are informed about when issues arise and how to address them as efficiently as possible. This creates a proactive environment, where users can self-identify problems before they develop into larger ones.
In addition to reducing time and money spent on resolving complex issues, nurturing knowledgeable users helps boost employee morale. When employees have the resources needed to take ownership of their job duties and possess the information required to troubleshoot issues, they feel empowered and more likely to bring their best selves to work each day.
5. Improved customer experience
Properly managed IT infrastructure can have a major impact on the overall customer experience as businesses are able to keep their systems running smoothly, allowing customers to access the services they need when they want to. This can be especially important in industries such as the retail sector, as shoppers expect to find products quickly.
To ensure that this happens, IT management teams will monitor hardware and software regularly, ensuring that there are no delays or failures in service performance. In addition, ongoing monitoring solutions for complex networks and data storage ensure minimal downtime even during peak periods of operation. IT managers can also createdisaster recovery plans for emergencies to minimize any potential risks to customer data or transactions.
6. Optimal uptime
This is actually the foundation of all the benefits of IT Infrastructure management. Essentially, IT Infrastructure management ultimately strengthens the maximization uptime and ensures as little downtime as possible. It comes down to utilizing the right tools and processes to manage availability, performance, security, and support of IT components. With Infrastructure Management in place, organizations can proactively identify potential problems before they occur, thus avoiding potential operational disruptions.
By utilizing production clusters along with supported recovery models like Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO), IT management ensures near-zero downtime by quickly recovering from a catastrophe should disaster strike. Ultimately this allows businesses to maximize their infrastructure at all times with minimal disruption; something that's unquestionably beneficial for businesses seeking peak productivity.
IT Infrastructure management creates an enabling environment that allows scalability when needed. This includes easily adding new applications or hardware components without requiring extensive interventions or latency for users trying to access them.
With IIM, organizations can predict and plan for future growth by allocating storage and computing resources for a range of operations ahead of time. This reduces the investment impact of sudden surges in demand on IT infrastructure. Additionally, IIM simplifies large-scale expansion projects and streamlines system migrations. Administrators can quickly move data to larger databases when needed, ensuring that businesses never outgrow their technology.
IIM determines the best approach in aspects of hosting, protecting, and managing an organization's information systems. It provides a blueprint on how to go about developing network infrastructure and how to store, access, and protect data that is important for the operations of the business.
With a comprehensive framework in place, it becomes easier for organizations to ensure access control to their information systems and critical data. Furthermore, IIM makes use of authentication mechanisms such as tokens, passwords or biometrics to confirm the identity of authorized users before they can gain access to critical resources. This ensures that only those with legitimate rights are allowed into certain programs or applications which contain confidential information that could otherwise be compromised if made available too broadly.
When combined with continual training initiatives that help raise security awareness amongst personnel on the importance of safeguarding confidential data, IIM serves as an ideal platform for protecting resources from external threats or malicious actions by rogue insiders.
IT Infrastructure management enables businesses to operate efficiently at scale. They have more control over day-to-day processes along with faster problem resolution due to expert oversight provided by IT professionals who understand the system's architecture in depth.
By understanding how deeply integrated technology is into all areas of a business, IT Infrastructure management helps companies identify opportunities in software, hardware and processes that can increase efficiency. This includes assessing current systems architecture and determining which components are outdated or need to be upgraded or replaced. It's about keeping abreast of changing technologies, addressing user needs quickly and finding ways to streamline operations through leveraging existing capabilities.
Ultimately, efficiency becomes optimized not only as a result of improved systems but also as a result of smarter utilization of resources.
IT Infrastructure management best practices
Here are the best practices to achieve effective infrastructure management:
1. Develop a strategic plan
Without an overarching strategy, it’s difficult to manage the IT services and resources of an organization. An effective strategic plan should include clear goals and objectives, as well as detailed budgets, timelines, and risk-management strategies.
Developing a strategic plan not only helps to keep IT infrastructure current over time, but also allows organizations to anticipate future needs and requirements while ensuring it remains in line with their overall goals. A strategic plan can help organizations identify opportunities for efficiency and cost savings, as well as identify potential hassles that may be encountered when implementing changes or upgrades.
By allowing IT managers to consider all the pieces involved in running their organization’s technological operations — from hardware to software, installations and data centers – they can create a unified operating environment that will run smoother and more efficiently, while at the same time reducing risk and helping secure vital resources.
2. Leverage automation
Automated processes have made managing IT systems easier than ever before. From automated patching and provisioning to event monitoring and notifications, automation can help streamline operations, reduce personnel costs and improve overall coordination.
Modern automation simplifies operations that were once complex and time-consuming, effectively reducing manual effort and errors caused by human mistakes. In addition, automation enables business systems to respond quickly to changes and take advantage of new technologies as they become available.
Automation also provides more visibility into system performance and activities which can be used to optimize operations. For example, automation can help identify the optimal configuration for hardware resources such as CPU utilization and server load distribution. It frees up IT teams to spend more time focusing on higher priority tasks like security issues or developing new applications.
Documentation provides a better understanding of organizational systems and processes and helps teams to identify problems quickly. In addition, documenting systems can also provide insight when introducing new technologies or making changes to existing systems. With detailed records about the current state of IT Infrastructure, system administrators can create maintenance plans that are tailored to the organization's specific needs.
Documentation also ensures that there is continuity among the team members responsible for IT Infrastructure management. New employees have access to the same information as longer-term ones, eliminating delays for anyone trying to understand complex architectures. In case of system failure, documented troubleshooting guides can help staff resolve issues faster and more reliably.
Furthermore, official and standardized documents allow companies to easily maintain compliance according to industry regulations while minimizing risk during audits.
4. Develop a security plan
Security is a top priority for any IT Infrastructure. A comprehensive security plan should include a multi-layered approach that incorporates access control measures such as multi factor authentication, encryption, antivirus and firewall solutions.
5. Implement change management processes
Change management processes help IT staff identify areas of improvement by using a systematic and strategic approach for adjusting systems and services. This includes assessing risk factors in order to avoid incidents and minimize impacts to other components. IT also entails using appropriate tools for recording detailed information about each stage of the process.
When implemented correctly, these processes can help organizations measure their successes more easily, optimize their procedures, identify areas where additional training may be needed, and plan ahead for future changes.
6. Non-stop monitoring
By tracking all hardware assets such as servers, switches and other devices within an organization’s network, administrators can keep better tabs on required maintenance tasks like upgrades or patches that could otherwise slip under the radar.
Additionally, performance monitoring allows administrators to quickly identify any existing issues or potential bottlenecks in the Infrastructure which can be used to proactively address them before becoming serious problems.
When IT Infrastructure management teams fail to communicate, there can be serious consequences in terms of missed deadlines, incomplete workflows, and damaged relationships. Too little communication can lead to misunderstandings which can create tension and put the entire IIM at risk.
Conversely, timely, effective communication builds trust between team members by conveying that everyone is working towards the same goals. Open dialogues foster active collaboration between the stakeholders of any management project while increasing transparency and accountability across teams. Without clear and frequent communication regarding infrastructure expectations or technical objectives, IT Infrastructure management runs the risk of falling behind schedule and becoming inefficient.
IT Infrastructure management challenges
Managing the IT Infrastructure can throw some significant curveballs in the form of unexpected challenges. Knowing what those challenges are is essential for any successful IT management strategy.
These are the common challenges you can always expect to encounter:
- Limited resources: IT infrastructure involves high up-front costs that can quickly balloon out of control. This means that sometimes businesses can lack adequate resources or budget to properly manage their IT infrastructure. This can put them at a competitive disadvantage where rivals are able to take advantage. Additionally, some long-term expenses are unpredictable, making cost containment difficult. Accordingly; long term planning is necessary to figure out a trade-off between short term cost savings versus investing in future growth. Managers will need to carefully analyze costs using multiple metrics and measure service levels to get the most value for every dollar spent.
- Data bottlenecks: Data is the engine of businesses these days. But many organizations face acquisition and management challenges owing to costs and regulations around privacy. This can weigh down on IT Infrastructure Management.
- Security: In an era where network vulnerabilities can quickly bring down an organization, the IT Infrastructure is constantly under threat from malicious actors. Managers must incorporate a vulnerability management program into their routines, stay abreast of new threats and evaluate protocols regularly to make sure all systems remain secure
- Obsolete technology: Technology changes fast and it’s normal for companies to suddenly discover that their management systems are outdated. This can lead to false management, where organizations think they're on top of things while their IIM is actually not working. With outpaced systems, companies risk falling behind on the technology curve and running inefficient IT Infrastructure management solutions. This can slow down critical processes.
The importance of IT Infrastructure management is certainty not in dispute. But in order to make sense, it ought to be viewed both from a short term and long perspective with fluid scalability in mind. You want to be consistently managing your Infrastructure in a way that ensures your business is drawing maximum value from all the investment you continue to pump into the infrastructure. Every time your organization experiences a downtime, you are losing out on critical fronts such as immediate productivity and therefore revenue. There is also the competition angle. If your competitors’ IT Infrastructure management is on top, then it means that you are already playing catch up. This is risky because you’ll gradually be outcompeted and be driven out of business just because of poor or complete lack of IT Infrastructure management.
How easy is it to set up a meaningful IIM? Well, one of the pain points that many businesses complain about is the complexity of IT Infrastructure management. Requirements such as high level expertise, modern tools, and regulations can overwhelm most organizations and derail them from implementing a strong Infrastructure management component. The best way to overcome this obstacle is to work with Managed Service Providers that appreciate the value of a streamlined IT Infrastructure management system that covers all critical domains of the IT Infrastructure, including data recovery. The best MSP solutions can also serve as a single point of contact for all of your infrastructure needs.