ITOps is an acronym for IT Operations. But let's get some context around it.
The IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) is the most prominent framework that offers a global standard for best practices in IT service management.
This library defines four core functions of IT service management, namely:
- Technical management
- Application management
- Service desk management
- IT Operations
The IT Operations function is what is referred to as ITOps. This particular function has been experiencing robust growth in the recent past. By 2021, the global market for IT Operations and service management had a valuation of $26.2 Billion. This is projected to hit US $53.2 Billion by 2032.
What is driving this growth? It’s mostly the increasing adoption of cloud solutions and increasing demand for intelligent infrastructure tools.
Businesses are shifting towards cloud-based models to enhance scalability and flexibility. This introduces diverse IT environments, whose management is complex. This complexity calls for sophisticated tools, and this drives up the demand for superior ITOps.
If you are new to this or are trying to scale your organization and can see the imminent need for streamlined ITOps, this guide will help you get started. We discuss ITOps, its roles and responsibilities, benefits, challenges, and best practices.
What is ITOps?
ITOps (Information Technology Operations) is simply the process of running the IT services within an organization. This includes the entire lifecycle of IT:
The goal is to ensure that the IT services meet the needs of all users (both internal and external). So important is ITOps that it is indeed a core function of the IT department. In most organizations, ITOps is normally under the umbrella of the Chief Information Officer.
ITOps vs DevOps vs AIOps
ITOps and DevOps are complementary disciplines. They aim to drive successful development, implementation, maintenance and support for developed applications and services.
DevOps embraces team collaboration to design, develop and test proposed solutions to ensure they meet user requirements. But that’s not the end of the software development life cycle. ITOps comes in to help with deployment, maintenance and support.
AIOps, on the other hand, is more or less an advancement of ITOps. It incorporates Artificial Intelligence for improved speed and efficiency of applications and services. It involves three main components; data, automation and analytics.
Let’s summarize the three in a simple analogy. Assume the DevOps team has developed and tested a system to automate the organization’s leave application process. The ITOps team provisions the necessary resources to deploy the system. The system goes live and starts to perform as expected.
One day, the support team receives many tickets from users that they cannot successfully apply for their leave days through the system.
The support team works alongside the affected users, DevOps team and ITOps team to determine if it is a bug, hardware failure or a network/server-related issue. If there is a bug in the system's code, it’s on DevOps. But if network related, then it's on ITOps.
In the course of all this, ITOps finds the detection and remediation process inefficient. So, it recommends the adoption of an infrastructure monitoring tool that automatically handles failure detection, alerting and root cause analysis. This new addition is AIOps.
With AIOps in place, the organization will improve operational efficiency and customer experience. For example, the failure of the leave system would be detected faster or even prevented altogether.
Roles of ITOps
The core role of ITOps is to avoid interruption to business functions. This is critical in today's environment where applications and supporting systems are the backbone of business activities, both internally and externally. A brief outage on IT, regardless of how small it is in magnitude, can run into heavy costs and put a dent on the organization's reputation.
Again using the example from above, suppose you were one of the users unable to apply for your leave days, and it takes a week for the issue to be resolved. How would you describe your experience? ITOps is supposed to ensure that such frustrations do not happen.
Based on this, here are the key roles and responsibilities of ITOps:
1. Resource provisioning and management
ITOps keeps the networking infrastructure and all the apps, hardware and software connected to it running. It provides the DevOps team with the necessary infrastructure resources to streamline service delivery and operations for partners and customers.
These resources may include the cloud environment, internet connectivity, network security, data center equipment, etc. They also configure and document the IT infrastructure components for controlled and easy management.
2. Security oversight
ITOps safeguards the IT resources from incidents that could render them unavailable. ITOps team accomplish this role through the following means:
- Using relevant technology to detect anomalous patterns
- Implementing plans to protect the IT environment against internal, external and natural threats
- Performing systems restoration after outages
- Backing up data
- Auditing the IT infrastructure and ensuring compliance with both industry and regulatory standards.
- Establishing disaster recovery plans
3. Service desk management
Some organizations run the service desk as a subset under the IT department, some have it under ITOps. It involves the following:
- Administration of the help desk and ticketing system
- Troubleshooting and root cause analysis for IT-related challenges
4. IT infrastructure optimization
ITOps ensures improved efficiency while cutting operational costs through optimum infrastructure resource utilization. The key activities include:
- Implementing configurations that optimize performance
- Managing workloads
- Deploying hardware and software
- Upgrading operating systems
- Carrying out impact assessment for all changes proposed to the infrastructure
- IT Infrastructure Management: Making the Most of Your Infrastructure
- What is IT Infrastructure Monitoring?
5. IT infrastructure evolution management
It’s the responsibility of the ITOps team to identify and recommend technologies that can improve operational efficiency.
This includes staying ahead of technological advancements and conducting a feasibility analysis for adopting new technologies.
6. Making recommendations that aid in resourcing applications
ITOps teams collaborate with business and application owners to ensure continuous application performance. They make recommendations that help with making the decisions that inform resourcing.
Application owners use these recommendations to make sure that all applications have the necessary threshold of resources to ensure uptime. The typical resources in this context include computing, network and storage.
Benefits of ITOps
There’s a wide range of benefits that organizations with their customers and partners can reap from ITOps. Here are the most prominent benefits:
1. Business continuity
Disastrous events can occur and severely affect business operations. These include natural disasters such as earthquakes, cyber-attacks, equipment failure and power outages.
Whenever a disaster occurs, ITOps ensures business continuity through various activities as follows:
- Identifying critical IT services, including data, communication channels and applications
- Assessing risks and developing risk mitigation plans
- Developing redundancy, backup, communication and recovery plans
- Implementing software, hardware, facility, power and network redundancy to ensure data availability
- Testing procedures and plans to ensure effectiveness
With such measures in place, a business can quickly get back on its feet with minimal disruptions and costs.
2. Improved product and service delivery
Robust IT operations ensure timely, quality and cost-effective product delivery. This is achieved by investing in timely resource provisioning and process automation for quality delivery, maintenance and support.
Another ITOps activity that supports improved delivery includes monitoring the IT infrastructure. This practice ensures the security, availability and reliability of the network.
3. Improved efficiency
Downtime is incredibly disruptive and costly. And cost saving on IT applications, resources, processes, and devices has never been easy. ITOps can reduce infrastructure complexity and cut unnecessary expenses through efficient procedures.
In particular, ITOps can help increase efficiency while saving on costs in the following ways:
Streamlined ticket resolution
Repetitive ticket bounces consume unnecessary resources. ITOps can identify the cause of the bounces and prevent recurring incidences. This in turn optimizes resource utilization.
Improved alert quality
Ever had a system that keeps sending thousands of false alerts? These alerts contribute to unnecessary resource consumption. ITOps can ensure alerts reflect critical issues with the help of intelligent systems.
Operational cost measurement
ITOps can quantify the cost of resources and time spent handling alerts and incidents. They can then use analytics to identify any hidden costs and potential areas of automation to eliminate unnecessary costs. This can streamline operations and optimize the IT budget.
4. Ensuring compliance and security
ITOps ensures IT systems are reliable, secure and compliant with industry best practices and regulations. This includes involving external auditors and consultants to audit the systems and ascertain compliance with regulatory authorities.
Additionally, with the evolving nature of cyber attacks, ITOps helps detect and mitigate cyber threats before they cause damage to the systems. This is especially effective with AI-based tools, which can detect anomalous patterns and alert the IT team to act promptly and prevent data breaches.
5. Enhanced customer experience
ITOps ensures that the services provided to customers, whether it's a website, application, or any digital service, are highly reliable. This minimizes downtime, ensuring that customers can access services without interruption.
As customer demands fluctuate, ITOps ensures that the IT infrastructure can scale to accommodate increased loads. Even during peak usage times, customers won't experience pronounced slowdowns or disruptions.
ITOps also plays a vital role in maintaining the security of IT systems. They implement robust security measures such as monitoring for threats and promptly addressing vulnerabilities. These measures ensure that customer data is protected, and their online interactions are secure.
If a customer encounters a technical issue, ITOps teams work to resolve the problem quickly.
Considering the vast expectations shouldered by ITOps, it’s definitely not without its own challenges. Here are the main ones:
1. Managing operational costs
IT operations involve various expenses related to infrastructure, software, personnel, maintenance, and more.
Imagine, for example, consolidating data from multiple dashboards and managing thousands of false alerts. This can increase the IT budget to cover needs like additional staff and more time spent consolidating and analyzing data. It can also translate to high resource consumption on routine services.
Managing these costs efficiently while maintaining a high level of service can prove challenging. Try as much as possible to regularly review and adjust the budget based on changing needs and technology trends.
2. Ensuring constant security
As such, ITOps is expected to strengthen security posture by providing a high level of security measures and standards to guarantee the availability, reliability, and integrity of data.
However, some businesses lack the necessary infrastructure monitoring tools for real-time data collection, analysis and remediation. This poses a challenge to the process of ensuring round the clock security of the infrastructure.
For more on infrastructure monitoring, please check this resource for top IT infrastructure monitoring tools.
3. Difficulties in managing resource availability
Resource availability refers to having the right computing, network, storage, and human resources available when needed to support the IT operations.
However, the team may lack real-time insight into the available resources, and impact analysis of provisioning, leading to under-allocation or over-allocation. Overprovisioning leads to wastage, while underprovisioning can breed inefficiency.
ITOps must strike a balance by analyzing historical usage patterns. Based on this, they can forecast future demand and adopt a flexible approach that allows for quick adjustments.
ITOps best practices
Here are the most significant best practices for modern ITOps implementation:
1. Define and measure performance indicators
It’s important for the ITOps team to develop a list of key performance indicators to measure performance and progress. Such indicators could include mean time to detect (MTTD), mean time to resolve (MTTR), and mean time between failures (MTBF), among others.
These metrics inform the effectiveness of IT Operations.
2. Make a smooth transition to the cloud infrastructure
Whenever ITOps needs to make a transition to the cloud, it ought to be smooth to ensure minimal disruption. The following activities are key in ensuring this:
- Inspecting the current environment for any vulnerabilities
- Developing security measures such as encryption for secure data migration
- Developing backup and disaster recovery plans
- Testing the cloud environment for potential security issues before going live
The cloud infrastructure is automation friendly. Hence, a smooth transition to this environment allows for unlimited scalability, flexibility and a reduction in the cost of IT operations.
3. Make use of MSPs for improved ROI
Managing IT expenditures can be challenging, especially for small and medium-sized businesses. With advanced tools like BDR and RMM at their disposal, MSPs can draw from their extensive experience to develop IT strategies that align with your business goals.
Furthermore, the expertise of MSPs is top-notch. Plus, they can offer flexible billing models to help operate within your IT budget and increase ROI.
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4. Run hardware replacement cycles
Older machines can pose security and efficiency concerns. For example, IT hardware older than five years may not support patching.
Hence, running regular replacement cycles can help identify hardware that’s no longer receiving updates.
If your organization isn't keen on taking the responsibility of managing hardware, some MSPs offer hardware as a service (HaaS). This will allow you to lease hardware elements and forget about the hassle of having to think about hardware management. In this arrangement, the MSP is responsible for updating and replacing the hardware.
5. Evolve your ITOps as technology evolves
ITOps must always evolve as technology changes.
A good example is the increasing use of Artificial Intelligence in IT Operations. This is in fact what has led to the emergence of the AIOps field which we covered earlier.
In this case, evolving your ITOps means you must start to introduce Artificial Intelligence to your IT operations, even if it's at the most basic level.
For example, if your IT processes generate huge volumes of data, collecting, aggregating and making sense of this data can overwhelm traditional ITOps. But by integrating AIOps, you can use natural language processing and machine learning to automate these tasks. This will make it easy to prioritize alerts based on impact.
The future of ITOps
The greatest challenge facing IT teams today is that of huge volumes of data coming from operations. This data is rising at unprecedented levels as more organizations embrace digital transformation.
If organizations are to make the most of this data, the traditional IT operations tools and methods such as manual monitoring will not help much. To overcome this challenge, IT operations teams are turning to automation, which is enabled by Artificial Intelligence.
With more teams turning to AI, many of us in IT project that AI could as well shape the future of IT operations and possibly transform this field to AIOps altogether. The complete transformation will happen at the point when an organization's entire IT operations are powered by Artificial Intelligence.