Maximize Business Efficiency: 5 Proven Ways to Optimize Business IT Infrastructure
Modern business IT infrastructure needs and the technologies that satisfy them evolve at breakneck speed. For most businesses, this leads to an infrastructure that’s constantly changing due to additions, subtractions, alterations, and deprecations. It also tends to lead to a kind of infrastructure sprawl that’s not good for the bottom line.
That makes it desirable for most businesses to look for ways to optimize their IT infrastructure periodically. Doing so helps to keep their technology aligned with their needs and eliminates wasteful spending.
IT infrastructure optimization is the process of reviewing IT assets and expenditures to cut costs wherever possible while improving the productivity delivered by what remains. Understanding why it’s necessary is simple.
The average business invests in IT infrastructure on a quarterly or fiscal-year basis. However, agile businesses have infrastructure needs that change far more often than that. In that situation, there are only two ways to keep infrastructure aligned with business needs. The first way is to throw money at the problem. By making infrastructure additions on the fly without regard to cost, IT infrastructure will always meet business needs.
The other option is to change course whenever necessary to prevent unnecessary expenditures. To do it, a business should continually evaluate its technology needs, adding flexibility where necessary. That’s precisely what IT infrastructure optimization is all about.
However, it’s not always easy to identify and target the right things to optimize. To help, with that, we’ve written this guide to IT infrastructure optimization. We’ll discuss five proven ways to do it, and the pitfalls to watch out for in the process. Let’s get started with the five ways best ways to optimize business IT infrastructure.
1. Conduct Frequent Infrastructure Audits
Knowing what and where to optimize requires a thorough understanding of the business’s IT infrastructure as it exists in real-time. That requires frequent infrastructure audits, which can reveal deficiencies, redundancies, and weaknesses that need addressing. Specifically, these periodic audits should focus on:
- Resource Utilization – Is the infrastructure underused, overused, or just right for the job?
- Workload Flexibility – Are there computing workloads that are increasing or periodic?
- Redundancy – Is there a functioning disaster recovery plan and is it ready when needed?
- Security – Are infrastructure components up to date and patched against known threats?
- Underserved Needs – Are there business computing needs going unmet?
Since the above factors are continually in flux, it’s important to conduct audits that answer the questions above as often as is practical.
2. Design a Maintenance Plan
One thing that all business IT assets have in common is that they need maintenance to keep functioning well. Therefore, designing and executing an infrastructure maintenance plan is an excellent way to optimize IT infrastructure. A well-designed infrastructure maintenance plan should address:
- Desktop/Server hardware maintenance
- Software patch management
- Backup maintenance and testing
- Proactive system log examinations
By staying on top of emerging infrastructure problems, businesses can prevent outages, improve productivity, and remain protected against disasters. For businesses without adequate in-house staff to handle the ongoing maintenance work, outsourcing is also a cost-effective option.
3. Consider Cloud Options
One of the simplest ways for any business to optimize its IT infrastructure is to transition some or all of its computing workloads into the cloud. This is especially effective when an audit reveals transient or periodic workloads. In those cases, investing in dedicated hardware is often wasteful—especially when you add up maintenance and up-front costs. By offloading some of that work onto a capable cloud service, the business gains flexibility, eliminates wasteful IT spending, and reduces the number of idle IT assets.
Shifting workloads to the cloud can also save businesses money even when they have predictable usage patterns. In some situations, the elimination of maintenance and the ability to access on-demand resources can represent a significant cost savings. After all, there aren’t many better ways to optimize IT infrastructure than eliminating it entirely.
4. Embrace Virtualization and Containerization
Another way to optimize business IT infrastructure is to find ways to squeeze more utility out of existing assets. Virtualization and containerization represent two excellent ways to do that. Through virtualization, businesses can repurpose servers to handle multiple workloads, eliminating disused hardware in the process. It also provides businesses with a lower-cost way to support legacy server-side software without wasting resources.
Containerization, by contrast, allows businesses to standardize software deployments and improve cybersecurity at the same time. It makes it possible to run required software in both server and desktop environments in isolation. That way, there’s less chance of a security flaw in one software package affecting others, and it optimizes the user experience, which is an important part of IT infrastructure optimization.
5. Explore Automation Opportunities
Finally, one of the most effective ways for businesses to optimize their IT infrastructure is to introduce automation to it wherever possible. IT infrastructure automation can reduce overhead by taking routine operational tasks out of the hands of employees. It also improves security by eliminating the potential for human error in a variety of critical areas of the business’s infrastructure. Also, businesses can use infrastructure automation in conjunction with virtualization technology to react in real time to changing computing workloads. That can go a long way toward keeping infrastructure aligned with business needs and provides a useful stream of usage data that can aid in future planning.
Optimization Pitfalls to Avoid
As in all things, too much of a good thing can be harmful. In this case, it is always possible to over-optimize IT infrastructure. There’s always a danger involved in paring unused computing capacity down too far. Then, when business needs suddenly change, there may be no quick or easy path to meeting them.
This is something to guard against, especially for businesses which don’t integrate cloud services into the mix. Those services often provide critical breathing room when needs change. With the ability to expand cloud usage at will, a business can keep working while developing a long-term infrastructure plan to meet its new needs.
There are also some cybersecurity concerns that can come from making wholesale or repeated alterations to a business’s IT infrastructure. Each new asset or removal creates the possibility of overlooked cracks in the business’s cyber defenses. Things like unused credentials, machine accounts, and firewall rules all come to mind. Therefore, plenty of care, consideration, and planning must go into all optimization efforts before any physical changes occur.
What Businesses Stand to Gain From IT Optimization
When done right, IT infrastructure optimization can come with some significant benefits, both monetary and otherwise. For example, US-based coin cashing machine operator Coinstar transitioned much of its co-located infrastructure into a VMWare-driven private cloud and its existing SAP software to a hosted model. In doing so, their optimization efforts yielded a 40% decrease in IT spending, while sacrificing nothing in the way of capabilities.
Optimization efforts can also provide businesses with a means to shift resources into other, more useful lines of work. For example, a business transitioning away from an on-site server infrastructure can rededicate some of its internal IT resources into a new analytics program. By doing so, they can turn savings realized through infrastructure optimization into an opportunity for business process optimization and further growth.
IT infrastructure optimization offers businesses a means of containing IT spending, improving efficiency, and increasing their capabilities. All its outcomes are a net benefit to businesses, no matter the industry. To get there, however, the optimization process requires some significant forethought and flawless execution.
Fortunately, Outsource IT can help with that. We offer an array of services that enable IT infrastructure optimization, from IT consulting services to help with planning, to cloud services and managed IT services to aid in the execution of an optimization plan. Best of all, it only takes a single call to one of our expert account managers to get the process started. So contact Outsource IT today to make this the year of IT infrastructure optimization your business needs.