With budgets still feeling the squeeze it can be tempting to hold onto that old infrastructure when it’s way past its prime – after all, if it ain’t broke, why replace it? But how do you know when it’s time to let go?
A computer is a bit like a car; you know that after a few years of use it will need some TLC. From time to time you might need to replace parts to keep it running at its peak and to help get a few extra years out of them, and other elements of your IT infrastructure, such as servers, storage and networking, aren’t any different.
The first rule in prolonging the life expectancy of your kit is to look after it. This means running regular tests to monitor performance and to check that your system is holding up as your company (and therefore the strain on your infrastructure) grows.
As your company expands it’s likely that your infrastructure will need to change, too. If you gain weight because you’ve had one too many bevvies, you can’t expect to fit into the same trousers. Likewise as your business’s data requirements evolve to fit the needs of your growing workforce, you may need to expand your storage requirements or consider using software to support and improve your application performance, for example.
When first designing your IT infrastructure, it makes sense to use open networking solutions without vendor lock in, as these will give you the flexibility to update your infrastructure as needed and within budget constraints.
So, assuming you’ve got all of that covered, as an IT manager you need to stay on top of your infrastructure and look after it. As a start, you should know how much load runs through your network on a weekly or monthly basis. There are management tools available that will enable you to check this; if you’re a large business, you might consider investing in software tools such as Paessler’s PRTG Network Monitor; if you’re on the smaller side you could request an outsourcer to run the test for you.
The general rule is that you should replace your hardware once every five years but with tight budgets and not to mention eco-friendly policies to think about, this won’t always be possible. With this in mind, you should at least aim to replace business critical servers and storage once every five years. Other systems will vary depending on what they’re being used for and how important they are.
How frequently your switches will need replacing, for example, will vary based on their capability (1GB vs 10GB vs 40GB) and the load that they’re processing. Again you’ll need to know how your overall network is performing to make the call as to whether or not your switches need replacing.
You may find that you’re experiencing slow application performance, other data processing problems, or even that your voice calls are effected. This could be due to an over-subscribed poor performance switching architecture.
As mentioned above, storage will likely need to evolve with your business, but the odd spring clean (clearing out old files and updating software) will obviously help. You might want to keep hold of legacy storage or servers to store old (but necessary) documents and applications, but remember that this kind of hardware costs a lot to power, so you’ll need to weigh up the costs versus your requirement.
Last but not least, a robust security system that fits with your business is essential. If there’s any likelihood your house might be burgled, you install an alarm; otherwise you may find that thieves break in and steal all of your prized possessions, making a mess while they’re at it. And it’s just as important to protect your cyber-assets with adequate defences. As well as accessing invaluable, sensitive data, cybercriminals have the ability to wreak havoc on your infrastructure, causing damage which may mean you have to replace expensive systems.
In summary, your IT infrastructure is expensive, so look after it well. This means regular health checks, tests and monitoring to make sure it’s in top physical condition, fit for changing business requirements, and that it’s always protected.
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