Looking beyond the bigger picture


By Andrew Timms, Sales Director, APAC, Paessler AG
Thursday, 30 June, 2016

Looking beyond the bigger picture

The world is in the midst of a massive digital transformation. On a daily basis, IT departments are forced to grapple with a variety of changes — shadow IT, mobility, cloud and virtualised networking — all of them unique, and some more immediate than others.

Although many of these transformations are driven by users, others involve long-term strategic initiatives that are both complex and high-stakes.

In a 2015 study commissioned by American Express, nearly half (46%) of Australian CFOs surveyed through their business could fail in the next three to five years due to digital disruptions.

Clearly, disruption is here to stay, is increasing in velocity and has a strong degree of urgency. Decisions made today on technologies will affect IT, as well as their budget, for years to come.

Say goodbye to the simple days

There is more to running an IT department than strategic planning and tackling ‘next generation’ challenges.

The problem with rapid development and integration of new technologies is that IT departments are so fixated on the future and working full-time on strategic planning they forget about what is happening right in front of them.

As such, they are at risk of overlooking the type of ‘run-of-the-mill’ issues that may not be exciting, but are often the cause of real problems that have the potential to significantly affect end users.

Many of these problems can also be amended with automation and software, but if left untouched, they can wreak havoc.

Underlying risks

IT departments face two major risks from run-of-the-mill issues.

The first is that a server hang-up, expired SSL certificate, throttled virtual machine or some other problem goes unnoticed until it reaches end users and affects productivity.

On the other hand, the second risk is that IT has such poor visibility into its infrastructure that identifying and solving these problems becomes the entire job, leaving no room for necessary big-picture thinking or even for the type of automation that would eliminate irksome inconveniences.

In both cases, small problems add up to potentially significant drains of time, money or resources in the form of downtime for the business or overtaxed IT workers.

Worse, it creates a circular system of failure.

CompTIA recently published an International Trends in Cybersecurity report that revealed 61% of companies identified human errors as the leading cause of business security breaches, as employees lacked understanding on the importance of updating, password security and authentication hygiene.

Nevertheless, as IT is so engaged with strategic thinking, administrators can’t really get a handle on minor issues if they are not flagged by employees, and effectively automate and optimise them out of existence.

Yet, when they are stuck fixing minor issues, they don’t have time to do more strategic thinking. On and on it goes, with end-user productivity and business best practices lost in the shuffle.

Take the example of email. Most IT departments are responsible for running Outlook and managing the health of the corresponding server. There are plenty of ordinary issues that can arise over time that require a server reboot to solve, which is a simple enough process, except when it happens after-hours at a company that operates 24/7.

The key to balance

Automating the process through a monitoring system or with Powershell scripts is simple for most IT departments. But without taking that easy step, administrators are stuck having to manually perform the reboot and employees have to live with the unplanned downtime for as long as it takes.

Infrastructure is constantly expanding in both size and complexity, requiring constant review and optimisation. With IT departments focused on digital transformation strategies, they do not have the resources to manually check physical and virtualised hardware on a daily basis and need comprehensive, unified views into their infrastructure, along with a well-organised process for alerts.

With a greater selection of network analytics now available, IT departments have the ability to baseline performance over time and the option to set specific alerts that notify administrators of increases or decreases in various metrics that may signify that a problem is about to occur.

By investing in a preventative medicine approach to infrastructure and network health through monitoring, automation and optimisation, IT can not only eliminate small problems and distractions, but can also free up time to focus on the digital transformation, all while improving morale.

Next-generation technologies offer everyone a lot of promise for the future, but to get there, IT needs to get a handle on what’s happening right in front of them.

Image courtesy of Intel Free Press under CC

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