Nothing lasts forever, and for any business, keeping up with and staying ahead of the competition means having to overhaul the company’s IT infrastructure on a regular basis. Technology, the way we do business, and consumer demands, are changing so fast that the bright and shiny hardware you invested in just a few years ago can become unfit for the purpose very quickly. It’s important to be able to recognize when you need to upgrade, and how best to go about it to ensure minimum disruption to your processes.
The obvious reason why you might need an IT infrastructure overhaul is that tech hardware doesn’t really have a very long lifespan. Desktop and laptop computers last for between three and five years on average, as do servers, so as part of machine management, it makes sense to replace or upgrade them before they start to wind down and become inefficient.
On top of that is the change in the ways we now work. Companies are increasingly moving towards remote working policies, where staff can (and often prefer to) use a mobile device to connect with and access the business network. In order to meet this need, they have to restructure their IT assets. Computers sitting idle in the office are a waste of money when IT spend could be used to furnish staff with their own mobile device.
Similarly, the need for team members, clients, stakeholders, and consumers to have on-demand access to data from anywhere, and the exponential growth of that data, means older machines and servers that can’t accommodate this, or suffer performance issues while struggling to, need to be replaced.
The main objections to an IT infrastructure overhaul are that it will cost too much and that it will disrupt daily business activities and processes, resulting in downtime the company can’t afford. This can lead to putting it on the long finger, but the longer your business goes without upgrading, the more outdated the IT becomes, meaning even bigger costs further down the line.
Simple upgrades to specific areas now could mean avoiding having to do a complete overhaul next year, so it makes sense financially to look at what you can improve on within your IT budget.
Upgrades to the technology infrastructure also make a lot of business sense because they enable new processes that can help you innovate and future-proof, keeping you ahead of the competition. IT is central to the operations of every modern-day business, so keeping it up to date is actually a key business investment that improves efficiency and productivity.
When it comes to the concern that business processes will be disrupted, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. By planning and carrying out your overhaul properly, you can implement the changes you need and ensure a smooth transition without having to face much downtime.
As with any business process or strategy, nothing should be undertaken without a solid plan. Before the IT infrastructure overhaul, plan out each step so everybody knows what needs to be done when it needs to be done, who will oversee each task, and who will be affected by the change.
This will map out for everybody involved exactly what is going to happen, so there will be no nasty surprises and less chance of an interruption to business.
Of course, before you start upgrading your IT infrastructure, you need to know exactly what that includes, so an audit of the company’s current IT assets is necessary. Create a detailed inventory of your existing hardware and software that includes version, CPU, memory capacity, when it was purchased, the software installed on it, the expiration date of the warranty, the user, and its purpose.
Once you know what you have and when each asset needs to be upgraded, you can start to put the plan in place.
Again, outsourcing this process to an external IT support team can be a very good idea. They can perform the audit for you to assess your IT infrastructure and advise on priorities, but they can also define your IT roadmap and align it with the overall business strategy, reducing the total cost of ownership and meeting business objectives.
Once you have a clear picture of what needs to be upgraded as a matter of priority and what fits into the IT budget, you can start to make decisions regarding the extent of the IT infrastructure overhaul.
SMEs and companies with a limited IT budget could choose the temporary solution of upgrading specific components, such as increasing memory, renewing warranties, and adding more processors, hard disks, and networking equipment, as well as replacing individual devices or machines that are clearly ready for the scrapyard.
This enables the business to spread upgrade costs over time and can extend the IT infrastructure lifespan for a couple of years, but it does mean that the business may find itself in a cycle of constantly upgrading.
A better option, if you can afford it, is to replace all of your hardware and buy in the devices and machines that will best suit your business now and in the coming years. This does mean a larger investment up-front, but it is just that - an investment – and barring a tech disaster, should last for half a decade.
You can also use financing to spread the costs over the lifespan of your IT assets, and if you outsource the process, the service provider should be able to bring in cost savings through volume licensing and leasing.
Another option is to consider moving to the cloud, so that your storage, server, and hardware are all connected and hosted online. Apart from the cost savings that come from replacing your traditional server with an online one, and leaving its maintenance with the provider, the advantage of this model is that it enables all users to access your network from anywhere, at any time, from any device, meeting the needs of the modern business.
An IT infrastructure overhaul shouldn’t be a secret or a surprise, so all users within the company need to be informed of the process and know exactly what is changing, and when. Unexpected downtime will impact their ability to get their job done and could cost the business money, so keep them up to date on the upgrades, and put in place a contingency or business continuity plan, should things go awry.
You should also include training for all staff if any of the upgrades mean a change to processes, and this should extend to after the event should it be needed to get everybody up to speed and used to the new system, machinery, or devices.
Putting a temporary halt to business processes to implement the overhaul or upgrades is necessary, but this should be done at a time when nobody is likely to be using them. Make the replacements after business hours or on a weekend, so staff can return to work and start using their new machines or devices immediately as if nothing has happened.
Changes in technology are continuous, and in order to stay ahead of the pack, your business will need to constantly assess whether your IT infrastructure meets your needs as you develop and grow. You should use the information gathered at the planning and audit stage to identify not just how long you can expect your IT assets to last, but also what other technology you can implement to improve efficiency and innovate.
Your IT team should be able to advise on this, but so too can an external IT service provider, who, with their finger on the pulse of the latest IT innovations, can advise on the best IT infrastructure strategy for your business.
The team at Network Doctor can provide the IT support and expertise that your business needs to carry out an infrastructure overhaul seamlessly, from the initial audit to the purchase and implementation of upgrades aligned to your IT roadmap.
Find out more by getting in touch and getting started by booking an audit with us.