9 Factors to Examine When Upgrading Your Business’ Aging IT Infrastructure

March 25th, 2020
9 Factors to Examine When Upgrading Your Business’ Aging IT Infrastructure

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Design IT Infrastructure to Support Your Current and Future Business Needs

Maintaining existing IT environments is still where the lion’s share of every IT department’s time is spent; it is especially true of managing aging IT infrastructures. Last year’s International Data Corporation (IDC) Canada research paper on Canadian executives, Business Priorities, Digital Transformation and Innovation, had CIO’s saying that 47% of their time is spent on “keeping the lights on”, with only 21% of their time spent on innovation. The amount of time spent doing basic maintenance rises as you get closer and closer to the individual contributor level.

We regularly see IT teams want to help move the business forward, but they are challenged because they are spending too much time supporting old, outdated IT infrastructure. Often times, the business wants them to be focusing more time on new projects and may not understand everything that’s involved in supporting their current IT environment. There is a bit of a disconnect between the two groups.

So, to help bridge the gap between IT teams and executive teams, here are 9 factors to consider if your organization has and aging IT infrastructure that needs to be sustained or (likely) replaced:

1. When does the support for your organization’s current hardware/software end?
When speaking about IT support there are 2 areas to consider. The first is the support you bought when you first purchased the gear, whether it be servers, storage, networking or software related. As a rule, post-warranty support gets significantly more expensive the further away you are from your initial purchase date. It is best practice to think of your initial support term as the total length of time you plan on having the asset in question. Six months to a year before your term is up is a great time to start looking at your replacement options.

In extreme cases, regular replacement might not be realistic. When that’s the situation, the end of support life for a piece of hardware or software should be considered the absolute end date for using something in your IT environment. A recent, well-publicized example that impacted a number of organizations is Microsoft’s ending support for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008. These dates are announced well in advance and can be planned around. Whether you managing IT directly or part of the executive team at your company, you should know how long each of your key hardware and software systems are supported for and should have an IT upgrade plan in place.

2. Are key players at your organization aware of all the risks of old and/or aging IT infrastructure?
One of the most common reasons organizations keep core IT infrastructure past its supported life span is that they are running old applications that requires outdated servers to run on. This is a ticking time bomb for any company. If an application is old and the vendor is no longer in business, then there is no one responsible for fixing the security flaws that are found on an ongoing basis. This is compounded when an application is incompatible with modern IT environments like an operating system.

Many 20+ year old small and medium businesses made good IT decisions at their inception but are hesitant to move away from their unsupported core applications. This is usually driven either by cost or because the change involved in their business is too drastic. These are the exact types of vulnerabilities hackers look for.

While the cost of updating your environment to modern, supported IT infrastructure can look daunting and changes to the processes can be a pain, the cost related to a single IT security breach can be staggering and severely impact organizations; per Microsoft, the average cost of a breach to the SMB space is $120,000 USD.

3. What IT applications is your organization’s IT team currently supporting?
Nobody buys a new firewall or storage array to keep up with the Jones’. At the end of the day, most organizations consider upgrading aging IT infrastructure to better support key applications that users rely on. This is important because applications also have their own lifecycles. For example, an upgrade to an ERP system is a key driver for replacing aging IT infrastructure. Deciding on your key applications and modernizing your IT infrastructure in a way to support those applications is highly recommended by IT consulting experts.

4. What has changed at your organization since the last refresh and/or initial implementation?
When considering upgrades or replacement of IT equipment, it is also an opportunity to take stock of what’s changed in your IT environment. Since its likely been at least 3 years since your organization has made any major changes to your IT infrastructure, it is crucial to consider that what has worked for your organization in the past, may not be the best IT decision going forward.

Analyzing changes and where you expect your organization to be in 3-5 years is something all organizations should assess when looking at critical pieces of IT infrastructure.

Whether it’s the case of a IT system upgrade triggering a hardware refresh or your hardware naturally going end of life, moving to a new IT platform is one of the most common times organizations upgrade or replace their IT applications.

5. Is leveraging the Cloud an option for your organization?
Whether it is Software as a Services (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), or Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), cloud options available for IT today are plentiful. In recent years, more and more key applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERPs) have moved to the Cloud.

There are a number of advantages to moving to and leveraging the Cloud. Depending on whether you consider a public cloud provider (if the application is cloud native) or a hosted private cloud (if it is an application you’ve been hosting for years) by migrating to the Cloud, you move the responsibility for the hardware to your provider of choice. It also shifts a capital expenditure to an operating expense, which has its advantages. Most importantly, by leveraging the Cloud, it means that your organization never has to refresh IT hardware again; your organization even gets a commitment on the performance and uptime metrics on the application.

A few considerations to leverage the Cloud for your organization’s infrastructure:

  • your organization is new to the Cloud,
  • if your IT team lacks cloud architecture experience, or
  • if your organization’s applications do not have a cloud-native option…

Your organization should contemplate the it consulting services of a private cloud provider. Many private cloud providers handle everything up to the operating system layer, so they become responsible for maintaining the IT environment going forward. Your will want to ensure that the IT consultants you assess will take on the role of IT accountability and ensuring that your IT services are optimized. You will also want to scrutinize server locations and IT support options

6. Do your organizations key IT players understand the true cost of old IT infrastructure?
It’s a commonly held truth that aging IT infrastructure is more expensive to support than new IT infrastructure. This is true both in hard costs, like extending support, and in the resources and effort costs. This happens because as IT infrastructure ages it will fail more often, so it becomes riskier for manufacturers to warranty. It also means that your organization should expect to spend more of your IT team’s time rebooting old servers, supporting old workstations, and patching old firewalls.

It is an intensive exercise to determine the true cost of old IT infrastructure and potential IT risks and varies tremendously on particular organizational situations and specific security events. Without even going through the exhaustive presumptions and related calculations, any IT consulting expert could confirm that it is often the case that implementing a new IT environment presents significant savings on the total cost of ownership when compared to an old IT environment.

7. How can an IT upgrade improve security?
Security continues to be a challenge as IT evolves. Aside from obvious situations, where your old IT environment is obsolete and beyond its supported life span, a new IT implementation presents an opportunity to take advantage of new advancements. Whether they be recent IT security advancements in servers, firewalls, endpoints or some other part of your IT environment, IT manufacturers are constantly improving their security. As organizations will continue to face the lack of cyber security experts in the market, it makes sense to leverage an IT consulting organization that can help you align your overall IT risk with a level that the organization is comfortable with, while still staying within your organization’s IT budget.

8. Can your organization use a new IT implementation as an opportunity to simplify your IT environment?
A lot can change over the lifespan of your old IT systems. Your company may have merged with another company or acquired a new organization. As you look to update your IT environment, it presents an opportunity to determine a new IT platform to standardize on and simplify the IT environment. Consolidation of IT is an ongoing struggle for IT organizations. A system refresh is a great opportunity to examine IT sprawl. It is also a chance to remove duplicate applications, which is common as part of a merger or acquisition.

Some IT best practices to look at include minimizing the number of IT vendors you work with, standardizing on a limited number of IT systems, consolidating IT applications and limiting IT software platforms.

9. After an IT upgrade, what should IT support look like?
Whether you decide to leverage a cloud service provider, the public cloud, or keep everything in house, the post-refresh support structure is something critical to consider. This is particularly important if you’ve taken the opportunity to consolidate and standardize your IT environment because it might mean that more users now rely on fewer systems. One way to look at this is to outsource it services to an IT consulting organization. These IT support solutions can provide tier 1 and tier 2 support for common problems like password resets and infrastructure difficulties without tying up your internal IT resources, allowing them to focus on IT innovation for your organization.

These 9 important areas should all be considered when exploring updating or replacing your aging IT infrastructure.

If your organization is currently running outdated IT equipment and software, but you don’t necessarily know where to start on developing a replacement plan, contact the IT consultants at Simnet; we are happy to help.

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