How Remote Infrastructure Management Can Improve Processes and Increase Efficiency
By L. N. Balaji
Businesses today face challenges in managing complexities, while optimizing key operations, reducing costs, improving service levels and operations, and maintaining competitiveness. Add to this rising demands for better, faster, and more cost-effective solutions, and organizations have frazzled IT resources. Businesses, especially those with a large network of locations, are under constant pressure to optimize their IT infrastructures to meet these demands. According to research, in a typical IT organization today, more than half of the support personnel and nearly three-quarters of IT's budget are focused on managing the infrastructure. How do they deal with "better, cheaper, faster", without adding cost, or headcount?
Today's IT infrastructure environment is a combination of technologies and devices to serve specific needs. As business requirements change, devices and technologies have been developed to support enhancements in applications and the ever-changing infrastructure. CIOs and other IT leaders are forced to deliver more with less, while support issues increase. New strategies, new thinking, and quick responses are needed to meet these challenges. One of the most effective means IT managers can use is outsourcing infrastructure management.
Remote infrastructure management (RIM) lets businesses hire a firm to manage their data center and network operations remotely, with robust enterprise tools, ubiquitous networks, and highly skilled experts focused on keeping IT functions and business operations at peak performance while keeping costs low and efficiency high.
RIM services have evolved; today, users and IT staff can be connected to IT assets seamlessly, thus making business operations more agile. Some RIM vendors take a full life cycle approach to service management and adapt their solutions to specific client requirements, promising shared risk and measurable performance indicators. RIM services include monitoring, administration, and management of IT infrastructure components and taking proactive steps and remedial actions to sustain and improve the quality of service. These services include remote system monitoring and/or administration of their data center, networks (WAN and/or LAN including switches, routers, and hubs), databases, desktops, servers and related peripherals, and e-mail systems.
RIM improves on traditional infrastructure delivery because it increases operational and organizational productivity. One of the most important benefits of RIM is that access to best-in-class tools and technical expertise, as well as integrated processes and methodologies, drives process improvement and increases overall operational efficiency. RIM also guarantees lower risk of IT failure via global delivery network and improved infrastructure availability, and 24x7 proactive monitoring.
Experienced RIM vendors use a process-based approach to solve issues, handle escalations, and qualify certifications to ensure adherence to standards and security controls. Businesses benefit from their best practices and experience, resulting in standardization. Timely reporting provides each project stakeholder with greater visibility, real-time control, and analysis of historical trends, as well as increased automation with integrated tools, thus providing a common framework for operations. For any organization, it is difficult to predict spikes in demand, and even the best IT teams struggle in times of crisis. RIM vendors plan ahead to absorb the peaks and troughs of manpower needs through proactive monitoring and event correlation, while precise SLAs ensure service during downtime.
RIM services are poised for growth as companies look to leverage a global delivery model to support their businesses. According to Gartner, savings can be as high as 50 percent because service providers can leverage automation, state-of-the-art facilities, and highly trained personnel to deliver these services 24x7 throughout the year. The following benefits underscore the importance of RIM solutions in improving processes and efficiency across the organization:
- Assured enterprise reliability at the highest levels
- Ability to remotely monitor effectiveness and availability of the IT infrastructure
- Minimized downtime
- The ability to scale up to a complete infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solution
- Centralized processes that track the complete infrastructure life cycle
Ensuring the Maximum from RIM
To enhance processes and operational efficiency, the organization and its IT leadership should have a clear vision of their end goals and an outline for an effective strategy. Here are some key action steps for getting the most from RIM outsourcing:
Have a clear outsourcing strategy. Analyze your portfolio to establish which functions are right for RIM outsourcing and the right business model for implementing the strategy.
Get stakeholder support. Enterprise-level improvement is hard to achieve and impossible to demonstrate without support from senior managers, who must understand delivery processes and the outsourcing readiness of the organization.
Assess your infrastructure maturity. Knowing where you are today from a process and best practices standpoint will help demonstrate a continuous improvement road map.
Select the right service provider. Perform a rigorous sourcing process to select the right partner, then work together for the right strategy.
Retain your intellectual property. Knowledge of networks and systems is important to every enterprise. Strict governance and documentation helps protect enterprise data.
Develop a Plan B. Security breaches and discontinuity in service because of inadequate disaster recovery/business continuity planning can derail a RIM initiative. A strong governance structure should be put in place to oversee the implementation of the processes.
Outsourcing RIM services to a viable and progressive service provider is a low risk, highly-effective solution. This approach drives down costs while providing high end-user satisfaction and service quality. Today, the question is not if, but when, to outsource to a vendor that understands your business challenges and delivers results. It's not a bad idea to seek expert advice in planning for the transition, provider selection, and an effective governance process to maintain controls and to ensure that you realize the business benefits you are seeking. Outsourcing RIM:
- Improves control over projects
- Reduces time and money lost to data inconsistency and manual errors
- Improves business efficiency
- Increases management visibility
- Improves processes through standardization
- Helps make asset utilization efficient
RIM offers businesses a cost-effective, secure, and efficient solution to ensure the high level of IT infrastructure performance needed to meet the demand for continual service availability, and a way to meet the perpetual business imperatives of improving productivity and efficiency.
L .N. Balaji is president of ITC Infotech (USA) Inc.; he heads the company's operations in North America. You can reach the author at LN.Balaji@itcinfotech.com.