In this series of blog posts, I will provide you with practical advice on sourcing IT infrastructure (and services) for your business. I appreciate every business has its own requirements, so you may find that some of the blogs in this series are not relevant to you. To help you gauge which blogs may be useful, this first post will deal with common IT terminology and concepts that you will come across in later posts. Some of the below may appear obvious to the tech savvier reader – but please bear with me – we will get into the nitty gritty once we get to grips with the basics.
It is also worth noting that I have provided my own explanations, and not necessarily dictionary definitions, to help you make constructive decisions on your IT investment.
What is IT infrastructure?
There are number of ways to define IT infrastructure. One widely recognised definition is contained in the third version of the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL v3).
“An IT infrastructure is a combined set of hardware, software, networks, facilities, etc. that are required to develop, test, deliver, monitor, control or support IT services. The term IT infrastructure includes all of the information technology, but not the associated people, processes and documentation."
A little wordy I know, but it does provide the relevant components to understand business IT systems. It is also worth noting that the definition above does not cover people, processes or documentation. These elements are excluded from this series to keep it focused on the core technologies, and will be dealt with in separate operational blog posts.
So from a business perspective, IT infrastructure allows an organisation to deliver solutions and services to employees within the business, partners outside the business, and to their clients and customers. An important function within everyday business operation.
Hardware and software
You will be familiar with the first two key components, hardware and software. Hardware is the device you are working on, whether a PC, laptop, tablet or mobile phone. The software is the non-physical elements of these devices, such as the operating system (for example Windows on a PC, or iOS on an iPhone), and the applications running on it (such as Microsoft Word).
As you will come to note, hardware and software goes beyond just the devices and software you are familiar with, and play an important role when developing more complex IT infrastructures.
A business user will want to connect with other users – via their devices – to operate and deliver services within and outside their organisation. A network achieves this function by connecting a group of two or more pieces of hardware so that they can communicate and share information and resources with each other.
The connection method may either be physical, wireless or both. The complexity of the network required to serve this function will depend on this size of the organisation, the number and types of devices being connected, and the application requirements of that business (to name a few).
There are a number of different types of networks, each requiring different pieces of hardware in order to create them. However, for the purpose of getting to grips with the basics, we only need to understand the concept of a network and how it is relevant to the delivery of IT and business services.
IT facilities are many of the elements which fall outside the scope of hardware, software and networks. For example a computer or server room, or an IT service desk (we’ll cover servers, data centres and cloud services in detail in later posts).
What we know so far…
We know that an IT infrastructure is required to provide business services, run applications, and allow users and devices to communicate with one another. If we take each element in turn, we can see how a basic IT infrastructure begins to form to allow your business to properly function.
A computer without software isn’t much use to any business. You decide to add basic applications such as Microsoft Office. The same applies to your brand new phone, the hardware looks good enough, but without any apps it’s nothing more than an expensive paperweight.
You want to start getting more productive with your new hardware, so you start to download software and apps to these devices. To do this, you need a form of network – an internet or mobile connection – which allows your devices to communicate with the outside world.
As your business expands, you add more users, devices, applications and documents to increase collaboration and productivity. All of these elements will need to work together, and the more you add, the greater the strain on your existing infrastructure. There are issues which go beyond this (for example cost in maintaining the infrastructure and potential security vulnerabilities) which will be covered later on in the series.
We see it time and again, businesses making rushed and ill-informed investment into IT infrastructure. Given the average IT expenditure for businesses, serious weight should be given to getting it right from the outset.
Accordingly, when considering to invest in IT infrastructure, it helps to take stock of your short and long term business objectives. Establish the hardware and software, types of networks, and facilities required to deliver business functions now and in the future. Implementing a technology strategy ensures you and your business are in a position to make constructive investments into your IT systems. This strategy and the technology itself should act as a facilitator to your business, allowing you to focus on your core business services.
I hope you found this first post useful. Follow me on Twitter @MMmarketpreneur and keep an eye out for the remaining blogs in this technology series!