IT infrastructure is baffling to most of us, but we know when it doesn’t work! Loss of access to the internet, email, shared drives, social media, or business applications stops everything! What does management do when the network is down? If you’re fortunate enough to have a crack IT department or a responsive service provider, outages should be infrequent and short in duration. Establishing service levels with the IT department or your service providers is critical to your business, school or town hall. Management can expect infrequent service interruptions, because IT infrastructure is dynamic, complex, susceptible to power outages, and human error. In addition, it’s expensive!
Establishing the network service level expectation or guarantee sets the bar for IT workers, budgets and vendors. Designing and managing a data infrastructure with the expectation that the network will be available 99.99% of the year is more demanding than anything less. A 99.99% SLA (four nines) means that you should expect less than one hour of unscheduled network or internet downtime per year. If you’re using cloud based applications you should ask for the vendor’s SLA.
Holding employees to a network service level guarantee is difficult, unless the SLA is a condition of employment. Good luck with that! It is much easier to hold your vendors accountable to an SLA and to receive financial relief for lost productivity or business if an outage should occur. It’s also easier to hold a vendor’s feet to the fire than an employee who holds the login and password secrets to your IT infrastructure, internal data, emails and who knows what else.
IT infrastructure, like most technology, is rendered obsolete over time by newer technology and by the demands we place on it. For example, a network infrastructure and its hardware components that were installed within the past 5-10 years probably didn’t include Power Over Ethernet (POE). POE is now a requirement for telephones, wireless access points, access control hardware and more IP enabled “things”.
The logical network architecture (the IP addresses ) also needs to change as additional applications such as VOIP or video imaging are added to the data network infrastructure. Include the increased demand for wireless access infrastructure to serve the growing number of mobile user devices, and you may be facing a major infrastructure upgrade or redesign, not unlike the decision to add an addition to or just buying a new house.
Data infrastructure design or redesigns require an architect just like a house or office building. Asking employees to redesign the data infrastructure is akin to rebuilding your car, while you’re driving it. It’s not recommended. Either way, management should hire a professional network integrator to work with your IT employees or at least, to get a second opinion.
Vertical markets like K-12 education, municipalities and small business are often undermanned, although the number of supported devices has increased dramatically. For example, K-12 schools employ one IT worker for every 600 devices while corporations employ one for every 80 devices on average. Hiring managed service providers not only addresses the support gap but may also provide after hours and weekend coverage for critical IT infrastructure.
In addition to SLA’s many industry groups are now required by law to audit service controls or engage certified service providers. Service Organization Control (SOC) reports are designed to help service organizations like Digital BackOffice build trust and confidence in their service delivery processes and controls. An independent Certified Public Accountant has examined DBO data center services and attests to the representation of the design, effectiveness and benefits of our organization and products.
IT infrastructure is critical to every organization and it is often baffling to management. Setting the service level expectation, supporting employees with professional contracted managed service providers, and understanding the network dynamics as new applications are planned or added will provide peace of mind to management and reliable network services.
For additional information about IT Infrastructure services contact:
Dale Bruckhart, V.P. Public Sector Marketing, Digital BackOffice
203-874-5545 Ext. 118
 *IP addresses represent your virtual address in the physical world, the same way your mailing address tells FEDEX how to find you. Instead of using a street address, street name, city, state, and zip code, the IP Address uses unique numbers to narrow down your location in the virtual world.