By Neil Armstrong, Director of Business Services, Timico
It’s a minefield out there for today’s IT managers. Few other professions have undergone such radical change in a relatively short period of time. New operating systems, methods of working, technologies and compliance requirements seem to emerge on a daily basis in the IT profession. What’s more, a recent Timico survey found that 52% of IT managers are also responsible for business telecoms. Unfortunately, all of this is coupled with a wealth of industry misinformation — making it all the more difficult to make the right decision for your business. Here we address some of the latest challenges facing the IT world, helping IT managers to make informed, practical and business-boosting changes.
The missing Lync
One of the hottest topics at the moment is whether or not to invest in the benefits of Unified Communications by exploring offerings like Microsoft Lync. A desire to stay ahead of the curve is natural for IT managers, which is why the perks of instant messaging, presence and video conferencing are so appealing. But before putting pen to paper on a UC deal, IT managers need to think about the wider implications. Is the infrastructure available ready to support such a system? How will it integrate into daily office life? Have the security aspects been considered? These are all questions that IT managers should be raising with their suppliers. If you’re working with the best ones, they will already have a solution to hand.
Chicken or the egg?
As with most professions, a certain level of understanding is key. Many IT managers unwittingly find themselves in a bit of a chicken and egg scenario when it comes to updating systems with new products. What comes first — a review of your Unified Communications or a review of your infrastructure? The best solutions in the world can be easily undone if they aren’t underpinned by solid and resilient connectivity. Take some time to consider the importance of each aspect of a new solution as well as the capacity of your network — and don’t be afraid to talk through every aspect of a new system with your suppliers. Worryingly, a recent Timico survey found that a quarter of IT managers didn’t even know whether they used a single network infrastructure for voice and data. Don’t get caught out through a lack of knowledge.
Putting a price on service
Of course, a large part of being an IT manager is managing budgets. And while the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ can often ring true, that is not to say that the most expensive option is always best — or the least expensive is the worst. What IT managers really need to establish is which provider best suits their needs - rather than equating everything back to the bottom line cost. IT managers should be putting a greater emphasis on developing a flexible and consultative approach to network design, which matches their budget requirements. Embarking on a lengthy contract with a provider you’re not 100% happy with will cost a lot more in time and energy in the long run.
If it isn’t broken…
You probably still need to fix it. That’s the issue with IT management — if you wait until something is broken, it’s already too late. Downtime in today’s workplace simply isn’t an option — it just costs too much in both time and money. Business continuity is the lifeblood of many organisations, especially in this age of global networking. A strong relationship and good consultancy from your network provider is key, as it enables IT managers to get a firm grasp on how the network can be enhanced on an ongoing basis. A good disaster recovery solution is essential too, as even the best laid plans can go awry. Make sure your data isn’t just earthquake, fire and hurricane proof — but human error proof, too. This is another reason why it is important for in-house IT managers to network with likeminded professionals — it breeds new ideas and prevents organisations from growing stale. Ideas and understanding are two key characteristics of any successful IT manager.
Safe and secure
There’s a lot more to a secure network than ticking a box to install a firewall. The influx of big data has created a wealth of potential pitfalls for the IT manager — so it’s important to have a thorough understanding of just how protected your network is. These days, just having a firewall often isn’t enough. Educating employees throughout the business on the importance of data protection is also paramount — especially if you work in a sector which relies on PCI compliance. Unfortunately, the question of whether a business is going to experience a data breach is now ‘when’ as opposed to ‘if’. An increase in global DDoS attacks and recent high-profile security scares such as Heartbleed means that online security breaches are a very real threat across the world. A robust security solution should not just include antivirus and anti-spam software, but also intrusion prevention, web filtering, traffic shaping and application controls. This doesn’t just apply to computers either — transferring to SIP-based phone systems also throws up security concerns. A recent Timico survey found that a shocking 54% of IT managers were unaware that IP phone fraud even existed. Ask yourself — are those calls conducted over the web 100% secure? If you don’t know the answer, it’s probably time to bolster your security solution.
Bring your own disaster
The majority of IT managers found themselves having to deal with BYOD almost overnight — tasked with monitoring and managing a system which is inherently difficult. A good starting point is to implement a decent BYOD policy — depending on the size of your business, assessing how many different types of device exist in an organisation, and establishing which of these should (or shouldn’t) link up with the technical support on offer. There are additional security concerns to be considered too — do all devices used in a professional capacity need a remote wipe function installed? Bear in mind though that a one-size-fits-all solution probably isn’t the best idea — developing a hybrid approach for device and content management which is in line with the requirements of your business is much savvier. These are all important questions to pose to both higher management and your IT suppliers.
Cloud may have been a buzz-word since the early noughties, but its gradual creep into public dialogue has thrown up some familiar questions. It’s not enough to just understand cloud yourself these days — many IT managers are now also having to explain and outline the benefits of migrating to a cloud-based solution to the entirety of the workforce. Virtual servers, disaster recovery as a service, off-site back up… They are all issues that not only need addressing, but explaining too, especially as businesses progress towards remote working at an increasing rate of knots. There are new kids on the block too — with virtual desktops and software-defined networks making their way onto the scene. As always, chat through the best options with your provider to work out your best course of action.