Are tough times leading to false IT economies?

An extended warranty from a reputable vendor is a sound investment for a business that is dependent on its IT infrastructure. It ensures that if the server suffers a hardware failure the equipment will be replaced.


As warranty only replaces the hardware and not the software environment, settings and data, it is not a total risk removal strategy.

I am observing an alarming trend across the many servers we manage. Businesses are far too comfortable in letting primary servers decay whilst not having suitable fail over or recovery processes in place.

You’re not really taking your IT seriously if you have not dealt with the fail over/recovery processes that are otherwise essential for business continuity when decaying hardware ultimately fails.

In advising companies, I’ve noted that it’s fairly typical to have a number of servers, some of which will be mission critical and others not so much.

Advances in IT now provide for the server (with all its configurations, settings and data) to be restorable in very short time frames using technology referred to as “virtualisation”. This technology allows you to use software that picks and chooses which hardware infrastructure is available and operational to work on.

It’s kind of like “sliding” your server environment from one machine to the next when the hardware fails. If you are really well set up, the failure may barely be noticed by the business as fail over systems swing into action automatically.

However, in smaller firms we are seeing primary or “only” servers suffering multi-day outages as a result of failing hardware in the fourth, fifth or sixth years of operation. Each time this occurs it creates trauma in the already stressed business as deadlines are missed and services or production grind to a halt. Often the cost of the failure is massive.

In some cases, we are seeing hard drives fail in a way that means the last few days of backup appear to be intact, but the data copied has been corrupt for as long as a couple of weeks.

It is becoming clear to me that, while the failure rates are a relatively low percentage, the impact of the outages is significant and it is time businesses checked the risk factor on the systems they are running with business continuity in mind. You won’t really appreciate this until it happens to you.

In smaller businesses with single servers, quite often the most critical function of these is the email. These days, however, there is a strong business case to remove this risk by migrating email to the cloud. It’s also more cost effective, especially with the recent good news that as of May 1, 2012, Microsoft Office 365 via Telstra will be cheaper both for new and existing clients.

Clearly there are costs to upgrading the infrastructure of servers and backup systems and while economic times are tough it is hard to find budget for infrastructure projects. With managed service providers more prevalent, it is easy, however, to replace capital expenditure with operational expenditure, which can bring the decision forward and let the risks be mitigated in a timely manner.

So, for non-essential servers, extended warranties are great investments and it’s recommended to make fail over plans that deal with a hardware failure.

For essential servers, choose extend warranties and ensure you implement fail over plans for business continuity.

As an alternative to in-house freestanding servers and backups, consider shifting to a cloud solution or a virtualised server environment that significantly reduces your risk and costs going forward.

We are seeing clients, after migrating to the cloud, being very satisfied with the technology, as the cost of the migration projects are smaller than the equivalent server upgrades and the ongoing functionality is meeting or exceeding expectations.

Sure not all systems are ready to go to the cloud and you need to talk to experts to ensure your real business requirements are met. Just remember, sitting on the sidelines will not reduce your risks or guarantee you a reduced total cost of IT.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to find a trusted advisor, understand your risks and put intelligent plans in place to deal with avoiding hardware failure, or any other factors that will interrupt your business from operating or continuing. 

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.


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