How do we improve our IT systems when cash is tight?

Capital expenditure has been difficult to justify in many businesses for a while now and finance for IT or any other purchases is not very popular. Even if the lenders will lend, when we are not sure what will come next, it is hard to make the purchasing decision.

Many companies have been in an IT holding pattern due to the GFC since 2008 and IT systems are ageing ungracefully. We cannot all afford to wait for our systems to break and we know we need to move forward. Risk is growing with many servers and PCs well out of warranty and at risk of leaving staff completely unproductive in the event of a crash.

What can we do next to ensure our business systems are up to date and driving our productivity?

The answer is no surprise, especially in my articles, as I have been pushing for cloud computing for over three years in this space. It really is now time to investigate pay-as-you-go scalable cloud offerings that solve your business problems.

Clearly it is time to think differently about our need for infrastructure.

Sovereignty is still a big issue for some businesses. This is about where your data is held. If you have Department of Defence contracts, for example, and store any of their correspondence or data online it must be kept within Australia.

This does not make cloud impossible, just so hard that you may as well give up and build a new server. Yes, there are local solutions in approved data centres but price is still an issue.

So if sovereignty is not an issue for your business I can tell you that security is less of an issue than you think, so long as you select the right solution providers. When you take on a top tier provider like Telstra, RackSpace, Amazon or Microsoft you can be sure their security teams are working 24/7 to protect their own reputation and your data. The teams they employ make your internal security measures look very immature.

For example, when is the last time you looked at a log file on your firewall? When did you last update the firewall or the firmware on it? When did you last perform a penetration test on your firewall?

The big players in the cloud space are doing this sort of work all the time to ensure your data is safer in the cloud than it was on the server inside your office. They will even ensure the data is backed up and do a better job of backup than you ever did. You can have options for slow, medium or instant fail-over to ensure your services stay online; it all comes down to price. The good thing is that once it is in the cloud you can stop paying to manage the infrastructure.

We are already seeing IT services spending reduce as a result of cloud solutions being implemented. We are also seeing companies shrink and partially outsource the services component to fund the whole exercise.

So when you need to improve your IT systems without spending new money, you need to look at the full implications of cloud solutions and how they shift your spending from HR to operational expenditure. You may also be able to claim back some office floor space and reduce internal power consumption for servers and cooling.

There are likely to be other benefits around new features and better mobility from cloud solutions as well.

Of course your IT department and even your external providers are not likely to be too keen on heading in this direction as it has a direct impact on their future. Seeking external advice at a strategic and management level may help move your organisation forward to better results from the money you are already spending.

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

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