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A retail or professional service business depends on simple IT for productivity (i.e. computers, a standard image to foster productivity among team members, onboard cybersecurity, file storage, and telephones). If there’s multiple locations, a virtual desktop interface (VDI), cloud storage, and cloud-based phone systems are scalable, centrally managed technologies, available at low-cost and low-maintenance. If your business is working with an on-prem infrastructure, it’s time-consuming and costly to maintain, scale up, or relocate with. A network infrastructure that is planned strategically and carefully, can give your business competitive advantage. Scalable, low-cost systems can include those listed below and are explained in some detail.
- Business-class computing devices that are refurbished
- Windows 10 Professional to centrally manage access and computing resources for staff
- Thin-client-style VDI eliminates complicated VPN to foster safe communal productivity
- Cloud-based storage
- File sharing for staff to collaborate on projects
- Cloud-based phone systems
Four core topics open the presentation about this topic: strategic planning, data management, computing device, and operating system.
Strategic Planning. Before committing to purchase any of the systems listed above, it’s critical to know beforehand what you expect from them. The domains of ISACA’s CGEIT (e.g. governance of enterprise IT) generally encourage specific IT resources to be selected and in production because they’re aligned with operating objectives (e.g. how can I.T. resources foster efficient productivity and give it competitive advantage?). For example, if your business is expanding consecutively, scaling up staff and perhaps locations, refurbished computing equipment, connected to VDI and other cloud-based network infrastructure can enable expansion relatively quickly at low cost. Agility, speed, and low cost can enable mobile productivity, helping to keep the operating costs of your I.T. low. Enterprise architecture in production is the result of strategic planning, budgeting, and careful procurement, that aligns the IT with operating objectives for stakeholders (e.g. C-suite members and business unit leaders). Your COO should create a steering committee of stakeholders and your CTO to identify how the business functions daily for all team members. How should IT support those functions yet, give the business competitive advantage? (i.e. web-based scheduling, computing remotely, mobile file sharing, mobile telephony.)
Data. The data accessed by computing devices (e.g. workstations, laptops, mobile) is often much more valuable than the devices accessing them. (How much would it cost your business to operate without important data from customers, and/or to recreate data that enables all staff to generate revenue?) Access control technology evolves as cybersecurity does. In regard to data access, keep in mind, CIA (confidentiality, integrity, accessibility), AAA (authentication, authorization, and accountability (audit trail)), and data classification. CIA, AAA, and data classification will enable you to select access controls to protect the information that enables your business to operate smoothly and select the computing devices that facilitate productivity at low cost over the life of each device. Ensure you have redundancy of data and access thereto in case one copy is inadvertently compromised or denied access from a ransomware attack.
Computing Devices. Before selecting computing devices, the productivity needs of each user should be fully evaluated. Users with more robust computing needs and use of more apps per session may need a more advanced build than a staff worker assigned to clerical duties. The difference in computing needs (basic vs. robust) translates into hundreds of dollars more per device. The COO and CTO should collaborate with business unit leaders to assess the computing needs of each business unit to identify how many types of computing devices are needed. The aggregate results for the enterprise will boil down to basic, mid-range, and robust computing needs, translating into chip speed, RAM, and storage. (Note: basic computing needs may be candidates for mini form factor machines that operate in thin-client style.) A spreadsheet should be created to quantify the number of low, mid-range, and robust computing devices needed per department; the aggregate equals all devices needed by the business to realize its operating objectives. The aggregate list will enable your procurement lead to buy at sharp prices. The more devices needed can be diversified by brand, so long as the build meets your computing needs. Business-class computing devices are the most reliable to work with because they’re built to last a lifecycle of 4-5 years; buy with the highest build level you can afford to extend the useful life of each machine. Devices off lease are refurbished with a detailed process, protected by a limited warranty, to ensure their integrity for resale. (They are no more vulnerable to dysfunction or failure than a new machine.) If a machine is compromised beyond repair, they are inexpensive to replace, setup with your gold image, and ready to deploy into production. Your computing devices arrive with or without an operating system. A small group of technicians (reporting to the IT administrator) installs the gold image for each type of device through a defined [repeatable] process that maintains integrity of the install.
Operating System. Most conventional service business are running client/server [computing] environments via Microsoft Windows Operating System because its ubiquitous, commonly known to maintain, and is compatible with most third-party software. Like Windows NT of the past, Windows Server and Active Directory work in-tandem with Windows 10 Professional to provide centralized access control to computing devices and information resources via role groups. Unless your business requires Apple computing equipment (common for creative media) stick to Windows 10 Professional, 64bit. (Note, its compatible with IPv6 connectivity protocol that will eventually replace IPv4).
To recap this first post, strategic planning that aligns IT services to business operating objectives is a critical first step before buying any computing equipment or subscriptions to cloud-based systems. A steering committee is suggested to ensure that strategic planning has factored the needs of key stakeholders into system design. Design should be influenced by daily operating needs and budget constraints. Look for Post II next week that discusses cybersecurity, virtual desktop interface, storage and file sharing, and phone systems. If you’re interested in updating the network infrastructure for your business, please click Request a Consultation at the base of this page, please write “Network Infrastructure” in the subject line, include the email signature of your office manager, IT manager or executive assistant to your CTO in the message body. I reply within 24hours to arrange an exploratory conference call to discuss your specific computing needs. ###
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