With the digitalisation of the workplace, IT has become the backbone of the modern-day business. IT has also become the tool that now facilitates remote working and it means you no longer need a physical proximity to your IT system. For companies looking to future-proof their IT and their business, outsourcing your infrastructure management could be a good place to start as it boosts your flexibility and reliability.
What does IT infrastructure cover?
Before we get into the whys and wherefores, let’s first describe the what. When we talk about IT infrastructure, we’re talking about everything needed to host your IT system:
- The physical space for equipment
- Power supply
- Network connectivity
- This can include hardware like servers, but they can also be considered separate from infrastructure
It’s the stuff that gives your applications somewhere to live and the means to operate. It’s also power-hungry and prone to overheating – not to mention the valuable floorspace it occupies – which is why keeping it on-premises can be so expensive, and why there is such great potential for cost savings.
What are managed infrastructure services?
The term ‘infrastructure management services’ applies to a wide range of services, but basically means you outsource the management of some or all of your infrastructure to a specialist management company. This could mean simply moving your servers to a colocation data centre and allowing the provider to manage power, cooling and connectivity. Or it could mean leasing infrastructure from a cloud provider – otherwise known as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) – so that all you have to worry about is the software layers on top.
Regardless of your choice of solution, your managed infrastructure will probably be hosted within a data centre. This is a facility designed to be the ideal hosting environment for IT, with redundancies in place for power, cooling and connectivity, as well as experts on hand to assist with all things IT.
Colocation, cloud, security and connectivity all fall under the umbrella of managed infrastructure services. It’s a flexible umbrella, allowing you to pick whatever coverage suits you.
Why would you choose managed infrastructure services?
There are several reasons to outsource some or all of your infrastructure management to a third party. Operating in-house IT comes with a long list of responsibilities and costs, and outsourcing your IT infrastructure management will simplify and upgrade a lot of this:
- The most important is probably cost. Operating an on-premises server room can be very expensive. Data centres benefit from the economy of scale, which means your power, cooling and connectivity costs should be lower.
- You’re also saving on space, which gives you the option to downsize to a smaller office, or make use of the extra room.
- Additionally, if you decide to ditch your servers and go to an IaaS cloud provider, you no longer have any of that financial outlay on hardware or maintenance.
- Whatever infrastructure management solution you use, it will reduce the responsibilities of your IT team and free them up to focus on other business-critical projects.
For some businesses, infrastructure management is a distraction they could do without. Server upgrades or planning the best way to scale up infrastructure capacity as the business grows, for example, takes focus away from your main job. And not just focus – it can force you to redirect funds and/or person hours, both of which you need for business development.
When you sign a service level agreement (SLA) with a managed infrastructure service provider, you are handing over responsibility and laying down these burdens. It’s one less thing to worry about.
What extra value can infrastructure management services bring to your business?
In addition to reduced costs and less stress, the big benefit of managed infrastructure services is the improvement in performance. You are taking advantage of a purpose-built facility and effectively expanding your IT team to now include the expertise of all of your provider's engineers.
1. Reduced downtime
Data centres will be able to offer greater resilience and redundancy, leading to more uptime than you could guarantee in your own on-premise server room. Your managed infrastructure provider will be equipped with resources to keep you online no matter what:
- Power - Uninterruptible Power Supplies (effectively large batteries) and on-site generators will keep your servers powered in the event of a mains power failure.
- Cooling - Their cooling system will have redundancies and experts on-site to prevent it failing and it will be more energy efficient (greener and cheaper) than traditional aircon.
- Network - As well as being carrier neutral, to prevent being locked into one contract, they'll also have geographically diverse fibre paths, to prevent them being taken offline at the same time.
For most businesses IT is one of many plates they are spinning, but your managed infrastructure provider is totally dedicated to keeping you online.
To keep your IT and your data secure there are two sides to this: physical and cyber security. You need both of these to be prevent a potential data breach and the disruption, reputation damage, and costly fines that come along with that.
Physical security - Managed infrastructure facilities will control who comes on-site and only allow people in who have permission to be there. Additionally they will have cameras inside and outside of the facility, 24/7 staff on site, and equipment will be locked up so that no other visitors to the data centre can gain physical access to your IT. Does your current on-site IT have as much protection around it?
Cyber security - While it is possible to have your own IT team put a robust cyber security programme in place it will need constant monitoring to ensure your firewalls and applications are up to date. Passing this responsibility to a managed infrastructure provider takes the pressure off your IT team and hands it over to a team dedicated to keeping your IT secure. They will also have higher capacity for dealing with DDoS attacks where over a Tb/s of data can flood your IT system.
3. Flexibility for the future
Managed infrastructure services can also help you be more proactive, since the capital cost of decision making is alleviated. Expanding your IT capacity no longer requires such a high capital investment since your infrastructure costs will be an operating expense, making it much easier to take on projects that require this increased capacity.
Additionally, if you’re using Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), or a different cloud provision, you can scale up and down as needed. So when your new project is complete you can lose the extra capacity you took on, ensuring you only pay for what you need.
4. Expand your team
There is also the matter of expertise. Working with an infrastructure management company gives you access to a team of knowledgeable and experienced engineers. They'll be looking after your system 24/7/365, and if you have a question about your IT systems, you’ll have someone to call. This can be really beneficial to your business plans and, again, takes some of the stress out of business development.
Is outsourcing right for you?
The value of outsourcing very much depends on the size and scale of your organisation, its focus and the makeup of your team. If you are at all concerned that you don’t have the resources to support the appropriate management of your infrastructure in-house, it is worth comparing your managed infrastructure options to see which could be a good fit for you. Check out our Colocation vs Cloud infographic to learn more.
In terms of performance, reliability, costs and peace of mind, there are many gains to be made and a vast amount of potential for you to explore. Not sure what you’re looking for? Talk to one of our experts about your business needs and they'll help you find the ideal solution.