Archives for : July2012

IT Managers Must Constantly Keep Up With What Other Departments Are Doing

It’s a bit ironic to think that IT professionals pride themselves on their ability to remain on the cutting edge of new technological developments and future emerging technology trends. And yet, they seem to be completely oblivious about what’s going on within their own organization and the overall strategic direction of the company.

Access to resources are tight, and it’s every departmental head’s job to highlight the value of their contributions by emphasizing the value that they provide to the organization. Since IT is a cost-center, it’s very tempting to cut IT budgets in a time of financial difficulty.

And an important part of the IT manager’s job is to defend the role and the contributions of IT when it comes under attack.

Of course, you understand the critical importance that technology has to the health of the organization. But if you can’t properly communicate your position in a way that’s convincing to others, all of this means nothing.

That’s why you need to take a proactive role in guiding corporate strategy, and ensuring that the role of IT is clearly understood within this vision.

It’s a dangerous career mistake for IT to operate as an isolated bubble within the organization.

In addition to developing their technical skills, today’s proactive IT managers need to constantly working on their softer business and interpersonal skills.

IT managers and CIOs need to brush up on the company’s corporate strategy. This means attending meetings, reading annual reports, and learning as much as you can.

It also means that you should set up meetings with other departmental heads with the aim of learning about their own strategic outlook, and how IT can play a role in helping them meet these objectives.

And this should not be a one-time event. You need to constantly communicate with other departmental heads while also continuously be monitoring and adjusting your efforts accordingly. Likewise, you should also be constantly monitoring the objectives of the organization and potential changes in priorities or direction.

Rather than simply a function of the organization, IT should be seen as an indispensible team member. The roots of ITs efforts should sink deep into plans and objectives of other departments. And more importantly, these departmental heads need to have a clear understanding of ITs positive contributions to their operations.

This open communication can also help guide IT strategy by providing greater insight into the “big picture” of how IT efforts contribute value to the organization. This can help improve efficiency and reduce costs by allowing you to focus more energy on highly-contributing IT activities and putting aside less critical time-consuming tasks.

When times get tough and difficult choices need to be made, people will be less eager to attack IT if they believe that it may have negative effects on their own departments. And if IT does become the target of an attack, you’ll be able to capitalize on those relationships to rally other stakeholders to your defense.

It’s not enough to be hard-working and technically proficient. Above all, an IT manager needs to act as a leader who reminds others within the organization of Its contribution to revenue and productivity. And at the same time, an IT manager must also be an important team member that others rely on in order to achieve their goals.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good you are if others don’t understand or appreciate the value you contribute.  Forget this advice at your own peril.

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Could Cloud Hosting Pose A Threat To The Backup Industry?

There’s no doubt that cloud computing has had a tremendous impact on the IT industry within the past few years.

SaaS products are an attractive option for businesses that want cheap, feature-rich software without overhead or licensing costs. IaaS cloud hosting providers have also done a great job of winning over business executives with the promise of a datacenterless world where the business can adapt quickly to change, and where all of their servers come with built-in full-time support.

Many have claimed that cloud computing (in all of its forms)is such an attractive option that it will potentially do away with the role of the IT department. I don’t think this is true at all.

As great as hosted and managed services might be, they can only offer generic services which address tactical requirements of the enterprise. They will never be a replacement for a proactive IT leader who understands the company from the inside.

But a great IT executive does more than simply set up and maintain boxes. They also help guide IT initiatives to support corporate strategy, and ensure that IT systems are implemented and used according to corporate security, compliance and governance guidelines.

In this context, cloud computing can actually present a threat to the organization if unsupervised rogue employees are simply allowed to set up and use new hosted applications without any oversight.

But what will be the long-term implications of SaaS, PaaS and IaaS?

For a long time, I’ve been saying that cloud computing may very well pose a threat to the backup industry. This may seem hard to believe, since online backup is now one of the hottest-selling digital products.

But in the future, things may change.

Companies are now moving towards virtual desktop (VDI) environments in order to reduce costs and improve overall PC security. Productivity apps are also moving towards a browser-based environment, where files remain on a central server and are accessed over the Internet.

At the same time, popular operating systems and server platforms are available as hosted services. (SharePoint, Exchange, Red Hat, etc…)

These services offers are tremendously attractive from a convenience and TCO point of view. When you purchase pay-as-you-go hosted services like this, you take all of the hard work and put it on the shoulders of a team of specialists.

No more tweaking. No more updates. No more troubleshooting. And if you have any questions, you have an expert on-call to help you out.

Of course, these are all once-in-a-while headaches. But backup is the main maintenance outsourcing benefit which makes cloud hosting very attractive, since this affects IT managers every single day.

Nearly all of the benefits which can be obtained by backing up servers to a cloud-based service can be further increased by simply moving the whole server to the cloud sand allowing the hosting provider to perform your backups for you.

A recent survey of SMBs by Symantec also confirms many of these observations:

  • 71% of SMBs surveyed reported that disaster preparedness was improved through the use of virtualization.
  • 40% of surveyed SMBs reported that they have deployed public clouds.
  • 34% of respondents reported that disaster recovery capability was an important factor in their decision to implement public clouds.

This survey was released in March of 2012, and aggregated input from over 2000 IT heads from companies ranging in size from 5 to 250 employees.

Although these figures are certainly impressive, it’s important that these organizations remain alert and proactive when it comes to availability and disaster recovery. It’s very tempting to place these responsibilities on the shoulders of a third party. But it should never be a substitute for personal accountability.

Make sure that these initiatives are implemented in a way that’s aligned with your company’s objectives… and always have a plan in case something should happen to your cloud host. At the end of the day, your company’s data is still your responsibility and nobody else’s.

Cloud hosting may not kill the backup industry, but it will certainly force it to adapt as consumers and businesses change the way they work with data.

Difference Between Private and Public Clouds

Cloud computing is revolutionizing the way we think about information systems. Today, it’s hard to think of any area where cloud computing hasn’t touched our lives.

  • Individuals use cloud-based email and social networking apps to talk to each other.
  • Small businesses use cloud-based SaaS business apps to run their daily business functions.
  • Even large organizations rent time on massive cloud server for high-power computation projects.

But when talking about cloud computing, you may occasionally hear a number of computing terms thrown around.

Two of the most common terms you’ll hear when talking about cloud strategy are “Private Cloud” and “Public Cloud”. Have you ever wondered what these 2 terms mean, and how they’re different?

Although cloud computing comes in different flavors, the “classic” concept of a public cloud is a third-party service that allows you to rent virtual servers or server resources (such as memory, hard drive space, processing power, etc…) on an as-needed basis. And the client only pays for what they use.

With public clouds, the client does not need to worry about the maintenance or inner-workings of the underlying hardware or hypervisor. With a public cloud, there are no up-front capital investments and nothing to store in your datacenter.

This is truly computing-as-a-service.

With public clouds, computing becomes a utility in a similar way to how you can purchase electricity from the power company. (Without utility power, everyone would need to buy and install a generator for your back yard)

When public clouds are mentioned in conversation, they’re usually referring to virtualized server hosted on a rented hypervisor in a third-party datacenter infrastructure. But there are other forms of public clouds which can include SaaS and PaaS. (But that’s a discussion for another blog post)

Of course, public clouds aren’t for everyone. There are certain times when you’re willing to spend a more money and take on a larger maintenance burden in exchange for better control.

The “classic” example of a private cloud would be a server infrastructure that is owned by a single company – or group of companies – that is hosted and kept within an internal network. In this example, virtual machines and server resources would be provisioned to internal customers within the organization.

Private clouds are particularly attractive to larger organizations who can afford to spend money on maintaining their own corporate governance, data security and reliability, rather than handing these responsibilities over to a third party.

So how do you decide between the safety of a private cloud or the convenience and cost-savings of a public cloud?

For very large organizations, this paranoia makes sense. But does it really make sense for smaller companies to mistrust the cloud when it comes to security? That depends on what resources they have available to them in-house.

Cloud providers invest heavily on network security, data encryption and data security. Most cloud hosting datacenters have very restricted access policies, 24-hour video monitoring, live security guards, and all of the servers are stored inside of locked cages. Compare this to the average small business server which is kept under someone’s desk… were any thief can come in and steal it.

Unless you’re ready to spend the tens of thousands of dollars to build, support and maintain a secure in-house datacenter, hosting your servers in the cloud will probably be the safer option.