Friday, March 15, 2013

Reducing IT Costs: Why Variety is the Wrong Type of Spice

Reducing IT Costs: The Five Pillars of Computer Dependability and Longevity that Save Your Company Money - Part Two

In your pursuit of reducing your business IT costs, the recipe not only includes avoiding the “lemons”, but also avoiding too much variety.  When you dig a little deeper you will discover that your computer system is not one product designed by one manufacturer.  Even when you purchase, let’s say, a Dell computer what you are really buying is: a motherboard manufactured by ASUS, a processor manufactured by Intel, memory manufactured by Kingston, a hard drive manufactured by Seagate, an operating system manufactured by Microsoft, etc.  Essentially, what Dell does is bring these various parts manufactured by different manufacturers and assemble them into a computer.  But, even Dell knows you can’t take various parts with different technologies, features, and versions and throw them together and expect them to work nicely with each other.  Dell does extensive testing with combining these different technologies before assembling them into a computer. 

Now extend this scenario to a business network.  You have computers from different manufacturers like Dell, HP, or Lenovo.  On these computers you have different operating systems such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 2008 server or Macintosh.  You also have a variety of devices such as printers, switches, broadband routers, network firewalls, etc that are all manufactured by different manufacturers and some have new technology while others have older technology.  Installed on your computer you have a variety of software such as browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, etc), accounting software (QuickBooks, SAP), office suites (Microsoft Office, Open Office, Word Perfect), customer databases (ACT, Goldmine), inventory tracking software (Fishbowl), and antivirus software (Symantec, McAfee, Trend Micro, etc).  And, all this software has different versions.  With all this variety how can you be assured they will play nice together?

In add to this plethora of software, hardware, and devices, is the fact that most computer products can be custom configured in a multitude of combinations.  In fact it is this complexity of numerous configuration settings that keep many a computer tech employed.  One misconfigured setting can cause your whole business network to stop functioning.   With this ever increasing complexity of product and configuration settings comes an ever increasing chance that things can go wrong causing outages and service disruptions.  So, how do you combat this trend? 

According the IT Process Institute one of the most effective ways to control IT costs is to simplify and standardize the configuration of your business network.  Practice “Less is More”.

Below are some ideas on how to do this:

  1. Remove or disable any application or software on your computers that do not have a business use.
  2. Prevent employees from installing software on your business computers
  3. Buy computers from the same manufacturer and buy the same model.  Have the same operating system and software on all computers.

Standardization will greatly simplify the maintenance of your business network.  Below are some reasons why…

  1. Standardization goes a long way in effectively managing change in your network and computers systems. (See The Five Pillars of Computer System Stability and Reliability – Change Management)
  2. Standardize to avoid compatibility problems. The more software and hardware you have, the more often you’ll encounter conflicts and errors that are hard to isolate and fix.

Part Three: How to save money by managing change