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4 Mom-sayings that will help you succeed in your infrastructure projects

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Linda Dailey Paulson, Freelance writer, infrastructure, Linda Dailey Paulson Associates

Motherly wisdom typically comes in the form of pat sayings designed to address one of your particular growing pains or the pain you are inflicting on her.

As children, we all heard some variation of these sayings and likely tuned Mom out. However, if you’re a smart IT professional, you can apply the best of these lessons from your mother to your next infrastructure project. Grab a glass of milk.

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Did you finish your homework?

Before starting a project, whether it’s a greenfield data center project, a server-to-server migration, or moving a portion of your infrastructure into a cloud service, do you know what you’re doing? Mom was right. You need to complete your homework.

Today, there are several different approaches to infrastructure. It is no longer a one-size-fits-most world. Enterprises have several choices and tradeoffs to consider when purchasing new hardware assets.

Does your organization need reliability and stability? Or is agility and time-to-market a more critical need for the operation?

Are you interested in having your operation remain on premises? Can you deploy all or part of it to the cloud?

If you need to do a project that is not greenfield, you’ll want to assess the health of the network to determine whether the best approach is network maintenance, reimplementation, or a migration. Then you can better determine the project scope.

Once you select the platform for your project, your “homework” is to have a comprehensive plan. You need to fully evaluate the hardware resources you have against the organization’s future needs and have a strategy that is able to take the project from backing up existing data assets to testing before the new infrastructure comes online. You also need to be certain that you have the personnel available to complete the project. You may need to work with a third-party service provider.

When the project is completed, you still have some homework to do. There will always be ongoing maintenance, which brings us to our next pearl of wisdom.

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Did you clean your room?

Mom was right. A neat and tidy network makes administration and operation much easier and more efficient. Take regular physical and virtual inventory of the physical assets.

There may be devices attached to the network you’ve neglected. Identify these to prevent issues such as duplication of services or paying extra licensing fees.

Regular physical inspections will enable you to see the state of server rooms or IT closets. Additional cooling may be needed. A simple shift to a hot aisle/cold aisle configuration can help, as can tidying up to make certain cables and rack doors are not impeding airflow.

Cleaning up is not limited to your physical assets. You’ll also want to check different agreements or contracts with vendors to be certain these still meet your organization’s needs. It may be time to renegotiate or end a contract if it is not meeting your current needs.

Do you think I'm made of money? Money does NOT grow on trees.

Mom was right: Watching your IT budget is extremely important. IT professionals in North America may see a small increase in their 2016 budgets; however, global IT spending is up only $2,000 year over year, which is an increase of roughly 1 percent, according to Spiceworks. That isn’t much.

The savvy IT professional will want to conduct a thorough analysis before moving forward. This is particularly important in environments with budget oversight, such as education or government agencies. What is needed is more than calculating a simple return on investment.

Jerrold M. Grochow, a senior advisor to the Internet2 networking consortium, points out in an article on Educause: “This life cycle of build-maintain-upgrade-replace-reimplement results in the different types of infrastructure projects. The factors to be analyzed for each type of project are similar, but different types of projects require different levels of justification, with each type addressing capabilities, benefits, risks, and costs in its own way.”

Hardware and software projects are top budget priorities in 2016 (37 percent and 31 percent, respectively), according to IT professionals polled by Spiceworks. This was followed by hosted or cloud-based projects and managed service projects, at roughly 14 percent each. Operating system upgrades will typically dictate hardware purchases, including new server purchases.

If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?

Mother meant well, but this may not be 100 percent applicable. There are instances where you may want to buck the norm. Early technology adoption can be a boon for some. It may, however, not be easy. This is true whether you want to adopt an Internet of Things architecture or are considering a hybrid cloud deployment through a service provider.

“The transition from a traditional enterprise IT architecture to one optimized for the Internet of Things will not be easy,” according to McKinsey analysts. Elements of companies’ current technology stacks may need to be redesigned so they can support billions of interdependent processing events per year from millions of products, devices, and applications. Because networked devices are always on, companies must be able to react to customer and system requests in real time; agile software development and delivery will therefore become a critical competency.”

When shopping for infrastructure options, “We did some due diligence just to see what was out there in the market, but everything that we found looked just like what we already had,” stated Amber Trett, director of financial systems at Schumacher Clinical Partners, a medical services provider for hospital emergency rooms that is based in Lafayette, Louisiana. “Maybe it was posted and they said it was in the cloud, but really you were just posted on somebody else’s server in somebody else’s building. At the same time, as an organization, we were moving any system that we could into the cloud.

“Also, bear in mind we’re operating out of an area that is prone to hurricanes and natural disasters aplenty, so disaster recovery and data recovery is always important to us," Trett continued. "Having another company take care of all that for us is an important consideration, so cloud just makes sense. Without a cloud provider, we’d have to fully mirror the whole back office, and that’s just not an attractive idea for us.”

You'll understand when you’re older. One day, you’ll thank me.

Yes, as we age, we do get wiser. It doesn’t mean we will ever fully understand Mom or her advice. Like that one about eating all the food on your plate. But she's usually right. Thanks, Mom!

If you follow these pieces of advice in your infrastructure projects, you'll save yourself a lot of pain and suffering, just as you would if you followed your mom's advice.

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