Blog / More GOOD, FAST, CHEAP: Pick 2 – Pandemic and Poor Economy Put Pressure on IT Spending (Part 2)
In the last article, we introduced the topic of Good, Cheap, Fast: Pick Two, a time honoured business guideline describing the tension between quality, price, and delivery. We mentioned that under current pandemic and economic conditions, many managers were feeling pressure to reduce IT expenses. We explored the idea of what makes for Good IT, and how it impacts overall productivity, as well as the long-term future of many organizations. This week, we’ll explore the idea of Fast.
It’s important to keep in mind the impact of Fast on your overall business goals, which usually relates to productivity. For example, a Public Works’ shop in a municipality – or an Auto Repair shop – rely more on their tools of the trade to be productive than their computer equipment. A blazingly fast computer isn’t going to help if they only use it for a few minutes each day. But your payroll clerk, finance manager, or accountant will benefit greatly from the fastest IT resources you can provide them.
We typically think of Fast as it relates to the speed of IT equipment we use, and certainly it does play a large role in keeping user productivity high. It’s natural to think that fast computers lead to better results. But from an equipment perspective, there is a lot of technology that plays into producing Fast. High speed servers that are properly provisioned and resourced, high speed networking gear, proper cabling to support high throughput of data, efficient firewalls to process Internet traffic, and of course broadband Internet to support multiple users, as they make requests for Internet resources.
Internet resources can be a tricky subject, and not well understood by many managers and users. We usually think of Internet resources in terms of websites and pages where we retrieve information or watch a video. But it’s much more. For users of Cloud services (and this includes just about everyone), there is a constant flow of information through the Internet for even the simplest task. For example, if you use the Microsoft 365 suite of products, just the mundane task of logging onto your computer each morning takes Internet access. As does each Email that is sent or received, as does holding a video meeting with a colleague, as does collaborating on a common Word document, as does doing a Group Chat with multiple colleagues, and as does your nightly offsite backup. The Google or Apple ecosystems require the same type of constant Internet access; sometimes more.
If most office users are performing the same functions, it’s not hard to see where Internet speed and bandwidth become a bottleneck to overall system performance. And while on the topic of Internet speed, it needs to be great in BOTH directions (called upload and download speeds.) Most Internet providers talk about the download speed – as it’s the biggest number and it looks impressive – especially if they use older technology like Cable or ADSL. Fibre-based Internet services are the Gold Standard in terms of speed and reliability, and generally have the same “up and down” bandwidth.
And the final word on Internet; if it goes down, your IT access and systems can also go down. Thus, redundancy and failover systems can be vital to keep your operations online.
So, maintaining consistently Fast system speed requires careful IT infrastructure design, planning, execution, monitoring, and support. It’s an ongoing process that should be reviewed regularly (at a minimum annually, and ideally each quarter.)
Another aspect of Fast is deployment of new systems and equipment. Users tend to think in terms of deploying a new computer to their desk. On the surface, this sounds easy – and 10 years ago, it was. But today, most users have 10s – and in extreme cases, 100 or more – applications and utilities they rely on. Transferring applications, configurations and data from an old computer to a new one can be a complex process and often requires third-party application vendors to assist. In extreme cases – during the height of the pandemic lockdown this spring – we waited upwards of three months for some third-party vendors to respond to support requests. Hardly Fast.
And then we add IT infrastructure upgrades – servers, network equipment and firewalls for example – and Fast becomes harder to achieve. To combat the problem and make Fast a reality, pre-planning, setting expectations and constant communication can play an important role. But if Fast means really Fast, then your IT Provider needs the resources to commit multiple techs and services to speed up deployment. Some have this capability, some do not.
Fast can also refer to the velocity at resolving ongoing issues. Despite best efforts to ensure systems are installed and maintained correctly, things break. Users forget passwords, third party applications are not compatible with each other – or the latest Microsoft updates, the Internet is slow, or our favourite: can’t print. How fast and effectively your IT Provider’s HelpDesk service responds to these day-to-day requests plays a vital role in keeping your users happily productive. Most often, the goals for fast response are set out in a Service Level Agreement (SLA) and it’s beneficial to review and discuss these with your provider.
Finally, Fast can play a vital role in a Disaster scenario. We’ve had more than one experience with a client that was faced with a Disaster. In one extreme example, their facilities and systems were simply NOT available due to a facility fire. In this case, we were called on to provide emergency IT services to keep their operations functioning. It required multiple TRINUS staff and a combination of onsite and remote work to ensure users could access data and serve their residents and clients. Thus, Disaster Recovery planning can go a long way to providing a Fast response to unforeseen emergencies.
So, like Good, all-encompassing Fast IT is about business stability and growth, and how your IT provider is an essential business partner in your success. Next week we’ll examine the Cheap segment of our IT business tension triangle. It’s the topic most managers want to discuss with us during these bizarre times.
In the meantime, if you’d like more information about Fast IT for your firm – or want to book an appointment to chat about it, please contact me or your TRINUS Account Manager.