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How to Trim the Fat From Data Center Costs

60 When smaller businesses look to cut costs, they commonly take shortcuts that are risky to their bottom line. They may go out of their way to avoid upgrading dated hardware, buying software licenses, or increasing bandwidth. In some instances, they layoff in-house IT support, or avoid hiring new help, even as the business grows. This often leads to a very cranky and disgruntled “IT guy” with a bad attitude as he or she runs around the office putting out one fire after another – feeling overburdened and underpaid.

Operating even the most basic data center today means recurring operating expenses that aren’t affordable for most small-to-midsize businesses.

Unfortunately, SMBs just have to accept that keeping their data center alive and kicking means significant overhead and expenses. That’s just the way it is.

Or is it? There are actually several ways to reduce data center infrastructure costs without sacrificing the efficiency of your network, server, and applications, or the sanity of your IT guy.

 

Rent, Don’t Own: A data center needs experienced people and a virtual, always-on, 24/7 staff of administrators, networking experts, database specialists, systems managers, and dedicated IT personnel monitoring the network. From an economic perspective, it’s simply more logical to “rent” these workers rather than hire permanent employees.

 

Keep Things Remote & Energy Efficient: According to a study published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the fastest-growing sources of U.S. energy consumption are data centers. This is due to the increased power supply required to run and cool a data center. Hardware sprawl is also a problem contributor, as most businesses have space limitations and lack the available room for any additional hardware.

 

EMBRACE OUTSOURCING

Both of the aforementioned cost control measures can be accomplished by outsourcing data center operating expenses. Outsourcing isn’t a dirty word. Managing IT on your own is difficult and far from cost effective. Outsourcing the day-to-day IT management responsibilities through a Managed Services Provider is a strategic way to improve the efficiency of operations and dramatically cut costs. Is it any surprise that more and more SMBs today are tapping into the full spectrum of outsourced managed services to empower their business processes and reduce overhead? Are you?

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

The Technology Pains of Small Business

Small business owners are faced with quite the dilemma these days. While a reliable and secure network is a critical component to success, business owners are also being forced to scale back on costs and overhead as a means of basic survival in today’s economy.

Having a fully staffed IT department simply isn’t a viable option for a majority of small business owners. Many small businesses either have one full-time employee devoted to IT services or none at all. Both scenarios are recipes for disaster in an increasingly complex high-tech society.

One IT person, even a very small team, will likely be overworked and burdened by too many responsibilities. This can make a company’s business infrastructure increasingly vulnerable to breakdown, not from technology, but from human error.

13 A recent study conducted by Gartner projected that through 2015, people – not technology, will be responsible for up to 80% of technology failure. This number coincides with findings reported in the IT Process Institute’s Visible Ops Handbook stating that 80% of unexpected outages are due to poorly planned changes implemented by administrators and developers.

The forecast is even stormier for businesses with absolutely no IT support on payroll. These business owners have subscribed to the break/fix model of technology management. While this model can sometimes be out of necessity due to budget restraints, it can also stem from a state of ignorance or denial that their business is truly susceptible to technology failure. The overall health and profitability of their business is directly affected by the performance, reliability and security of its technology systems.

With the break/fix model, there is absolutely no proactive monitoring or management of their network. The only emergency plan for data loss or downtime is to call upon an IT specialist in an emergency 9-1-1 situation.

On average, these IT consultants charge $100 an hour. This doesn’t even factor in trip fees, surcharges, and standard repair costs in the range of $500 to $1000, or the costs of hardware and software upgrades. This method also results in more downtime, lost productivity, lost revenue, and a loss in overall customer satisfaction. Major network repairs require a minimum of 8-24 hours on average and most on-call IT consultants cannot get on site for up to 24-48 hours.

One has to also wonder if these consultants truly have the business owners’ best interest in mind. After all, they make their money when technology breaks down. Are they truly motivated to keep a client’s network running optimally and efficiently?

Well Cognocape is. CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

Common Causes of Downtime

Chart Zero In On Infrastructure Vulnerability to Data Center Downtime

Leading Causes of Downtime

  • Power Outages – 48%
  • Accidental Data Deletion – 31%
  • Employee Created – 29%
  • Virus/Malware – 25%
  • Application Failure – 20%

Power Related Outages – Vulnerabilities to a data center’s power still rank as one of the leading causes of unplanned network outages and can often be catastrophic. Particularly costly are UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) related failures (this includes batteries) and generator failures.

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To minimize the impact that power outages have on data center operations, and to prevent a potentially catastrophic unavailability of the data center, a dependable backup system is needed. This ensures the backup of critical data and applications is always in place in the event of equipment failure.

The integration of comprehensive infrastructure monitoring and management tools also minimizes the costs associated with identifying and repairing power system failures. Accidental Data Deletion and

Employee Created Downtime

Simple human error is a prevalent cause of downtime. Whether months of data is unintentionally lost in a backup error, a power cord is unplugged, a busy IT technician overlooks routine maintenance and alert monitoring, or there is an error in judgment during an emergency, to err is human and apparently quite frequent as well.

A study by the Gartner Group, an IT research and advisory firm, projected that through 2015, 80% of downtime will be due to people and process issues.

In the fall of 2010, foursquare – a widely used mobile check-in app – had a highly publicized outage of eleven hours, followed by another shorter service disruption the next day. All three million users of the app were affected and it was a chain of human mistakes that led to both outages. IT techs noticed that a server was storing too much data, but as the support team tried to resolve the issue, all the servers went down.

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Regardless of proper training, or the quality of IT technician hires, human mistakes will likely always lead to instances of a downed data center or network, especially considering the expected learning curve of adapting to new technologies. Ensuring proper communication amongst team members and adequate training at all levels is critical. Of course, it goes without saying that having a comprehensive backup strategy is also a necessity to counteract downtime and ensure business continuity regardless of who is having a bad day.

 

Virus/Malware/Hacks – SMBs are often guilty of thinking they are immune to hackers, viruses and malware. According to a National Cyber Alliance and Symantec survey, 77% of SMBs don’t believe they’re at risk for cybercrime while 83% admit to having no formal measures in place to counter these threats. This isn’t merely a threat to your data; it puts your bank account and the sensitive data of your customers at risk.

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Passwords should be regularly changed every few months. They should also be strong. This means no more passwords like “password” or “1234567.” Employees must be educated on security and precautionary measures. And there is no excuse for not having data backed up in this era of cloud computing and virtualization – where the entire contents of physical server – including the operating system, applications, patches and all data – can easily and cost-effectively be grouped into one software bundle or virtual server.

 

Application Failure – Many applications or their components contribute to recurring downtime. While virtualization offers many multi-faceted advantages it has also further exacerbated overlapping applications in the infrastructure. One small application component failure is now likely to impact many applications.

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It is critical that all components are profiled and there is a general understanding as to what each application does – the hardware resources used by the application and the software it integrates with. Identifying an owner will allow for better monitoring and recognition of failure points.

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SMBs can benefit from a little help when it comes to properly implementing and leveraging this new technology to strengthen their disaster recovery efforts. Access to a 24/7 NOC (Network Operations Center) team offering remote monitoring and management solutions, along with a 24/7 help desk, can help SMBs improve backup, monitoring and troubleshooting processes for maximum uptime and business continuity.

CLICK HERE for a free network assessment.

 

Cognoscape’s Michael St. Martin on KRLD last week “The Educated Investor”

Michael St. Martin, Cognoscape’s COO visited with Todd Volkman on Todd’s KRLD 1080AM radio show “The Educated Investor” last week to discuss how small and medium business owners and executives can leverage technology to increase revenues, productivity and cost savings. Listen “I had a blast speaking with Todd and hopefully explaining how to wade through the quickly changing and sometimes complex landscape of today’s technology” says Michael.   Topics covered include technology planning, back up and disaster recovery, hosted email, cloud computing, free or low cost web apps, and other nuggets of info for you.   Happy listening!

3 Points of Data Recovery

Doing data backup is easy.  Considering the needs for data recovery is where many go wrong.  There are 3 points of data recovery that must be considered when putting together a proper Backup and Disaster Recovery plan.

1. Recovery of a File – Very simple and straight forward, you must be able to recover data files.  Can you recover deleted files from every location people save files?  Most files reside on the server or in a document management system.  Are people saving these documents on their workstations while they edit them?  What happens if Microsoft Word crashes?  I am sure that the file server is backed up, but is it backed up often enough?  Daily backups taken over night are typically not sufficient in most modern networks.

2. Recovery of a Server – Many business owners take comfort in that fact their server is being backed up without ever considering what recovering the server really means.  How long will it take to get a replacement server?  Will the same type of server be available? How do people work while waiting for the hardware?  Once you have the replacement server, how long will it take to restore it to service?  With many backup solutions, restoring requires the server OS and applications to be reinstalled before the data is restored.  It adds another level of complexity (and time) when recovering to dissimilar computer hardware.

3. Recovery of a Site– Unfortunately, disasters do happen.  Here in Texas the media has been marking the ten year anniversary of the tornado that ripped through downtown Fort Worth destroying buildings and ravaging businesses.  We have also been seeing all the coverage of earthquakes.  And let’s not forget about fires.  A recent study discovered that, of companies experiencing a “major loss” of computer records, 43 percent never reopened, 51 percent closed within two years of the loss, and a mere 6 percent survived over the long-term.  Having a plan and being able to recover quickly can greatly improve the chances of the business surviving.

A Complete Solution that addresses all of these points –
A good backup system should allow for quick and flexible restores that allows for recovery of files, folders, partitions, mailboxes/messages, databases/tables using a quick and intuitive process.  A 15-minute incremental based backup allows restores to be done from any point in time, allowing for multiple versions of files, folders, messages/mailboxes, database/tables to be restored.

If any of your servers fail, a good data backup solution will include virtualization technology embedded in the Network Attached Storage (NAS) that allows customer servers and applications to be restored and rebooted in less than 30 minutes in most cases.  As you may sometimes wait several days in order to receive replacement servers from vendors, your NAS can have your business up and running.  The NAS multitasks so that, even while functioning as a virtual server, it can continue to back up data from other devices plugged into the NAS.  This technology thus allows you to remain in business without any significant loss of data backup, server functionality, or application downtime.  In case of a complete server failure the solution should support a bare metal restore to new hardware which has a different configuration, hardware and drivers as compared to the failed server.

Transmitting data to a remote site is another key component of a worthy Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan. It guarantees that, in case of physical damage to the client’s network or NAS, or even regional disaster, the data is safe. Encryption is required in transmitting data between the NAS and the remote sites, because it greatly reduces the risk of data loss incidents that plague magnetic tape and prevents man-in-the-middle attacks during transmission.  Of course a key consideration of off-site backup is the amount of time it could take to restore data over the Internet.   Solutions that offer both transmission as well as emergency delivery of a new device with the most recent image are doubly effective.

In summary, the most important aspects of Backup and Disaster Recovery are to first, have a specific plan, second have a well thought out and comprehensive plan that matches the requirements of your business and lastly, to consistently manage and test your BDR solution.   In an age of document management, EMR, paperless office, HIPAA, HITECH, Sarbanes Oxley, eDiscovery, etc., a reliable Backup and Disaster Recovery solution are paramount to the longevity of your business.