Can business executives expect a solid ROI from outsourcing the management of their IT infrastructure?

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1 White Paper: Maximizing Your IT Infrastructure - Virtually Can business executives expect a solid ROI from outsourcing the management of their IT infrastructure? For many years, technology for small and medium sized businesses was luxury that few could afford. Many of the systems were cobbled together technology solutions that were difficult to maintain and scale as the business grew. Times are certainly different today. Small/medium business owners have access to a wide range of technology solutions that can make them look and operate like a large corporation. Whether its accounting and administration solutions, graphic arts and design, legal systems, engineering or car dealerships, business applications right-sized for an organization abound. The challenge, however, for most smaller businesses is managing the infrastructure that supports the plentiful business applications. Many business executives fret over the degree of difficulty and cost required to manage an infrastructure that effectively supports the requirements of their business. Whether it s network management, server management, desktop management, backup and recovery, virtual private networks, Internet access support or security, small business owners are hard-pressed to meet the technology challenge of managing this complex environment. And if it s difficult for large corporations to find qualified IT personnel, imagine the challenge for the small/medium business owner to recruit and retain this high priced talent. The advancement of technology has opened many doors for the small/medium business executive. Today, sophisticated infrastructure systems can be managed virtually by highly qualified technicians. Called Virtual Infrastructure Management (VIM), this process enables small businesses to access the most sophisticated technology at a substantial cost savings. In effect, VIM providers outsource their knowledge and talents to offer small businesses the infrastructure stability and control they need. This paper explores the new world of Virtual Infrastructure Management and its potential for small/medium business executives. Managing A Small/Medium Business IT Infrastructure The Challenges Starting and growing a business is tough enough in today s economy. Building an information technology infrastructure to support the growth of this business can be a daunting task. Few businesses have the luxury of equipping and re-equipping their organization with the latest that technology has to offer. As a result, business executives face a myriad of challenges. Here is a sampling: Managing a combination of older and newer technologies Managing non-complementary technologies Inadequate technical knowledge of IT infrastructure Managing web-based IT environments Balancing business application and infrastructure requirements Using technology to improve customer care Managing IT security Enabling a mobile workforce

2 The list goes on and on. The bottom line is that many business executives view their information technology environment as more of a challenge than running the core of their business. In some cases, it s viewed as a necessary evil. In other cases, the IT system is viewed as an inhibitor to the growth of the company. This is true not only for non-it focused companies such as legal firms, healthcare providers and accounting firms, but also for companies that build their business in support of the burgeoning IT industry. According to industry analysts, the biggest challenges most small and medium sized business executives face is gaining the technical competency required to manage an IT function. This includes managing the operating systems, web sites, servers, workstations, networks, , remote access, security, back-up and recovery, etc. The challenge is complicated by the fact that qualified staff to manage an IT operation is tough to find and even tougher to keep. Demand for their specialized expertise is so high that they tend to migrate from company to company in search of more pay, better benefits and, oftentimes, a new technical challenge. To many business executives this constant migration of IT talent is a major headache. As the door revolves, knowledge and experience departs at the same time. What many business executives come to realize is the importance of separating their business applications from the technical environment in which they operate. In other words, operating systems and network management tools manage the environment while accounting packages, billing systems and graphic arts systems run their business. While the two are inextricably tied in the overall performance of an IT environment, business executives are realizing that the care and feeding of these environments can be separated. Aligning Your Business Strategy and IT Systems Business executives must be able to answer these questions: How does my IT system support my business strategy? Is there a gap between my IT infrastructure and the operation of my business applications? How do we maintain tight integration between the functional departments and their supporting sub-systems? Do we have a structural framework that ensures uptime, security, and do we have the flexibility to change? Is our IT system part of our customer and partner value chain? In simple terms, your technical infrastructure must support your business strategy. If it doesn t, it will greatly inhibit your ability to run your business day-to-day or handle your growth objectives. Is your IT infrastructure a competitive advantage, or a hindrance? 2

3 Illustration A Business Applications Finance Marketing Sales HR Procure Operating System IT Infrastructure Network Management The IT infrastructure creates the environment for business applications to interoperate, share data and access the Internet. To understand the relationship between your IT infrastructure and your business strategy, you first need to separate the two. Illustration A shows how the functions split apart. This illustration helps executives see where their business focus is or where it needs to be the business applications. Top quality business applications are readily available today for most functions. Configured properly they can help any business become more efficient and more profitable. They can also represent the competitive advantage many organizations need. Strategically, if the infrastructure and business applications are correctly aligned, the result will be a well run, growing business. Not long ago, there was a significant gap between the technologies available to large businesses versus small businesses. As one might imagine, big company budgets could invest in the technology to drive more productivity and performance into its IT functions. Smaller companies, on the other hand, had to cobble together systems that were often very difficult to manage and maintain over their life cycle. That gap no longer exists. Technology for smaller businesses is on par with their larger counter parts. In many cases, technology for smaller businesses is often faster and easier to implement than for large organizations simply based on size and scope. In addition, the cost of computing has come down drastically making technology more affordable and practical for the smaller business. Laying the Foundation for a Powerful and Flexible IT Infrastructure It s well known in the world of architects and engineers that a solid foundation is critical to a stable, robust structure. The same is true for information systems. Your IT infrastructure is the platform on which you deliver your business applications to the end users. It is the channel that carries shared data and maintains the integrity of the overall environment including security and data integrity. It is the network that allows multiple workstations to work together. It is the firewall that protects your systems environment from unwanted entry. It is the virtual private network (VPN) that allows your remote users to access central systems. Illustration B shows the basic components of a contemporary IT infrastructure. 3

4 Illustration B VPN Internet Remote Users Firewall Business Applications Operating System Local Area Network Desktop PC s Database Database File App Web A network services platform provides the tools needed to manage and monitor the infrastructure. These tools would include: Operating system Database and utilities Web development tools and monitoring Performance enhancement tools that provide increased performance and site availability LAN/WAN support and monitoring Virtual Private Networks (VPN) for external access Firewall policy management Monitoring and incidence response Access services for remote users such as DSL ATM, private line and network collocation services The number one challenge for business executives is trying to understand how all of this complex technology can benefit their business and how to implement it to support their business goals. When implemented and run properly it can have a dramatic impact on the overall productivity and performance of a business. It can mean the difference between being competitive and struggling to compete. Virtual Infrastructure Management (VIM) Outsource Your IT, Not Your Core Business The core competency of a business is simply the business it s in. If that business is IT infrastructure management, then your business model will have the appropriate IT professionals on staff. If you are a manufacturer, lawyer, doctor, architect or any other kind of small business with a dependence on information technology, it makes sense to allow professionals to manage the highly technical environment of your IT infrastructure. In effect, you are outsourcing your technical environment, not your core business. 4

5 Virtual Infrastructure Management (VIM) is a technology used by some of the largest and most successful corporations and non-profit institutions around the world. VIM allows smaller businesses to gain the economy of scale of advanced technology and the experience of specialists trained and certified in these technologies. With the technology available today, it is highly cost effective to outsource your IT infrastructure to specialists that can maintain a stable and predictable environment for your business to run. Here are some of the benefits of VIM: Minimizes in-house IT recruiting and staffing to install, enhance and maintain highly complex software and hardware Minimizes high cost of building and maintaining IT infrastructure to support your business applications Maximizes your ability to focus on running your business while experienced professionals provide a seamless, stable operating environment Maximizes your ability to tap into advanced technologies that you may not otherwise be able to afford Puts the control and accountability in the hands of professionals Allows your business to grow and expand using your IT systems as a competitive foundation Outsourcing your IT infrastructure to professionals has two key advantages. Reduces your risks Technology Security Implementation Limits your cost Costs are known in advance Costs may be lower than using in-house resources VIM is the answer for many small business executives that want to focus on running and growing their business with the assurance that their IT systems are operating at peak performance. About Virtual Management Technologies Founded in 2002, Virtual Management Technologies provides managed connectivity exclusively for small businesses that want to outsource their IT infrastructure. The company s Virtual Infrastructure Management (VIM) solution provides a stable, predictable and cost effective environment for small businesses. VMT is staffed by experienced IT infrastructure specialists with extensive knowledge in managing large corporate information systems. They have managed some of the most complex network, security and system monitoring challenges found in the IT world. They are ready now to share this experience with you. VMT provides support for your Management, Enterprise Messaging, Disaster Recovery, Network Management, Security, Desktop Management, Digital Data Backup, Replication Services and Hosting/Colocation. VMT can be reached at ext 111 or check the web site at V-NET, Virtual Infrastructure Management (VIM) are registered marks of Virtual Management Technologies, Inc. Citrix is a registered trademark of Citrix Systems, Inc. Copyright 2006 Virtual Management Technologies, Inc. 5

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