When expanding rapidly, many businesses are forced to quickly add capacity and resources to their IT infrastructure. This piecemeal approach to infrastructure tends to lead to the construction of an IT estate that lacks coherence and complete compatibility. This often means that the infrastructure which develops has inefficiencies, gaps in service and potential security risks at its core.
So how do you begin to quantify the cost of a poorly planned IT infrastructure?
When implementing new systems, there is a tendency to over-specify to ensure that you have sufficient capacity for future growth. This can be a good thing, as long as there is not too much surplus. However, many businesses get their estimates completely wrong and end up paying the price ...
‘Research shows that the typical data center is only utilized to 30% of its capacity. While some data centers are utilized to 90% or more of capacity, there are similar numbers utilized to only 10% of capacity.’
These figures indicate that some businesses are wasting as much as two-thirds of their IT budget on purchasing and maintaining over-specified systems.
Whether to keep costs low, or through simple short-sightedness, other businesses choose the complete opposite, purchasing systems that only meet their needs for that moment in time. An urgent purchase may not fully take into account the current rate of growth, or the wider IT strategy into which the system will integrate.
The specific costs associated with under-specification are somewhat harder to compute, but will undoubtedly include:
- Additional hardware and software purchasing to cover any shortfalls.
- Reduced return on investment, thanks to the shortened life cycle of an under-specified system.
- Reduced efficiency in the period between maximum capacity being reached and a replacement or upgrade being implemented.
- Delays in reaching strategic goals as the system fails to deliver expected benefits on time.
- Additional secondary costs, including the need for extra server room space, the drain on IT technical resources, and issues of balancing load effectively between the multiple resources.
The cost will be also be affected by the strategic importance of the system, which will have a knock-on effect throughout the business.
Finally, there are the problems associated with ad hoc provisioning and the effect that disparate systems have on the IT system as a whole. From minimal software compatibility, to custom extensions required to link systems, these inconsistencies can have a major impact on efficiency. They also result in the creation of ‘gaps’ in the infrastructure which limit efficiency, requiring manual intervention or duplicated effort by users, or even result in the potential for security breaches and cyber-attacks.
- Inconsistent provisioning will create additional costs in the form of:
- Reduced employee efficiency, which will add up to thousands of lost man hours every year.
- Increased support costs, as more human resources are required to support the broad array of systems in use.
- Security breaches caused by incomplete protection, which can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair.
Using these pointers, you should be able to gain a basic estimate of the cost of poorly planned IT infrastructure. To gain an exact figure, you may find it beneficial to work with a third party who can analyse activities and infrastructure to observe and quantify inefficiencies and risks. This information can then be used to inform a proper IT infrastructure plan that combines neatly with wider business strategy to deliver greater benefits at lower cost.
- An over-specified IT structure can be as costly to your business as an under-specified IT structure.
- IT ‘gaps’ resulting from an unplanned infrastructure can not only be costly due to increased support needs and reduced employee efficiency, but also due to security breaches and cyber-attacks.
- An outsourced IT partner can look at your business without bias and give an objective view on what is the optimal infrastructure, both for now and for your future.