For many businesses, particularly those in the legal and accounting sectors, time is money. You bill by the hour for your specialist services, so every hour (and minute) of the working day counts. The more efficient you are, the more profitable your firm can be.
Your IT infrastructure is crucial to your efficiency as a business. It touches every aspect of your operations, from data management, client communication, marketing, and accounting to simple, day-to-day tasks like using email, browsing the web and producing documents. Therefore, having a powerful, secure and reliable IT infrastructure is foundational to the success of your firm.
Unfortunately, as many of us have experienced first-hand, there are various things that can go wrong with IT. Servers can go down, applications can crash, hardware can malfunction, and important data, files or documents can get lost in the process. What about if your data centre succumbs to a flood, fire or power outage? Do you have a disaster recovery system in place to keep your business up and running?
These types of problems can cause major disruptions to your operations—or worse, bring your entire firm to a screeching halt—costing you valuable time and money. Perhaps it’s a result of your existing IT infrastructure (your legacy system) being old, slow and outdated, or maybe it’s because you opted for a cheaper and inferior system. Whatever the case, your firm simply can’t afford to be slowed down by its IT.
There are many firms, particularly those in the accounting sector, that approach their IT from the wrong angle. Their focus when it comes to IT is on cutting costs rather than being more efficient, and it’s only a matter of time before they realise that they get for what they pay for.
In the long run, investing in an high-performant IT infrastructure can do more to help improve the profitability of your firm than settling for a more basic, lower-quality system. The speed, functionality and productivity you can achieve with a Managed IaaS solution far outweigh the short-term savings you can make with a cheaper model.
Whatever the size or sector of your business, your IT infrastructure should improve your operations, not impede them. By upgrading to a Managed IaaS solution, you can save time and maximise your billable hours.
What is Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS)
Infrastructure-as-a-Service, or IaaS for short, is a cloud computing model that involves moving your existing IT infrastructure from your own servers and “lifting” it into the cloud where it’s delivered back to you by an IaaS provider. Instead of having everything sitting on local servers at your premises, your company data and software are stored and run on servers at your IaaS provider’s data centres, where it can be accessed over the Internet.
This means that your employees no longer have to be at their office computer to do their work. They can access their work files and applications on any compatible device at any time and from any place, whether they’re at home, on the road, or even on holiday. This makes IaaS a fantastic remote working solution for any business, especially during times when people are forced to work home, like we witnessed with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Although some people may be hesitant about the idea of moving your company’s valuable and sensitive data to the cloud, rest assured that IaaS is a perfectly safe and secure solution. In fact, your data is perhaps more secure on a cloud server than your site’s local server. It’s highly likely that your IaaS provider will have more stringent security measures in place, including firewall protection, two-factor authentication, and ISO-accredited data centres.
What is the Difference Between IaaS and Managed IaaS?
There’s a key difference between a regular IaaS platform and a Managed IaaS solution, and the clue is in the name.
With IaaS, your provider will typically provide you with the servers and storage that you need to build your applications, and leave you to it. Think of it like a company leasing you a plot of land on which you can build whatever you want—but you need to source your own building equipment and materials.
With Managed IaaS, your service is just that: managed. Your service is monitored and maintained 24/7 by a dedicated team of cloud computing experts. If any issues arise, such as an application crashing or a server going down, that team will be notified immediately and a Microsoft-certified engineer will work quickly to resolve the problem.
As a Managed IaaS client, you’ll receive technical guidance and support every step of the way, from the pre-audit stage and the complex, time-consuming task of migrating your data to final testing and delivery. They’ll also liaise with software vendors, taking over the management of your licences and billing.
If IaaS is like leasing a plot of land from a company and being left to your own devices, Managed IaaS is like leasing the land and having that company help you build what you need to build. They’ll even offer suggestions on how things can be built in a better and smarter way.
Another major benefit of Managed IaaS is that disaster recovery is included as standard. This is a series of processes that ensures that your company won’t suffer downtime or data loss in the event of an accident, whether it’s a catastrophic event like your server room succumbing to a flood or someone accidentally deleting an important file.
Comprising processes like daily backups of your data, a failover system, and having sibling servers on standby at secondary data centres, having a disaster recovery system in place is an invaluable safety net for your business. Much like a video game, it allows you to return to a recent checkpoint if your IT crashes.
Managed IaaS also benefits your IT staff, whether it’s a large team, a small team or single IT manager. By providing an additional level of support, Managed IaaS frees up your IT team from constantly fixing server issues and responding to problems no matter the time of day. It relieves them of being digital firefighters—and bearing the brunt of your employees’ frustrations!—and instead allows them to add real value to the business by exploring new technologies and improving systems and processes. If there’s any issue they can’t fix, your Managed IaaS provider is there to help.
Why Might Your IT Infrastructure Be Slowing You Down?
There are many reasons why your IT infrastructure might be causing problems and slowing you down. Some of these factors might be in your control, such as the resources that you’ve invested in, the way that your current IT infrastructure is built, or the quality of your backup and disaster recovery processes. Other things are simply out of your control, such as power failures, natural disasters, and human error.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your IT system might be slowing your business down.
- Unreliable servers
Servers going down is one of the most common headaches for many businesses. When a server is down, what that means is the programme that is designed to respond to requests from the network is not doing so. This could be due to any number of reasons, such as power supply failures, hardware problems, software issues, external attacks, or physical causes and accidents.
- Hardware failure
Hardware failure is a malfunction within the electronic circuits or electromechanical components (such as disks and tapes) of a computer system. This can be in the form of problems with the controller board on the hard disk, mechanical failure, or logical corruption when there is a problem with the information on the disk. Hardware failure is most commonly caused by overheating, but physical damage, power voltage surges, water damage, corrupted files, and human error may also be to blame.
- Software crashing
Computer programs can crash or behave unusually for a multitude of reasons, most often due to an error in the program, your operating system, or your drivers. If software crashes once and works the next time you use it, this shouldn’t be a cause for concern. But if the same problem happens over and over, you may need to update your software or undo any recent changes to your system.
- Power outage
A power outage is the loss of the electrical power network supply to an end user. Power cuts can be caused by harsh weather such as snow, lightning, strong winds, and freezing rain; animals or tree branches coming into contact with power lines; technological failures such as problems with cables, connectors, transformers, and switches; a vehicle colliding into a power line; or scheduled interruptions due to maintenance or repair work. Whether it occurs at your office or at a data centre where your server is housed, a power outage can cause serious disruption lasting for several hours.
- Manually transfer files between devices
Firms who don’t use cloud storage/applications or have remote working capabilities will probably find themselves having to manually transfer files and documents between devices, whether that’s through email, bluetooth or a USB storage device. Not only is this tedious, but it wastes valuable time when there is a much easier and quicker solution out there.
Furthermore, manually transferring data between devices can increase the risk of data loss or a data breach, which can have especially serious consequences for firms who handle personal information.
The Cost of Having a Slow and Inefficient IT System
If your company exists in an industry where time is money, inefficiencies are bad for business. We’re referring not just to technological disruptions and unplanned downtime, but to day-to-day practices and processes that eat into the valuable hours of your working day. Over time, even the most minor delays can have a major impact on your firm.
If your business has a slow, inefficient and unreliable IT system, the biggest and most noticeable way you’ll suffer is by experiencing a loss of productivity. If your applications are taking too long to load or a server keeps going down, this slows down your employees and, in some cases, prevents them from being able to work altogether until the issue is resolved. This puts you in a situation where you’re paying your employees in full, despite them not being able to do their job properly. You aren’t getting the most out of your resources.
This loss of productivity also creates ongoing workflow problems further down the line. Whether it’s a minor disruption or major downtime, IT problems leave your employees playing catch up, adding unnecessary stress and pressure to their plate which, in most cases, isn’t going to get the best out of them. If you’ve suffered a loss of data, your employees will have to duplicate work they’ve already done, further slowing them down.
Whether it’s due to a server crashing, a power outage or a data centre succumbing to a floor or fire, downtime is a major concern for any business and can have huge financial ramifications. Every minute or hour that your firm is unable to engage in business means lost revenue and reduced profits. These losses can be costly; 90% of companies suffer unplanned downtime at an average cost of £1.23 million each year.
When your workforce is hamstrung by a slow IT system, it’s likely to impair your business’ ability to deliver projects, products or services on time, hurting your client relationships and tarnishing your overall reputation. And if your company develops a reputation for not being able to deliver on time, you’ll lose clients, lose revenue, and lose opportunities in the future.
While it can be hard to accurately quantify the cost of having a slow, inefficient and unreliable IT infrastructure, the financial implications for your business can certainly be felt.
Treatment: How Can Managed IaaS Save You Time and Maximise Your Billable Hours?
For all the issues and inefficiencies that a slow IT infrastructure can result in, there’s no reason that your firm should have to put up with them. Why suffer the constant headaches, disruptions, lost revenue and missed opportunities that your current IT system may be causing when there is a better solution out there?
Upgrading to a Managed IaaS platform can help to mitigate—and in some cases eradicate—these problems while helping your firm to boost productivity and become a more efficient and high-functioning organisation. Here’s how Managed IaaS can help your business save time and maximise your billable hours.
No longer do your employees have to physically be in the office to do their work; Managed IaaS allows your staff to remain productive wherever there is an Internet connection. Because your company data and software is stored in a private cloud environment, your staff can access their work files and applications over the Internet using any compatible device (such as a laptop, tablet or smartphone).
They can take care of important tasks, oversee projects, and stay in touch with clients and colleagues wherever they are, whether that’s at home, on the road or even on holiday. This greater level of accessibility and flexibility allows your employees to work smarter, better and faster, meaning they can make the most of every single minute of the working day.
A Managed IaaS platform can be easily adapted to suit your firm’s needs. If your business is growing and you require more resources, you can simply expand your service to meet the growing demand. If things quieten down and you need to streamline your operations, you can simply scale your service back.
Many companies who have their own on-site IT infrastructure find themselves weighed down by their physical servers. If they need more storage, they have to invest in a brand new server. If they need to cut back, they can’t just get rid of servers, so they find themselves under-utilising and overpaying for their equipment.
Managed IaaS removes this heavy burden and makes your business more nimble and agile. Whether you need to meet growing demand or scale back, changes to your Managed IaaS platform can be implemented quickly and accurately, ensuring that you’re always getting maximum value for money from your IT infrastructure.
- Zero downtime
Managed IaaS ensures that your business remains up and running 24/7. As standard, it includes a comprehensive disaster recovery system that offers a guaranteed 99.9% uptime. Your company data is replicated in near-real time at a secondary ISO-accredited data centre that is based in a different geographical nature.
So if any issue arises that could result in potential downtime (even a natural disaster!), your IT infrastructure will seamlessly failover to a sibling server at the secondary data centre. This ensures continuity for your firm, safeguarding you from potentially costly downtime while allowing you to remain efficient and productive at all times.
- Data loss prevention
Whether it’s due to an application crashing, your network going down, or someone accidentally deleting a file, it can be easy to lose data. And without a proper system in place, you could end up losing this data for good.
With Managed IaaS, however, you never have to worry about suffering data loss again. As standard, your data is backed up daily and retained for 60 days or more, with the option of more frequent backups and longer retention periods, if required. So if you end up losing an important file or document, you’ll always be able to recover a recent copy.
Data loss can have serious consequences, especially for businesses that handle sensitive personal information, such as legal firms and accountants. Losing data and falling foul of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) can result in fines, other indirect costs, and a tarnished reputation.
- IT Support
Managed IaaS gives your business an additional level of IT support. The role of a Managed IaaS provider is to ensure that your service is always available to you and is performing at optimal levels. If any potential issue arises, a team of Microsoft-certified engineers are notified immediately and work responsively to fix the issue.
Engineers are also responsible for the general maintenance, support and patching of all operating systems. These are planned with the consent and agreement of the client, usually out of hours to minimise disruption.
If there’s a problem that your in-house IT manager or IT team can’t fix, then your Managed IaaS provider is on hand to diagnose the problem and find a solution. If your firm doesn’t have its own IT department, then your Managed IaaS company can provide the support you’ve been missing.
Having a strong support network around your business will help to keep it running efficiently.
High performance starts with high-powered technology, and for many businesses, a Managed IaaS platform will give them access to far superior resources than what they are used to with their legacy system. Managed IaaS allows you to level up your IT infrastructure with powerful server clusters containing multiple nodes, each of which provides high amounts of processing power. You also benefit from best-in-breed SSDs that offer all the memory and storage space you need. Better functionality leads to a better performance, and a better performance allows your firm to improve efficiency, boost productivity, and maximise your profitability.
What’s more, all of these benefits that Managed IaaS gives your firm can be its own additional benefit. You can position these efficiency-boosting features as strengths to clients, letting them know that they’re working with a well-oiled firm who works quickly and delivers on time and to a high standard on a consistent basis. This will help to solidify existing client relationships while helping you to win more business.
Why Your IT Team Might Be Hesitant About Upgrading to a Managed IaaS Platform
Despite the many time-saving and efficiency-boosting benefits that the platform offers, the idea of upgrading to Managed IaaS may not be received with open arms by your IT manager or IT team. While it’s actually a good thing, as we’ll explore later on in this white paper, it’s likely that you’ll hear some of the following gripes and concerns from your IT staff.
It removes the need for a physical infrastructure
Managed IaaS moves your company’s IT infrastructure from your local, on-site server to a cloud server in your IaaS provider’s data centre, where it’s accessed over the Internet. Therefore, Managed IaaS removes the need for the physical infrastructure that your IT staff have been so used to maintaining.
It’s a modern technology they may not understand
Some IT staff may not take to Managed IaaS simply because it’s a modern technology that’s different from the way that things have traditionally been done, and they don’t fully understand it. Perhaps your IT staff are worried about the security of the cloud aspect of Managed IaaS, falsely assuming that their company’s precious data will be floating around the cyberspace where it’s vulnerable to hackers.
Of course, they’d be gravely mistaken. Managed IaaS solution is entirely safe and secure. Your company data is stored on servers at ISO-accredited data centres, where it’s protected from external threats by various security measures, and supported by robust backup, recovery and replication systems.
They see it as a threat to their job
Any suggestion of adopting an entirely new IT infrastructure with an outside company will probably ruffle a few feathers within your IT department, and understandably so. Moving things to the cloud, changing the way things are currently done, and bringing in an additional support team sounds like a huge overhaul—and for firms with outdated legacy systems, it certainly will be—so don’t be surprised if some of your IT staff see Managed IaaS as a threat to their job. The reality, as we’re about to discuss below, is quite the opposite.
Why Your IT Team Should Embrace Managed IaaS
Despite their worries, grievances or objections, your IT staff should actually embrace Managed IaaS. Your business migrating from a legacy system to a hosted infrastructure opens up a whole host of opportunities for your IT team and gives them plenty of reasons to be excited about the future.
A Managed IaaS solution relieves your IT staff of the burden of constantly fixing issues with your I.T. infrastructure, which can be boring, tedious and come with its headaches. It frees them from being firefighters and allows them to be true IT professionals. It allows your IT staff to use their time, energy and attention in more beneficial ways, such as properly managing your company’s infrastructure while exploring new technology and improving systems and processes.
Upgrading to Managed IaaS actually increases the demand of your IT staff in other ways. The migration process requires a fair bit of housekeeping on your company data, such as deleting unnecessary files, emptying trash bins, and clearing out inbox folders. This is key to ensuring a smooth, seamless and swift migration process while maximising the amount of storage space you’ll have with your new hosted infrastructure.
Managed IaaS is not only a highly beneficial IT solution, but it’s cost-effective. It eliminates the need to maintain an expensive physical infrastructure while its guaranteed 99.9% uptime reduces the costs associated with glitches, disruptions and unplanned downtime. As a result, Managed IaaS can help your business free up capital that can potentially be invested into developing your IT team in new ways, helping to further improve your productivity.
Managed IaaS doesn’t necessarily spell doom and gloom for your IT department. It isn’t here to steal their jobs. In fact, IaaS can provide a new lease on life for your IT staff, relieving them of menial maintenance duties and enabling them to explore new and exciting technological opportunities that will both add value to their job and improve your firm as a whole.