By Collin McDonald, Director of Solution Architecture
So, you’re fully on the ‘cloud bus,’ yes? Most companies are by now – to varying degrees – and clearly, it makes sense. The promise of the cloud has certainly paid off when it comes to flexibility and modernization, but what many companies may still be missing is several important strategies that could potentially reduce IT costs while saving time and a lot of headaches… almost instantly.
The cloud has allowed IT teams to move faster, better support internal and external customers, and in many cases, let certain categories of users provision resources essentially ‘on demand.’ But with great power comes great responsibility… and, in some cases, exploding costs.
The Hidden Challenges of the Cloud
The reality for many companies is that the cloud model, while it has many advantages, has created other challenges we didn’t quite see coming. For some, it has made interoperability more complex and difficult, and it created the need for new, cloud-specific apps and management tools just to make everything work. All of this, of course, adds even more cost and complexity. For others, the cloud has created challenges with ‘shadow IT,’ or the use of systems, devices, software, apps, and other services without the explicit approval of the IT department. Need to add new software for your team? Go for it! Need to use your own devices for a mobile app you want to use? Have at it!
Yes, it’s true that, in reality, shadow IT can improve productivity and fuel innovation, but it can also create serious security risks and balloon costs ‘behind the scenes’ where no one is paying as much attention, especially in today’s cybersecurity world where so much focus remains (as it should be). Meanwhile, areas like storage and compute, entire data center environments, or application redundancies may go unchecked – maybe because companies don’t have enough in-house resources or the right expertise to monitor everything. That’s why in this post, I’m focusing specifically on areas of inefficiencies where a little attention can go a long way in optimizing your environment and reducing costs… fast.
3 Strategies to Reduce IT Costs
1. Focus on whole ecosystems, not single-point technologies.
The reality is that whole technology ecosystems are really running the business, not any single technology. So, just hyper-focusing on one technology is short-sighted. Instead, determine the roadmap of where you want to go. Then, develop the requirements from there so you can clearly see mission-critical systems versus non-critical. This step also helps align your key stakeholders on the problem statement. I’ve often asked various stakeholders for their view of the problem statement, and I rarely, if ever, get the same response from all of them. I’m not exaggerating. Once you have a roadmap and a common definition for the problem(s) and goals, then you can more easily identify which systems will help you get there as quickly and efficiently as possible, and which ones are more likely to hold you back or derail your plan altogether. This step identifies where the bloat is happening, which could be hidden in your data center environment, cloud resources, your tools, and applications, or all of the above. The answers might signify the need for a rip and replace of outdated systems, modernizing others, moving some to the cloud, going hybrid with some, or any combination of those steps. You’ll also be able to better identify which areas may be over- or under-provisioned based on that roadmap. Under-provisioned means you’re likely to encounter unwelcome bottlenecks at some point (which never happens at a convenient time), and over-provisioned means you’re spending more than you need to. So, not taking this holistic view of your longer-term plan is akin to starting a road trip with no end destination in mind… how do you know if you’re on the best route to get there?
2. Move your IT resources to higher-value tasks and systematize others.
I recently worked with a larger client that had only two in-house IT resources, and because of their poor backup system, retrieving documents was slow and unreliable. Their backup chains kept breaking, and although they were doing their best to manage all of IT along with an on-prem storage system, they were falling behind. Attention to the help desk and other proactive services to support the company goals and future roadmap were nowhere to be seen. It was a blind curve of losing time and money without anyone really to blame or anyone putting dollar figures to it all. After an assessment of their environment, we moved them to a simple SaaS-based backup, archival, and storage system so the staff could easily log into a portal to quickly find whatever was needed. They stopped having to find the right backup target repository for specific files and no longer needed three different software vendors supporting the disjointed on-premise system. Today, one admin spends only part-time support on retrieval and can focus on future initiatives, while the other is focused on optimizing the help desk to improve service delivery. Not only did they immediately save money, but their time to resolution improved significantly and their TCO will be much less than it was with multiple vendors in the on-prem scenario.
3. Assess and re-architect your workloads.
This is where the rubber really meets the road in assessing and optimizing CPU, latency, compute, storage, and power costs. If you conduct a thorough assessment of your environment, you’d be surprised just how much bloat can be hidden away in there. In one client case, they were running WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype for Business, and Zoom… all the paid versions for business with 350-400 seats per application. It was like someone was watching the dashboard. Still, no one was paying attention to the engine itself, but finding this overlap resulted in significant savings made possible just by consolidating this area of the business. Now, think if you had that same kind of bloat in multiple areas or if the bloat was from an old system running too slow and bogging things down or not integrating with other more modern systems. You might be hitting bottlenecks you’re not even aware of and draining time and budget unnecessarily. Or, in the case of cloud services, you may have workloads you could be running on more affordable providers and not be able to easily ‘price shop,’ but an assessment could quickly show you cost comparisons on AWS versus Azure. And the list goes on. Getting a clear view of where and how all of your workloads across your entire environment could be optimized may be the biggest cost-saving opportunity of them all, but the reality is that every strategy is worth implementing if there’s potential for improving efficiencies and reducing costs.
If this sounds like some worthwhile advice, but you’re not sure where to start, a third-party assessment could be a useful next step. Find a provider that is neutral and technology agnostic yet well-versed across the cloud and on-premise systems to understand precisely how those systems support your business so nothing gets missed. Be sure they also start with the holistic view of your business today and ask where you want to go so they are not working from the wrong roadmap at the get-go. These assessments should only take a few days to a week, depending on the complexity of your environment, and give you a clear and immediately actionable plan on where you can start trimming the fat as soon as tomorrow.
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“As Director of Solution Architecture at MicroAge, Collin McDonald is focused on closing the gap between IT, Sales, and Operations by architecting proven technology solutions designed to solve real-world business problems while boosting sales and increasing productivity.”Collin McDonaldDirector of Solution Architecture