Anton Cristina: IT strategy and planning
Many questions are asked by CEO’s on this topic, so I picked a few.
– Can we stay as we are? (If it isn’t broken why fix it, right? Wrong.)
– Should we in-source our IT and hire internal staff or Outsource it?
– What are we “a gaming company” or an “IT company”, as our business is highly dependent on IT Infrastructure and software development providers?
– What is my competition doing? (decide whether you want to lead or follow)
– What is the risk if we migrate? (ask yourselves – what is the risk if we don’t )
– How do we protect our intellectual capital? (who has access to what?)
– Do we have segregation of duties in the various IT functions? (If no – why not?)
– Is our data protected? (If the answer is yes – great, but how do we know if it really is?)
– Do we have a DR plan in place? If we do great, but did we test it and if we didn’t – why not? – Are we backing up our data? If yes, great, but did we test the validity of the backed-up Data? If we didn’t – why are we doing back-ups and don’t know what’s inside them? – Banks are using two factor authentication to access the systems both internally and externally. Are we doing this as a gaming operator? If no – why not?
If you are asking yourself the above questions then chances are you are seeing IT as part of your business strategy, and the answers will lead you to align your IT strategy to your company’s vision. Demand more from your internal IT Teams or your Outsourcing Provider.
Cost-effectively protecting the availability of mission-critical databases, webservers and application servers has to do with business planning as much as technical capability. A solid decision-making process must be followed to remove the fear factor from the equation.
Over the past 10 years Computer Systems are being consolidated through virtualization to reduce costs, improve manageability, support and speed of execution. Some of you are still going through the consolidation process driven by mergers, acquisition or growth of the business, and therefore are still trying to build the foundations of your IT Infrastructure. For the ones who went through this process already, the next thing in line to explore is IT Services in the Cloud & Big Data. Alongside this evolutionary process we are overwhelmed with data which makes it harder to stay focused and be clear headed on where we want to take our business in the next 5 years. We hear about iCloud & PayPal being hacked, and wonder how these big Industry giants with deep pockets allowed themselves to be hacked. Today we are seeing the evolution of 2 types of Cloud Services, (1) Public Cloud, meaning services are provided through a shared environment with other clients using the same infrastructure and with little or no control over where the data is being kept, accessed or stored and (2) Private Cloud, meaning dedicated infrastructure to each client and not shared, and having full control of where the data is being kept, accessed and stored. Big Data is being talked about by the large IT multinationals and in essence what they are referring to is business analytics and using information to allow companies make better strategic decisions.
Identify Technology Dependencies
Understanding technology dependencies helps the organization identify who might be impacted by an outage and what the costs of such an event might be. Dependencies refer to the people, organizations, and systems that would be affected by a particular application’s outage. The Internet has woven computer systems deeply within the fabric of the organization’s business processes. Does the application participate significantly in one or more supply chains (e.g., negotiation, problem resolution, product life-cycle management)? Who are the main users of the application (e.g., customer service reps, sales reps, customers)? What are their roles, and when do they work? Although difficult to quantify in absolute dollar terms, it is an important question to ask when ascertaining the total business value (TBV) of the application.
Define High Availability (HA) and use SLA driven methodology to measure results
The definition of what highly available means with respect to a particular application is crucial in determining what problem is really being solved. Availability is always a user-defined term. If the application is performing poorly, is it unavailable? If mobile users cannot connect because the phone organization’s cable is accidentally cut, is the application unavailable? If a table in the database is currently offline, is the entire application unavailable? From users’ perspectives, the answer may be different depending on when they connect, how they connect, and what they access. Therefore, every user has a different definition of highly available. The industry measures availability in nines (e.g., 99%, 99.99%, 99.999%), representing the percentage of time the application is deemed available throughout an entire year. Vendors use terms such as basic availability, enhanced availability, highly available, and fault tolerant. Although they sound similar and are often used interchangeably, users should understand clearly what percentage of uptime the HA vendor is claiming it can deliver for both planned and unplanned downtime.
Calculate the Cost of Downtime
Quantifying the value of the application to the business is a best practice whenever an organization is making a technology selection. It makes no sense to pay more for the technology and its support than the application is worth to the business. In my insurance analogy, no one would pay more in premiums than the property was worth (with the exception of auto insurance), even cumulatively during a period of 5-10 years after factoring in the risk of loss versus the value of the premiums paid. Applications also have value, and organizations should take steps to quantify that value.
Calculating the cost of application downtime can be useful when evaluating the relative costs of various proposed HA infrastructures. In other words, how can the premium be evaluated without knowing the value of the property (e.g., application)? Factors to consider are hours of operation (e.g., hours/day and days/week) and direct and indirect (e.g., cost savings, productivity gains) revenue generated. This will assist not only in the evaluation of possible HA solutions later on, but also will help to identify and rank software assets to assist in future infrastructure and even disaster recovery planning.
Application availability greatly impacts an organization’s bottom line & brand equity, which is known across all industries, yet companies’ still experience downtime, projects are delivered late and out of budget, data is lost or stolen etc…. It is important to get the basic rights and ensure you have the right people around you be it internal employees or external IT Outsourcing providers to help you with firstly getting your house in order and progress to formulating an IT strategy that is aligned to your business vision and objectives.
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