What types of IT infrastructure projects are worth your valuable time? With implications for everything from processing efficiency to cybersecurity, IT infrastructure plays many essential roles in modern companies. After your initial setup, you need to think constantly about how to improve IT infrastructure. This may leave you wondering, what types of IT infrastructure projects are needed for your business?
There are 4 main types of IT infrastructure projects to consider:
- Web Development
From your website to your hardware, software, and network, your IT infrastructure covers a broad range of technologies. Each of these has its own endless range of possibilities. Determining which types to address, as well as your objectives and the specific projects that will help you achieve them, can quickly become overwhelming.
Many IT infrastructure projects face challenges along the way, from keeping up with changing technologies to addressing shifting business priorities. Undertaking such projects can also be intimidating because of the proliferation of articles about how IT infrastructure projects fail on a regular basis.
Keep reading to learn how you can choose the right types of IT infrastructure projects for your business and help ensure their success.
4 Types of IT Infrastructure Projects
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<p>4 Types of IT Infrastructure Projects for Your Business - An infographic by the team at <a href="https://sdi.ai/">Sentient Digital, Inc.</a></p>
Get your planning process started by considering in more detail the types of IT infrastructure projects that could best benefit your business.
1. Web Development
Before investing in an expensive purchase, 81% of consumers do research online. In addition, 90% of consumers search for local businesses online. If your website doesn’t measure up, your potential customers will move on.
Your website’s interface, functionality, security, and design all factor into a customer deciding whether or not they should engage with your business. Your online presence helps customers form both initial and lasting impressions of your business, making it a high priority for most companies.
How do you determine what types of IT infrastructure projects your business might need for its website? This will depend on what kind of business you operate, as well as what your web development has accomplished so far.
- If you have an e-commerce business, or have considered opening an online store, it’s important to examine the functionality of your online shopping system. Is it easy for customers to browse through different products and manage their shopping cart? Is there adequate infrastructure in place to make sure you never sell more products than you have in your inventory?
- If you run a service-based business, having a strong online presence and convenient website should boost your chances of attracting new customers. Does your website provide clear descriptions of your services? Do you have an online booking system that allows customers to easily make reservations or appointments? Is that booking system synced up efficiently to your internal system?
- Keep your audience in mind. In addition to considering your industry, think about who your prospective clients are. For example, B2B companies may need to ensure that their websites lead with the kind of information that a procurement manager needs to review.
- Remember, effective customer service matters across all industries. Maybe you already have an attractive and intuitive website, but customers don’t seem to be engaging very deeply with it. Consider ways of making your website more approachable and tailored to their interests, such as AI-powered personalized recommendations or a chatbot. Depending on the level of personalization and responsiveness you are seeking, these solutions may be relatively simple to implement and add a lot of value.
When your hardware is working smoothly, it can be easy to overlook. But when it’s dysfunctional or doesn’t meet your needs, it can be hard to ignore and can negatively impact productivity or even cause business operations to grind to a halt.
As with web development, the types of IT infrastructure projects your business needs for its hardware will vary based on your company size and line of work. Consider any issues or shortcomings stemming from your computer monitors, switches, ethernet cables, keyboards, or any other physical parts of your computer system. Remember the importance of efficiency and resilience in these critical tools of your work.
Some hardware upgrades or implementations wouldn’t necessarily require your IT department to design an infrastructure project. It is relatively simple, for example, to purchase new keyboards for all of your employees. But other hardware upgrades require more planning to be completed successfully.
- If you choose to keep your business’ data in external servers, as opposed to a cloud-based service, the next step is to figure out the configuration. If your company needs a server mainly to share documents among team members, you might only need one server that could easily be kept in-house. However, some businesses may require more data storage space, such as for keeping lengthy and secure client records. Some businesses might also need their servers to run at a higher bandwidth than average if you need to transfer data quickly or offer streaming videos.
- If everyone in your business requires their own computer, consider purchasing laptops and docking stations for everyone instead of desktop computers. Laptops make it easier for employees to bring all of their files with them to meetings or when working from home. The docking stations ensure that employees still receive the benefits of desktop computers without the mobility limitations.
- Remember that when you make a change that impacts the way employees perform their work, getting the employees to buy into the project is critical. For example, if your business determines that employees need the flexibility to work remotely and transitions from using only desktops to using laptops with docking stations, employees need to understand the expectations that come with this change and may need training to ensure the laptops remain secure.
When it comes to your company’s software, consider that it includes your operating system, user interface, apps, and any computer programs or processes your business uses. Your IT department in particular can provide invaluable insight on the biggest problems and opportunities associated with your software based on help desk records.
Of all the types of IT infrastructure projects, software upgrades are often the most visible to employees, as they most affect their day-to-day interactions with your technology. So, as with hardware infrastructure projects, significant changes to software will require employee buy-in and training, both to understand how to use the new software and the reason for the change.
The right software maintenance and upgrades can lead to huge increases in employee productivity as well as customer satisfaction, but they can also come with bigger risks.
- Deciding to upgrade operating systems is a big decision, but usually necessary every few years. While you don’t always have to rush out and buy everyone in your company the latest Windows or Apple operating system, letting your company fall several operating systems behind usually puts you at a variety of disadvantages. Older operating systems often stop receiving support after a few years. As more programs and applications roll out, they also tend to stop being compatible with older operating systems. With that said, upgrading operating systems can be a significant undertaking, as it could affect all aspects of your business for several days.
- If you’re looking to boost your customer interactions, think about acquiring or creating your own customer relationship management (CRM) software. A CRM allows businesses to squander less time doing simplistic manual data entry of customer contact information and sales numbers. With more customer data, faster data collection, and built-in tools to analyze that data, your team can better focus their efforts on improving customer interactions and increasing sales.
- Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software also allows you and your employees to be more efficient with your time and resources. ERP software can automate numerous data entries and analyses for your business, reducing your operational overhead. Whereas a CRM’s main goal is to increase sales, an ERP’s primary function is to make your business run more effectively.
Your business’ computer network refers to all of your IT components that communicate with one another. This covers a broad range of important operations for your business, from internet connectivity, to network enablement, to file sharing over the cloud, to security measures.
Having a communicative and secure network is of the utmost importance. Your various computing parts need to be able to communicate with one another efficiently to ensure that data is transferred safely and quickly from one device to another. With that in mind, there are various types of IT infrastructure projects you can undertake to improve your network operations.
- Given the recent increase in ransomware attacks over the last few years, heightening network security is on a lot of business owners’ minds. Assuming that you have already implemented standard security measures, such as installing antivirus software and setting up firewalls, consider investing in more proactive cyber security methods. One such tactic that is not beyond the budget of most small businesses is network and endpoint monitoring. This monitoring helps ensure that criminals do not breach your network—or, if they do, that you can catch them before they wreak irreversible damage.
- More and more businesses are shifting away from data centers and choosing instead to store their records via cloud computing. Using cloud software allows many small and medium-sized businesses to lower operational costs, as fewer pieces of hardware are needed. The cloud also makes it easier for teammates to collaborate on and share files with one another. If your business decides to switch its data storage partially or fully to the cloud, some of your security measures might need to be altered, too.
- For improved network security and efficiency, consider incorporating more segmentation into your network. Cyber criminals often move laterally through a network, continually gaining access to more and more files. By partitioning your network into smaller segments, it becomes more difficult for cyber criminals to gain access to your passwords and personal data. Segmentation also helps to ensure that network traffic doesn’t become congested and start lagging. There are multiple measures you can implement to segment your network, among them virtual local area networks (VLANs) and access control lists (ACLs).
- In addition to the infrastructure itself, think about the architecture of your network. Remember that in addition to the team and departmental levels, your network has to serve the full organization with all parts working together in a coherent way. Consider the value of Future State Architecture or other approaches to enterprise architecture for your organization, which can include matching business objectives to the interconnected design of different aspects of your infrastructure.
How to Plan Successful IT Infrastructure Projects
Now that you know how to improve IT infrastructure through these four types of projects, you want to set your projects up for success. Why is it that so many types of IT infrastructure projects fail? Most often, these projects fall short or fall apart because of how quickly technology changes, how interconnected IT infrastructure is with all other facets of your business, and how difficult it is to predict the project’s costs and duration.
Fortunately, we have some advice for ensuring that your IT project does not become just another statistic. No matter your goal, from supporting business intelligence to reducing cyber security risks, it is critical to systematically weigh the benefits, risks, and costs of any prospective IT project before committing to it.
Benefits and Risks
Consider the benefits and risks of your proposed IT infrastructure project for each department, for the business as a whole, and for the clients you serve. Who would this project help, how much, and in what ways? Who or what might you put at risk by undertaking the project (or not undertaking the project)? In what ways could it affect other departments or other areas of IT?
In order to best anticipate all possible benefits and risks, discuss them among your IT team, any other departments that may be involved or affected, and company leaders and decision–makers. Including stakeholders outside of the IT department in the planning phase of the process will also help get them on board with the project, which will make the implementation phase smoother.
When evaluating risks and benefits, your first thoughts are likely to be about the outcomes of completing this potential project. Take the time to thoroughly consider these outcomes, as well as the outcomes associated with not doing the project, as outlined by EDUCAUSE Review. Will the current system, technology, or infrastructure you have in place hold up? What do you risk by not updating or maintaining it?
A major determining factor for the success or failure of any type of IT infrastructure project is its cost. If management has to sign off on the project, the decision-makers will want to know about the likely return on investment, necessitating a prediction of its cost. To make a comprehensive prediction of a project’s potential cost, your cost model should factor in the project’s initial costs, its implementation costs, and its maintenance costs.
For instance, how long would the project take? Which members of your staff would need to be involved, and would they need additional training to complete the project? How would this project affect the workload capacity of those employees? Would you need outside contractors? How much would maintenance cost, and how often would you need to perform maintenance? In terms of maintenance, would it be more expensive to keep your current infrastructure in place or to upgrade? Due to the constantly changing nature of technology, how long do you project the results of this project will last before a new upgrade is required?
As before, discuss these questions with as many relevant employees, departments, and stakeholders as possible to avoid overlooking potential costs. Use your analysis of the benefits, risks, and costs to help evaluate and prioritize potential projects, anticipate problems, and make sure you have the resources you need to succeed. The more data you collect in advance, the more accurately data-supported predictions you can make, allowing you to make a realistic assessment of the value of a given IT infrastructure project.
Contact Sentient Digital for Support with All Types of IT Infrastructure Projects
Even when you are well-informed about the types of IT infrastructure projects you could undertake, as well as their benefits, risks, and costs, you may still feel daunted by all these possibilities. Or you may recognize that your IT team needs additional support or custom technology solutions to complete the projects most beneficial to your business.
The experts at Sentient Digital know how to build initial infrastructure as well as how to improve IT infrastructure. We can help you plan and implement the right IT infrastructure projects to ensure that your business operates as smoothly and securely as possible. Contact us today to learn more.