The hazards of ad hoc data centers

SHI PSO data center case studyIf I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. Organizations start out by installing a few small-scale servers to back up and restore network data. Then as the business grows, storage needs increase, leaving IT departments to stitch together temporary solutions. These brief bandages often end up becoming long-term solutions and create a patchwork infrastructure that can leave organizations overspending time, money, and resources to manage their growing data stores.

This is exactly what happened recently to a point-of-sale and management software provider. The company’s ultimate decision on how to update its environment underscores every organization’s responsibility to proactively design its systems rather than take an ad hoc approach.

Unmanageable infrastructure

The company was quickly outgrowing its data center as business expanded, and it needed a cost-effective way to revamp its storage solution. Instead of updating its current servers, which would have cost thousands of dollars, the company opted to add on two EMC VNX storage systems, three Lenovo RD640 rack servers, and four Brocade ICX6610-48 switches from SHI. While the new servers were a step in the right direction for its data center refresh, the company had no plan for implementation. Instead, they asked us to step in and handle the update. Continue Reading…

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How to make professional services work for you

professional servicesIn his classic book “Flawless Consulting,” Peter Block lays out the three ways that a consultant interacts with clients: as an expert, a pair of hands, or a collaborator. As Block points out, when a consultant is the expert, all the responsibility rests on his shoulders, and when it’s just a pair of hands, it’s of little value to the customer. But if the consultant and client collaborate to solve a problem, everyone gets the best outcome and the most value.

Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in IT. Companies approach professional services organizations (PSOs) when they face an IT problem they can’t fix on their own, whether because they don’t have the skill set internally, can’t spend the time, or don’t have the resources needed to solve the problem. The best of these relationships are true collaborations. The customer has a clearly defined problem and the PSO helps the customer develop and implement a clearly defined solution.

But too often organizations approach professional services with only a vague sense of the problem, like the need to “configure hardware” or “fix a performance issue.” The timeline is hazy, the goals uncertain, and the outcome poor. These projects often take longer and cost more than if the organization brought specific needs to the table from the start. It impacts the effort required on the part of the consultant, and even how the professional services are purchased.

Here’s how to ensure a strong collaboration with a PSO and get the job done on time and on budget. Continue Reading…

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What one organization’s migration from Windows XP can teach you about your IT department

LaptopsWindows XP reigned as one of the most popular Windows operating systems, making the end of support for the beloved system a bitter pill to swallow for large and small organizations. Many feared the potential headache associated with transitioning their infrastructures to Windows 7 or Windows 8, not to mention losing the familiarity of XP, leaving some waiting until the last minute to migrate. However, some companies that have moved on found that the migration process wasn’t as difficult as they expected, and more importantly, the conversion created an opportunity to improve their IT processes as a whole.

Facing the end of Windows XP

With the April 8, 2014 deadline quickly approaching, a state agency with more than 22,000 employees took steps to get ahead of its transition, developing a conversion process that it hoped would simplify Windows 7 adoption throughout the organization.

To ease implementation, the agency turned to long-time partner SHI. Knowing the complexities of the agency’s environment, we assessed the conversion process with an eye toward any potential holes as well as opportunities for general improvements to IT. Continue Reading…

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