Technology never stops. It is in constant motion: always changing, always evolving. And although there is no doubt that today’s IT teams reap the benefits of better, faster technology, they also pay the price.
Enterprise IT environments have become excruciatingly complex. IT is tasked with developing and managing a wide range of architectures, platforms, workloads, and operating environments—some are housed in the cloud, some on-premises, and some live in both places.
As technology evolves at lightning speed, teams are left maintaining legacy systems and applications that often have been reconfigured to do work they were never intended to do. This reconfiguration makes transitioning away from these legacy systems exponentially more difficult.
With the rise of mobile technology, workplaces have become more distributed, and IT teams have had to figure out how to support remote worker productivity and secure their mobile devices to protect the network, all while trying to streamline overlapping technology to reduce redundancy and minimize compatibility issues.
In short, modern IT environments are highly complex, and that’s not going to change any time soon.
The Dangers of IT Complexity
The IT complexity issue doesn’t stem from a single source. Multiple factors contribute to the problem. For example, poorly planned innovation, redundant technology leftover from a merger and acquisition (M&A), the growing popularity of the cloud, and a sudden shift to remote work all add their own specific challenges.
And each of these factors introduces threats to the enterprise that can potentially impact every corner of the business, from employee productivity to business continuity and disaster recovery. Some of the most common dangers associated with IT complexity include:
When companies innovate and add technology, they often fail to remove the old systems. This leaves multiple systems performing similar functions at varying levels of efficiency. IT must maintain all of the systems, whether they are redundant or not, which takes away from the time they could spend on innovation and higher-value tasks.
Increased Cybersecurity Risks
Complex systems are difficult to secure. More vendors, third-party service providers, and remote endpoints that have access to your network create increased security vulnerabilities and gaps. As companies’ attack surfaces have broadened, cybercriminals have increased their volume of threats against enterprise-level businesses.
Inefficient Backup and Recovery
As IT environments get more complex, they also get harder to backup efficiently. When company data is spread across multiple platforms and IT is juggling a variety of infrastructures, it’s hard to implement a single backup and recovery strategy that covers everything.
When fast recovery and restoration is critical to business continuity, pulling data from multiple backup sources—some recent, some maybe not so much—is more of a gamble than you should be willing to take.
Downtime Halting Business Operations
Downtime is bad for any business regardless of its size, but at the enterprise level, downtime can be devastating. The longer critical systems are unavailable, the more damage you’ll sustain to both your bottom line and your reputation.
Without a comprehensive business continuity plan in place, downtime can easily go from an inconvenience to a data loss and recovery nightmare.
Compliance and Regulatory Issues
In highly regulated industries, you don’t want to find yourself on the wrong side of a compliance audit. Every layer of IT complexity leaves more room for mistakes and oversights that can lead to hefty fines and potential legal issues.
Each third-party service provider you use to host and manage your systems and applications leaves you open to liability if they don’t take compliance as seriously as your company does.
How to Reduce IT Complexity and Maintain Business Continuity
Now that we’ve identified some of the common dangers of complex IT environments, here are a few ways to reduce IT complexity so you can ensure business continuity in the event of a crisis:
Identify the causes of IT complexity in your organization.
One of the leading causes of complexity is adding new systems without removing the old ones. IT has to be committed to phasing out old technology to avoid unintentional dependencies that will make cleanup much harder down the line.
Create a roadmap of where your business wants to go and the goals for the future.
If you know where the business is heading, go ahead and future-proof your technology early and save yourself time and expenses later. If you know there will be a push for innovation in the near future, create an environment now that will scale to support your business goals instead of adding complexity in the future.
Automate testing and reporting.
Manual testing and reporting is time consuming and inefficient, and it adds an unnecessary layer of responsibility for your IT team. Free up valuable time for innovation by automating those tasks that are repeatable and don’t require actual human intervention.
Maximize visibility with a centralized management console.
Be sure your business continuity strategy includes a data protection and backup solution that provides a centralized management hub to combat complexity. Tracking key performance metrics and troubleshooting issues from one location takes the guesswork out of how healthy your systems and applications are at any given time.
Consolidate infrastructure in the cloud.
Cloud-based infrastructure has become a popular choice in recent years as more organizations realize the security, flexibility, and cost benefits of moving to the cloud. However, some organizations maintain at least a portion of their infrastructure on-premises, whether by choice or by regulatory mandate.
These organizations can still benefit from the business continuity protection of the cloud with a data loss prevention and disaster recovery solution. A high-quality solution will backup and protect all of your workloads, regardless of where they are housed.
Be proactive with backups.
Even if your IT environment is complex, your backup strategy doesn’t have to be. The optimal backup plan includes the 3-2-1 approach to backups: You make three copies of your data, store it on two different media, and keep one copy off-site (preferably in the cloud).
Round out your strategy with image-based backups that ensure if something is on the server, it’s in the backup. Also, conduct frequent testing of your backups and recovery plan. If you follow this advice, your organization will be pretty close to disaster-proof.
Today’s complex IT environments can be hard to manage—and even harder to protect from data loss and downtime in the event of a disaster. Reducing complexity and proactively planning for business continuity is the best way to ensure your organization can bounce back quickly with minimal disruption. Download Smart Strategies for Business Continuity to learn more tips for creating and implementing a solid business continuity plan.