Big Data Management = Big Demands on your IT Infrastructure

11th May 2018
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Big Data Management means Big Demands on your IT Infrastructure

While the concept of big data management is nothing new, the tools and technology needed to exploit “big data” for commercial and organisational gain are now coming to maturity. Businesses involved in industries such as media, hospitality, retail, leisure & entertainment, and manufacturing have long been dealing with data in large volumes and unstructured formats or data that changes in near real time.

However, extracting meaning from this data has often been prohibitive, requiring custom-built, expensive technology. Now, thanks to advancements in storage and analytics tools and technologies, all businesses and not for profit organisations can leverage big data to gain the insight needed to make their organisations more agile, innovative, and competitive.

At Wanstor, we understand there are a few important business drivers behind the growing interest in big data, which include:

  • The desire to gain a better understanding of customers
  • How to improve operational efficiency
  • The need for better risk management – Improved IT security and reduced fraud
  • The opportunity to innovate to stay ahead of the competition and/or attract/retain customers

In summary these business drivers are primarily the same goals that companies and not for profit organisations have had for years. But with advances in storage and analytics, they can now extract the value that lies within all of their existing data quicker, easier, and more cost-effectively.

At Wanstor we believe to turn these business goals into realities, business and not for profit organisations must think about data management in different ways. Because big data is voluminous, unstructured, and ever-changing, approaches to dealing with it differ from techniques used with traditional data. To turn big data into opportunities, organisations should take the time to find technology solutions that feature the following components:

  • A versatile, scale-out storage infrastructure that is efficient and easy to manage and enables business teams to focus on getting results from data quickly and easily
  • A unified analytics platform for structured and unstructured data with a productivity layer that enables collaboration between IT teams and the wider business
  • Capabilities to be more predictive, driving actions from actual insights

With these components in place, business and not for profit organisations can build infrastructures that deliver on the promises of big data.

Despite the many benefits it delivers, big data is (for many organisations) putting undue demands on their IT teams, as it differs from traditional enterprise data in the following ways:

  • It’s voluminous – Medium and large scale organisations generate and collect large quantities of traditional data, but big data is often orders of magnitude more.
  • It’s largely unstructured – Big data includes Internet log files, scanned images, video surveillance clips, comments on a website, biometric information, and other types of digitized information. This data doesn’t fit neatly into a database. But unstructured data accounts for 80%+ of all data growth in many businesses today.
  • It’s changing – Big data often changes in real time or near real time— E.g. customer comments on a website. This data must be collected over significant periods of time in order to spot patterns and trends.

Furthermore, organisations are beginning to realize that to reap the full value of big data, they must be able to analyse and iterate on the entire range of available digital information. One off snapshots of data do not necessarily tell the whole story or solve a particular business challenge. Efficiently collecting and storing that data for iterative analysis has a significant impact on an organisations storage and IT management resources. In short, IT storage professionals need to find big data solutions that fit the bill, but don’t strain already tight budgets or require significant investments in dedicated personnel.

Due to these new big data demands, as well as the importance of handling information correctly, most organisations consider managing data growth, provisioning storage, and performing fast, reliable, and iterative analytics to be top priorities. But as IT budgets have become squeezed many data storage professionals are saying to us at Wanstor that big data is placing their current IT infrastructures under extreme stress; with many looking to build scalable infrastructures within their data centres or outsource to a co-location or private cloud provider.

As you have probably guessed from the above paragraph big data requires more capacity, scalability, and efficient accessibility without increasing resource demands. Traditionally, storage architectures were designed to scale up to accommodate growth in data. Scaling up means adding more capacity in the form of storage hardware and silos, but it doesn’t address how additional data will affect performance. If you look at traditional storage architectures, RAID controller–based systems end up with large amounts of storage sprawl and create a siloed environment. Instead, organisations need to be able to achieve consolidation within a single, highly scalable storage infrastructure. They also need automated management, provisioning, and tiering functions to accommodate the rapid growth of big data.

At Wanstor we believe organisations of all sizes need storage architectures that are built with big data in mind and offer the following features:

  • Scalability – to accommodate large and growing data stores, including the ability to easily add additional storage resources as needed
  • High performance – to keep response times and data ingest times low, and can keep pace with the business
  • High efficiency – to reduce storage and related data centre costs
  • Operational simplicity – to streamline the management of a massive data environment without additional IT staff
  • Enterprise data protection – to make sure high availability for business users and business continuance in the event of a disaster
  • Interoperability – to integrate complex environments and to provide an agile infrastructure that supports a wide range of business applications and analytics platforms

Final thoughts – As the amount of unstructured data in organisations grow, companies and not for profit organisations of all sizes are learning they need new approaches to managing that data. At Wanstor we believe they require an efficient and scalable storage strategy that helps them to efficiently and effectively manage extreme data growth. Wanstor has a range of big data experts who can work with your business to put the right data storage solution that incorporates scalability, improved performance (both I/O and throughput), and improved data availability. Scalable storage solutions, paired with powerful analytics tools that can derive valuable insight from large amounts of content can help organisations of all sizes reap the benefits of “big data”. The only question you have to answer now is – Is your infrastructure ready?

For more information about Wanstor’s data storage solutions click here – https://www.wanstor.com/data-centre-storage-business.htm .

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Reasons why business leaders need to consider outsourcing their IT service desk to a specialist provider

14th December 2017
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Service Desk Operatives smiling

At Wanstor we have recently been talking to a number of existing and potential customers about their IT service desk support. Our discussions have highlighted a number of major trends which IT departments and business leaders were not aware of putting pressure on IT service desk resources. For example:

  • Employees are more mobile than ever before, meaning things break at different locations
  • Employees attitudes to work are changing from a place where you go, to something you do as and when required
  • Different business departments wanting access to cloud services
  • More and more applications are being developed and used in day to day business
  • Data management becoming a serious headache as employees and customers demand access to it 24/7
  • More and more devices being used – leading to security and patch management issues in terms of the right levels of resourcing and making sure users are safe at all times from potential attacks
  • New technology and new devices are being launched all the time – What is the best way to offer support?
  • Growing operational costs of supporting a sprawling mixed vendor IT infrastructure
  • End users complaining about the time it takes to solve issues through the IT service desk

Traditional IT help desks used to service the business during opening hours and at fixed locations, however this is no longer good enough. IT support staff are now required to be multi skilled across a range of technologies and provide support to staff at different locations 24/7.

As business technology has become increasingly complex, the need for dedicated IT support services has grown. Typically the IT help desk has provided end users with little more than basic trouble shooting and issue management services. In the past when technology was made by only a few manufacturers, staff could easily be trained and appear knowledgeable about computers and IT infrastructure. However as business has become more reliant on technology, a standardised and documented helpdesk approach is needed, one which offers a consistent set of services and protocols for help desk staff. Over the past decade, IT help desk staff have started to become hindered by the sheer speed at which enterprise technology has evolved. There are a number of trends that have made it increasingly difficult for traditional IT help desks to provide the kinds of support that end users need:

These trends include:

  • Improvements in users personal IT has changed perceptions and expectations of what IT can help them with in their working lives. The user experience of smartphones and laptops is significantly better than even 5 years ago. What’s more, many of the leading technology providers provide consumers with a high standard of customer service (Just think of the apple store). So, when they call up their company’s IT service desk, they quickly become frustrated by untrained staff, staff who do not keep lines of communication open or inefficient processes which they have to go through to get a simple problem fixed.
  • Most of the modern workforce have been using advanced technology for the majority of their lives. Many employees are now capable of resolving minor troubleshooting problems and are also used to looking for answers online through search engines. Quite often, the IT help desk is a last resort for more complex problems, meaning IT help desk staff must be prepared to resolve more difficult issues.
  • As technology has evolved users are using a variety of software and applications in their business lives. Today, the typical business will be using 100’s of applications, with staff constantly connecting to the network with different kinds of personal and mobile devices. Expecting the service desk to monitor and support this complexity alone is problematic, as every user has a different IT need in terms of software and applications.
  • Employees want to work when they want to not when they are told to. This change in mindset with regards to work alongside the widespread acceptance of cloud technology and mobile devices, means business users are now able to access company content from their smartphones or laptops at any hour of the day. Most of the time this is hugely beneficial to the user and the company, allowing workers to be productive whilst out of the office. However, when they have problems logging onto the system, or syncing a document to their device, they need support instantly. When an IT help desk is closed at weekends or after 5pm, the service simply does not match up to user and business requirements.
  • More pressure is being placed on IT helpdesks. Staff turnover is constant as many internal IT helpdesk staff simply cannot cope with the demands being made of them. The HDI regularly states that the staff turnover rate on IT service desks is as high as 40% with many staff who do not leave complaining of stress and stress related illnesses. Such a high staff turnover means internal IT service desks often have extremely large training bills as they are constantly struggle to train and retain skilled staff members alongside many positions remaining unfilled.

The issues identified above have led many businesses to explore alternatives to the traditional in-house IT support approach. At Wanstor we believe the aim is not to replace the talent firms already have. Rather, the goal should be to extend and enhance in-house IT staff, by letting them focus their attention on high value strategic activities, whilst using a mix of outsourced staff and technology to support wider business and IT goals for highly intensive administration tasks.

At Wanstor we believe by enhancing internal IT services teams with improved help desk technology and outsourced IT service desk teams for high volume/admin heavy tasks, businesses can fill the skills, cost and user satisfaction gaps which exist and achieve the best possible ROI from their technology. The main reasons many business leaders are talking to Wanstor about outsourcing their IT helpdesks are:

Improved communication – Focussed on the specific needs of the business and end users

Training – Outsourced IT service desk staff specialise in providing customer support for a wide range of technologies. This means that they are trained with the latest versions of software solutions. They can also be trained to help with a business’s specific technology set up.

Cost savings – Many IT outsourcing companies provide contracts that give businesses the option to only pay for the services they need and use. An internal IT service desk is a fixed cost in terms of people and technology which needs to be provided even when the business does not require large volumes of IT support. By moving to a pay as you go IT service model, it has been proven through many extensive studies that operational costs of IT service desks can be cut by over 20% in many cases.

Outsourcing part of your IT support service will only be successful if the solution and partner you choose aligns with the specific needs of your business. It is essential that business and IT decision makers develop a plan of requirements and expectations before they engage with an IT partner. By taking the time at the outset to decide what the business actually needs from an IT support partner you can decide on whether you are looking for a partner to resolve repetitive problems like resetting passwords, or are looking for a close partnership where your IT help desk is fully supported by an external team and best in class technology.

At Wanstor we recommend all businesses do 5 things before they engage with and decide on an outsourced IT service desk partnership. They are:

  • Discuss what is going wrong with your existing IT helpdesk team and see if there are any process or people improvements which could be made to alleviate pressure and improve the service required back to the business
  • Interview a selection of end users and find out what they want/expect from an IT service desk and then evaluate if you already have the skills/capabilities to satisfy those user demands or if you definitely need some help
  • Have a vision of what you want the IT service desk to look like. Can you provide that vision with internal staff or do you need expert outside help to reach your IT and business goals. If you do want external IT support what does your ideal IT partner look like and what services should they provide?
  • Engage with a partner who can support your vision and has the expertise and experience to turn it into reality. Your partner should be able to advise you on what is realistic, and you should expect them to be able to guide you to a degree.
  • Set KPIs to judge whether your partnership is successful, it is highly valuable to measure progress. Conduct regular customer satisfaction surveys to find out whether your business users are now happier with the service they are receiving.

In summary, the traditional IT help desk model is redundant. Business technology has moved on and is still moving through its various lifecycles at a real pace. As a result, traditional IT help desks are simply unable to cope with the increased demands being placed on them. At Wanstor we believe the future IT service desk model is a hybrid one. One which uses internal IT teams for strategic high value IT programmes of work and an external provider who can look after all of the operational IT demands from users such as patching, password re-sets, application updates and making sure the right security is in place. Get the internal/external IT service provider mix right and your business could benefit from access to highly trained staff as and when it needs them, lower operational costs and improved end user satisfaction levels.

To find out more about Wanstor’s vision of the IT service desk of the future download our whitepaper here.

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The importance of business continuity demonstrated.

19th October 2016
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Importance of Business Continuity Demonstrated

The importance of having a working business continuity plan was demonstrated to us yesterday. The day started like any other day in London. Public transport was running as well as can be expected (Only Southern Trains were on strike) and the weather was good. With a 24 hour operation, many of our team were at the office working on supporting our customers, with the rest of the team heading in to work as normal.

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