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IT Management in Tough Economic Times

March 17, 2009

Summary

Now more than ever, IT organizations need to find a different approach to supporting the needs of the business without compromising the quality of the services they provide.
Call them “IT productivity killers.”
Every small and midsize business knows what these are: manually upgrading applications, applying patches, provisioning servers, fixing the same problems over and over.
All too often, IT organizations find themselves caught up in a cycle of service and support that is anything but efficient. But in tough economic times, the need to break out of such a cycle is imperative. Now more than ever, IT organizations need to find a different approach to supporting the needs of the business without compromising the quality of the services they provide.
This article outlines an approach to IT management that enables organizations to realize streamlined efficiencies in their client and server devices.

Doing more with less

So how does a company go about dispelling those IT productivity killers? Given the current economic climate, the likelihood of help in the form of additional IT personnel is pretty remote. Instead, companies need to rethink their approach to delivering IT services. To put it another way, how can they proactively solve problems before they generate trouble tickets?
The fact is, many companies today are spending too much money on “keeping the lights on” or maintaining their current environment and not enough on supporting the business with new initiatives. In most organizations, only a small percentage of the total revenue goes toward new IT initiatives. As Forrester Research put it recently:
“Our research has shown that the average IT organization spends 70% to 80% of its budget on maintaining the status quo versus only 20% to 30% on new initiatives. Best practices companies have taken this ratio to 60/40, and some are actually driving toward 50/50. Measuring and reporting this ratio can be a key indicator of both the efficiency of IT as well as IT value creation.” (“The Five Essential Metrics for Managing IT,” Craig Symons, April 2008)
The Altiris Client Management Suite from Symantec provides centralized management of critical desktops, notebooks, and handheld devices while maintaining acceptable levels of security, support, and software management. For IT organizations, this means a “zero touch” approach to managing clients that allows companies to maximize the time of their IT professionals by automating most tasks. The goal is to improve productivity by keeping physical disruptions to an absolute minimum.
A zero-touch approach to client management means having the confidence to answer such questions as:
  • What type of hardware is it, who is using it, and how is the system configured?
  • How fast can I get a user up and running? Are systems consistently configured? Can I easily migrate to a new operating system?
  • Are systems up to date with the latest service packs or patches? How often are users running an application?
  • Can I quickly identify a problem and fix it? Do I have the tools to fix the problem remotely?
The ability to answer these kinds of questions is essential to having what Symantec calls a well-managed client. And consider: Gartner Inc. estimates that an unmanaged PC costs 36% more to own. Remember too that the cost of a PC is only a small part of its total cost. Gartner estimates that nearly 78% of the total cost of owning a client system goes toward the support and maintenance of the device. (“Cost Cutting by Using Your PC Configuration Management Tool More Effectively,” Michael A. Silver and Terrence Cosgrove, March 2008)
The Altiris Client Management Suite enables administrators to deploy, manage, and troubleshoot systems from virtually anywhere. In addition, it provides:
  • Discovery and inventory. Take inventory and track hardware and software for all endpoints including desktops, laptops, and handheld devices. Use this data coupled with software usage data to optimize software licenses. In addition, it aids in supporting end users by giving service desk workers accurate inventory and appropriate information about client systems to aid troubleshooting.
  • Imaging, deployment, and migration. Reduce time and costs associated with cloning systems and deploying operating systems. Deploy corporate-standardized, hardware-independent images to trim support costs.
  • Software delivery and patch management. Reduce software support and rollout costs. Intelligent software management automatically delivers software and updates to help ensure that end users always have the latest software.
  • Flexible remote management. Reduce costs and time associated with troubleshooting client systems by fixing end-user problems without desk-side visits.

Are you ‘server savvy’?

As the economy worsens, it’s also becoming clear that IT organizations need to be smarter about managing their business-critical servers. Small wonder, then, that the most recent Symantec State of the Data Center Report identified server consolidation and server virtualization as the top two server-related initiatives at companies around the world.
While consolidation and virtualization offer huge benefits, they also bring on new challenges. For example, there is the increased complexity that results from virtual server sprawl.
The Altiris Server Management Suite provides a set of tools that solves key operational challenges throughout the life of the server. It enables IT organizations to answer the following questions affirmatively:
  • Do I know how the server is configured? Do I understand how it is connected to other systems?
  • Are servers consistently configured? Can I support both physical and virtual servers?
  • Do I know when servers have drifted from their original configuration? Are servers correctly patched?
  • Can I quickly identify a bottleneck and fix it? Can I fix the problems automatically?
Designed to simplify the server lifecycle, the suite provides solutions to deploy, manage, and measure servers from a central console. The latest version of the suite also delivers:
  • Complete process automation. Orchestrates interactions between people, systems, and task management.
  • Enhanced day-to-day operations. Enable expanded centralized management, actionable information, and a better view of events across the system. The suite comes with reporting that gives IT more options for managing server systems.
  • Improved provisioning. Streamlines and automates complex server builds for the latest operating systems, including Windows Server 2008 and Linux. The suite also provides tight integration with hardware from Dell, HP, IBM, VMware, and others.
  • Enhanced monitoring and alerting. Allow administrators to proactively monitor critical server components and view current health and remediation status.
  • Expanded management. Enables IT to manage more technologies, with greater efficiency, on more platforms. The suite can be installed and configured in less time with fewer errors. The Symantec Management Platform offers more opportunities to expand server management into security, availability, application dependency, real-time configuration management, and more.

Managing in a Windows Server 2008 environment

The release last February of Windows Server 2008 was Microsoft’s biggest server release in five years. So far, reviews of the OS have been highly favorable, with many of them citing the new features that system administrators of small and midsize businesses will enjoy. While Microsoft has made great strides in the security of this new release, it is not a security solution, and SMBs will still need to find a comprehensive way to keep all of their systems managed, secured, and recoverable.

Conclusion

Today’s economic landscape is challenging companies to make smart choices that focus on expense management: reducing costs while continuing to focus on improving efficiencies. Mandates that require IT organizations to reduce operational costs yet still protect all computing devices present a “do more with less” dilemma.
Symantec’s management solutions enable SMBs to meet the growing demands on IT services and manage information growth and infrastructure complexity. Manual processes are automated throughout the entire PC lifecycle, lowering overall operating costs. Symantec’s Altiris Client and Server Management solutions help IT increase efficiency while reducing complexity, downtime, and costs.

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