How IT pros can approach the challenges of multisite branch IT

IT professionals are under increasing pressure to deliver an advanced, coordinated IT capability across all sites in a business, no matter how remote or how small. But, as always, this must be achieved without putting further strain on already overstretched IT budgets. The challenge is to deliver state-of-the-art, often complex and usually dynamic IT to remote sites without the need for expensive on-site expertise, or without over-taxing already stretched centralised IT resources. Thankfully, the emergence of cloud managed servers, which provide local advanced IT functionality as a service and without the need for local resource, are changing the game and opening up new opportunities for the multi-site IT professional.

[easy-tweet tweet=”The emergence of #cloud managed servers are opening up new opportunities for the multi-site IT professional”]

There are a host of major needs that are driving organisations to review their branch IT strategy, including spiralling remote site support costs, exacerbated by the cost of the time and travel needed to get to these remote sites if on-site support is required; new customer models, like multichannel retailing, requiring high-functionality applications; local data storage needs where data must be stored and manipulated locally for policy, privacy or control reasons; data-heavy apps that can’t reliably operate over the network; the consolidation of network functions; and preparing for the Internet of Things in the future, where masses of data is created with a need to store and analyse this data locally, with periodic communication and reporting to centralised control points.

These examples — and many more like them — share a common requirement for advanced local functionality, integrated across distributed organisations, without local IT skills to commission, manage or support them. This can lead to inertia within an organisation with new and innovative processes, business models, or customer engagement strategies not being adopted because of the difficulties of making them work at the local level.

A key role of the IT professional is to marry the strategic direction of the business with a set of equally strategic technology choices, and then develop a roadmap that delivers a programme of change that seeks to align the two.

There are a range of options open for IT professionals to consider. In the recent past, the IT pro has rightly chosen a cloud-first strategy to solve remote site IT, but then struggled to articulate a branch strategy that is consistent with the cloud. So why have IT pros headed straight for the cloud in the first place? Traditional servers need regular love and attention.  Historically, the infrastructure used to carry out server maintenance on remote locations was lacking, resulting in high support costs and low service levels. However, a cloud-first strategy is not a cloud-only strategy. Many of the new and innovative applications (as well as most legacy ones) require IT infrastructure on the remote site. Consequently, although the public cloud has a significant role to play in branch IT, it does not support some of the most demanding business requirements of the distributed organisation.

Two major and interconnected developments — hybrid cloud and hyper-convergence — are allowing us to redefine servers in a way that meets the needs of advanced local IT capability without advanced local IT skills. Disparate remote sites and branches without local IT skills can increase the load on central IT departments. Fortunately, the availability of new types of cloud-managed servers opens up new opportunities for effective, cost-efficient and high-functionality remote site IT. With the advent of cloud-managed servers, an IT Pro can now drive a coherent and aligned strategy across the business. It offers new opportunities for IT service providers to prosper in the cloud world.

It is enabling IT professionals to meet the common objectives in most multisite organisations: providing a consistent technology platform for all locations and businesses; a single set of data; best practice in IT and to support operational excellence by providing a standard technology stack to build a consistent set of practices in order to achieve predictable performance; resilience in order to keep operating, with scale-out architectures with automated failover in the event of hardware faults; and good functional fit to requirement out of the box, with built-in keep-current technology, so that they can be kept up-to-date over many years and automated software releases that negate the requirement for people to be sent on-site.

Cloud-managed servers deliver packaged IT functionality, which can be run on any site, regardless of local IT support skills or the resilience of local network connectivity. In many ways, they are the ideal solution to the needs of the remote site, inasmuch as they allow a flexible IT strategy with applications being placed where they deliver the most benefit, and support resources optimised across the whole distributed organisation.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Cloud-managed servers deliver packaged IT functionality, which can be run on any site” hashtags=”Cloud”]

This fundamental shift in cost-effective, high-functionality, small-site IT delivered by cloud-managed servers is a game-changer in the world of branch IT. Looking ahead, this approach for delivering complex local application capability without a corresponding complex IT infrastructure looks set to be the norm.

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