Top 10 Elements of a Robust IT Operations PlanMarch 8, 2022
Your IT infrastructure is the backbone of a well-run, modern business. A carefully considered and comprehensive IT operations plan that aligns with your business goals ensures that your IT systems are always up and running. This allows employees to stay productive, data stays secure, and expenses are kept under control. Thoughtful planning helps you maximize the return on your IT investment, and minimizes the impact of disruptions.
Read on to learn what the top elements of an effective IT operations plan are, and how a managed IT services provider can help you put one together.
1. An Initial Audit and Assessment Checks Your Existing IT Systems
An initial audit and assessment will establish whether your systems comply with applicable regulations such as privacy legislation and identifies opportunities for performance improvements. A comprehensive IT system evaluation checks for security, data backup, equipment reliability and the capabilities of IT personnel. Such an evaluation can find security risks, possibilities for improving network operations, and areas for potential cost reduction. Starting out with a comprehensive assessment at this initial stage creates the best launch point for making the right decisions for the elements of the plan that follow.
2. Performance Metrics to Define Your Goals and Set Targets
An IT operations plan can improve business performance, but setting more specific targets helps you to implement changes in a structured way. As a CEO, you might be concerned about employee productivity or company profitability. As Chief Operations Officer, you may want to minimize downtime for your IT systems. As a Chief Financial Officer, you may want to control costs and avoid surprises. Performance metrics can specify what data points have to be monitored and how the data is expected to improve.
For example, lower and predictable costs can improve profitability, while downtime is easy to quantify. Your performance metrics may specify that annual IT costs are to be reduced to 80 percent of last year’s costs by the end of the year and that they should stay at that level for two years. On the operations side, you could specify that time lost to equipment failure in the coming year be reduced by 10 percent from last year’s level. Good performance metrics must be measurable and include targets with a time frame.
3. A Well-Designed Visibility Infrastructure Lets You Observe Systems and Services Remotely
Once you have identified opportunities for improvement and have specified performance metrics, you need to be able to monitor the systems in question. In addition, there may be critical infrastructure for which you want to ensure that system performance is meeting existing targets. Finally, you may want to look at how some systems are working to see if performance can be improved.
Depending on your position in the company, you may want to see real-time online order volumes or network performance parameters. On the financial side, daily or weekly read-outs of critical accounting figures may be useful. Monitoring can be visual for a designated executive or employee, or it can be automated to only show values when they fall outside set limits. Your visibility infrastructure lets you carry out the monitoring you need to see if you are meeting targets.
4. Monitoring IT System Performance Against Metrics Lets You Make Adjustments as Needed
Your visibility infrastructure lets you monitor the performance of key IT systems but you have to be able to correct your plans if needed. Interim targets let you evaluate if the final goals will be reached. If a specific performance metric is not on target, you have to adjust your strategy. A competent managed IT services provider will be able to evaluate the reasons for a deviation from plan and recommend possible solutions. Monitoring performance and adjusting strategy is a key element for implementing an effective IT operations plan.
5. A Data Backup Plan Keeps Your Data Secure
In addition to guiding IT infrastructure improvement, your operations plan has to detail how basic IT system functions such as data backup are carried out. Data backup has to proceed seamlessly in the background and ensure that data is safe and data integrity is preserved. An experienced managed IT services provider can develop a backup strategy that allows you to reliably restore some or all of your data when data is lost.
6. Data and Network Security Protocols help Prevent Unauthorized Access
Threats based on unauthorized access to your IT systems can come from hackers outside the company or from insiders such as suppliers, consultants or disgruntled employees. Effective security protocols can identify unauthorized access attempts from outside the networks and unusual activity inside your systems. When potential security breaches are identified, compromised user profiles can be locked out and data access can be limited.
Data centric encryption and password-protected files or folders can secure especially sensitive data from unauthorized access and copying. Printer protocols can monitor printer activity and prevent the unauthorized printing out of proprietary information. Comprehensive and consistent data and network security protocols within a data security management strategy can ensure that private information stays safe, sensitive data doesn’t leak and proprietary intellectual property stays in your company.
7. IT System Maintenance and Updates Improve Security and Reduce Failure Rates
Because your software and IT equipment suppliers regularly improve the security of their products, a system maintenance and update schedule can help keep your IT systems secure. Following supplier-recommended updates ensures that you have the latest versions of your software and equipment, including the most recent security patches. Carrying out equipment replacement on a regular schedule reduces failure rates and can lower costs when equipment stays within the manufacturers’ warranties.
8. Service Protocols for Common Issues and Scenarios Speed Up Response Times and Problem Resolution
Standardizing service protocols by type can help streamline support. For example, standard service protocols can be applied to software functionality, login problems, suspicious emails and other common issues so they are routed to the right service personnel or handled automatically with a self-serve function. With service protocols, IT support is more effective while saving everyone’s time.
9. Recovery Plans Ensure Business Continuity in the Face of Unexpected Events
Whether it is a disaster such as a fire or attacks such as ransomware, your company has to be prepared for a quick recovery of critical business functions. Cloud-based operations can be restored rapidly and backed up data can be downloaded to clean servers to get you up and running with a minimum of delay. Such recovery plans include identifying key personnel to carry out the recovery steps and detailed plans with clear procedures on how to restore applications and data.
10. Regular Audits Keep Your IT Operations Plan Current and Identify Possible Problems
To ensure things are running smoothly and at optimal efficiency, you need to perform audits regularly to identify any problem areas such as potential hardware failures, security issues, and non-optimal network performance, and to make adjustments as needed.
Get Help from Professionals
When you want to put together an IT operations plan for your company, it’s best to consult with professionals. You know your company inside out, but a managed IT services provider can help you perform audits and assessments of your IT systems, and provide tech support, data security management, and cloud computing services. A managed IT services partner can also recommend new ways for your teams to collaborate and interact with your customers.
While you can try to prepare a comprehensive and robust IT operations plan in house, creating an effective plan that covers all the bases is challenging and time-consuming. Getting expert help from IT service providers can be less expensive than trying to do everything internally. GSDSolutions can prepare the required plan with transparent pricing for predictable costing. If you are looking for Bay Area managed IT services, give GSDSolutions a call. We’ll help you create and set up your operations plan, perform regular audits that can tell you how well you are meeting your goals, and where performance can be improved. It’s a worry-free solution that can result in better performance for your IT infrastructure, and significant cost savings down the road.
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