With the environment that businesses operate in rapidly changing, finding new ways to be competitive takes them on a new challenge, says Wimpie van Rensburg, country manager, sub-Saharan Africa, Riverbed Technology.
No doubt, many will be looking to grow and even consider international expansion, if they haven’t started to already. One of the most effective ways to grow is to open new branch offices. Having remote offices in several locations has a range of benefits, such as access to a wide network of potential customers and professional talent. In today’s international marketplace, having a global presence is key, when customers continue to expect a seamless customer experience and access to goods from around the world.
On average, 50% of an organisation’s employees work out of branch offices and this has resulted in over 50% of corporate data being store at these branches. With the average enterprise operating 55 branch offices, it’s no wonder organisations are spending more than $4 billion annually on remote IT.
The costs associated with remote IT can start to add up and spiral out of control when you look at the price of servers and storage, backups and the IT staff managing hardware and software. Worse, when disaster strikes, recovery of branch data and applications can take days, putting the branch at risk.
Spending all of this time, money, and effort managing branch IT makes you wonder if there’s a better solution. The good news is that today, there are such branch convergence solutions available today – that are simple to put into action.
Why branch IT should be more like your smartphone
Today’s smart devices are a perfect example of complex services and applications being delivered to users who don’t necessarily have to be extremely tech savvy. These devices allow individuals to seamlessly access their data, which is often stored in the cloud, from any location via 3G/4G networks, or WiFi connections. All this without the need for dedicated application servers, or expensive backup and storage devices.
Your branch offices and other remote sites don’t have to be any different. With a zero-IT branch built on converged IT infrastructure, it is possible to have 100% consolidation of data and servers from remote sites into data centres, with local performance and availability at the branch.
Drawing similarities between smartphones:
Pure simplicity – just as how smartphones eliminate the need for specialised servers, storage devices and security technologies, so too does branch converged IT eliminate the need for IT infrastructure to be deployed at the branch. It allows IT teams to consolidate servers, storage and network infrastructure into a single appliance. This approach greatly simplifies the maintenance and delivery of critical resources.
Accelerated deployment – the typical smartphone user installs an average of 26 apps. This impressively high number can be largely attributed to the ease with which applications can be downloaded from mobile app stores, and the speed with which they can be installed and run. So too with a converged branch IT solution, administrators can provision and deploy new branch services and entire sites as quickly and as easily as setting up virtual machines.
Stateless ease – a decade ago, phone data was stored locally on the device itself. This means that if an unfortunate owner happened to lose the device, the data was also in jeopardy. Fast forward to today when, at least from a continuity point of view, a smart device is conveniently replaceable. Data and accounts can be re-synced and everything can be up and running just as before in a matter of minutes. When IT is converged in the core data centre, applications at the branch can be replaced and recovered with virtually no data loss, as all of your critical information is centralised in the data centre for 100% availability and continuous operations.
That syncing feeling – smartphones can leverage cloud storage services such as Dropbox or Box to automatically transfer data such as pictures, music and videos to the cloud. If this data is then accidentally deleted from the device, it can be safely recovered from the online backup. In a zero-IT branch, data is centralised at the data centre, and can therefore be accessed as and when required. Manual tape backups done on a local-level are costly, and frequently result in less effective disaster recovery capability as they can be prone to errors. With a converged branch infrastructure, this problem doesn’t arise and backup windows shrink from 24 hours to just a few minutes.
Improved security – smartphones offer a wide range of security options that include passwords, security software, and encryption. Consolidation protects your organisation’s sensitive data by housing it where it belongs – in the secure data centre. Data kept at the branch is limited only to active data sets and measures can also be taken to ensure that when data is stored in the branch, or in transit, it’s protected with encryption and delivered securely using SSL.
So, by tapping into this smartphone analogy, today’s hybrid enterprises will rethink the branch with Zero Branch IT.