Today’s enterprises store approximately 50 percent of their data in remote and branch offices (ROBO), which equates to a significant proportion of their IT budget.
This means nearly half of today’s IT organisations are using outdated methods of operation which are costly and more complex to manage. Additionally, older architecture can limit an IT department’s ability to react to the modern businesses’ needs, prevent security incidents, and recover from any unscheduled downtime.
With this ever changing environment, enterprises are required to take a fresh approach to branch IT - improving system performance and resiliency, the regular backing up of data, and reducing operational costs. Equipping edge locations has traditionally been all about infrastructure that aims to make employees as productive as possible — enterprises are now having to ask themselves what it takes to manage their remote locations efficiently. What costs are involved with their infrastructure? How is their employee’s productivity and engagement affected by their decisions?
To address these issues, organisations should use the following 12 point checklist, which can be broken down into three sections:
To ensure secure and efficient IT in remote and branch offices (ROBO), organisations should ensure the following when planning their infrastructure:
1. Create a separation between compute and data storage: Modern infrastructure separates compute, which should remain at the edge, away from data storage, which should be centrally located. This approach produces a stateless edge and serves to reduce operational challenges and costs.
2. Centralise data storage: Organisations should look to store all of their company data in the data centre where it can be managed and protected with ease. From there, it can be projected to the edge on an as-required basis. This removes sensitive information from vulnerable remote locations, and gives IT teams more control over said data.
3. Unify backup: Edge-based backup can be expensive and prone to errors. Instead, data backups should be located in the data centre, and be automated and continuous. This will ensure backups are reliable and efficient, while significantly reducing costs.
4. Optimise the WAN: Wide area network (WAN) optimisation helps to streamline branch infrastructure by accelerating branch user applications and data traffic across the optimal networks at a reduced cost. WANs can be unreliable and do not offer protection against the creation of localised pockets of systems and information stores, organisations should implement the use of specialised tools that enable the convergence of IT systems and applications with WAN optimisation technologies. This way, they will achieve maximum performance across distance.
5. Encrypt all data: To help protect against cyber threats, all company data should automatically be encrypted both in branch offices as well as in data centres, and when it is in transit between the two.
IT teams need to be able to quickly provision and manage remote infrastructure in a timely and cost-effective way. They can achieve this by ensuring the following:
6. Rapid provisioning: The IT team should be able to update edge locations with new applications and features, and provision a new edge location from the organisation’s central data centre in minutes — without the need for costly and time-consuming onsite visits.
7. Ensure quick ROBO recovery: When an unscheduled outage occurs, rapid recovery is a must to keep business operations up and running. Operations should ideally resume in minutes or hours and with minimal loss of working data, IT needs to be able to initiate the recovery process from the data centre.
8. Safeguard data: From an operational point of view, data encryption should be available at all times, and backups should be reasonably priced, automated, centrally located, and ongoing.
9. Storage in the cloud: In order to avoid heightened storage costs and increased overheads, organisations should reduce and eliminate storage in edge locations, rendering them stateless edges. A good way to achieve this is by utilising cloud storage’s low costs.
In order to satisfy infrastructure related business needs, organisations should ask themselves several questions: Does their infrastructure help them stay competitive and act quickly when necessary? Can the business meet the customers’ needs when required? How can the organisation reduce the time taken to bring a product to market? How does your infrastructure investment drive business return of investment?
10. Ensure employees productivity: IT departments can contribute to increasing employees’ productivity by encouraging and enabling them to access applications, updated data and information.
11. Accomplish business continuity: If a disaster strikes, IT should be able to quickly recover data and applications. The team should also have the tools needed to shift operations to a different region with minimal loss of time or data.
12. Encourage business agility: The organisation’s infrastructure should let the business respond to changing market conditions by quickly provisioning users with new applications and features. It should also provide the ability to quickly open new locations in order to take advantage of new opportunities, allowing employees to work virtually anywhere.
Remote offices and branch offices are critical to the modern enterprise, businesses need to embrace the new era of technologies and ways of thinking when evaluating their edge IT systems and infrastructure. Remote location IT allows for operational cost savings, rapid service deployment, and instant recovery. By ensuring that the right tools and processes are in place, enterprises can ensure the security, resilience and flexibility they need to meet today’s modern business needs.
By Joe Bombagi, Director of SteelFusion, EMEA and APJ, Riverbed Technology