On average, today’s enterprises store 50 per cent of their corporate data in branch offices, to which they dedicate half of their total IT budget. In practice, this means half of today’s IT organisations are using outdated methods of operation which, in addition to being costly and complex to manage, limit IT’s ability to proactively respond to businesses’ ever-changing needs, prevent security breaches, and recover from unplanned outages.
[ The 50 per cent ]
As a result, some organisations are taking a new approach to branch IT, in order to improve system performance and resiliency, ensure reliable data backups, and greatly reduce operating expenses. While equipping edge locations has traditionally been all about infrastructure — the hardware, routers and switches, backup systems, and software that are there to make employees as productive as possible — enterprises are asking themselves what it takes to manage their remote locations efficiently. What are the operational costs associated with their infrastructure? How is employee productivity affected by their decisions?
To answer these questions, organisations should review the following checklist, which includes items relating to:
- Infrastructure: What are the key traits of a modern edge infrastructure?
- Operations: What are the costs associated with managing edge infrastructure?
- Business needs: How can organisations maximise their return on investment?
To ensure secure and efficient IT in remote offices and branch offices (ROBO), organisations should ensure the following when planning their infrastructure:
1. Ensure compute is separate from data: Modern infrastructure separates compute, which should remain at the edge, from data storage, which should be centralised. This approach yields a stateless edge and eliminates many operational challenges and costs.
2. Centralise data storage: Organisations should store 100 per cent of their company data in the datacentre where it can be managed and protected. From there, it can be projected to the edge on an as-needed basis. This removes sensitive information from vulnerable remote locations, and gives IT teams far more control over the data.
3. Centralise backup: Edge-based backup can be expensive and error-prone. Instead, data backups should be centralised in the datacentre, 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 further streamline branch infrastructure by accelerating branch user applications and data traffic across the optimal networks at the lowest cost. As WANs are notoriously 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. In 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 at both when it’s at rest (both in branch offices as well as in datacentres) and when it is being transported back and forth.
IT teams need to be able to quickly provision and manage edge infrastructure in a timely and cost-effective way. They can achieve this by ensuring the following:
6. Carry out fast 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 datacentre in minutes — without costly and time-consuming onsite visits.
7. Ensure fast ROBO recovery: When an unplanned outage occurs, rapid recovery is a must to keep business operations up and running. So that operations resume in minutes or hours and with minimal loss of working data, IT needs to be able to initiate the recovery process from the datacentre.
8. Protect data: From an operational point of view, data encryption should be available at rest and in motion, and backups should be affordable, automatic, centralised, and continuous.
9. Manage storage in the cloud: So as to avoid excessive storage costs and operational overhead, organisations should eliminate storage in edge locations, making them stateless edges. A good way to achieve this is by taking advantage of cloud storage’s low costs.
In order to satisfy infrastructure related business needs, organisations need to ask themselves several questions: Does their infrastructure help them stay competitive and act quickly in the face of changing markets? Can the business satisfy customers’ needs around the clock? How can the organisation get products to market faster? How does your infrastructure investment drive business ROI?
10. Keep employees productive: IT can contribute to increasing employees’ productivity by enabling them to access applications, updated data and information, any time, any place.
11. Achieve 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 without much loss of time or data.
12. Make the business agile: 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.
With remote offices and branch offices playing a crucial role in modern business, today’s enterprises have entered a new era with new technologies and new thinking about edge IT investments. In order to achieve operational cost savings, rapid service deployment, and instant recovery — all while providing unmatched data protection — IT needs to understand what’s happening across the business and act accordingly. By ensuring that the right tools and processes are in place, organisations can ensure the security, resilience and flexibility they need to meet today’s business needs.
The Author – Taj Elkhayat is Regional Vice President Middle East, Turkey and Africa for Riverbed Technology