The new year is a time to get priorities in order and decide what objectives to pursue over the next 12 months. You may already be doing some of the things listed below; other items may be long overdue for attention in your organization.
1. Prepare for budget cuts. With worries about a recession looming, upper management will be looking for places to save money. IT training , security , and infrastructure expansion or upgrades will be on the chopping block. So will new hires. You can prepare for this eventuality by building a solid ROI (return on investment) case for every line item in your budget, from backup power supplies to virtualization.
2. Consolidate as much as you can. Easier management, lower TCO (total cost of ownership), energy efficiency and improved use of resources are just a few reasons to pursue virtualization and other strategies to consolidate your IT assets. Now is the time to look at converting and consolidating those legacy systems that were last in line. Dual-core processors and SANs (storage area networks) are other tools you can use to consolidate resources. Centralizing operations in datacenters can yield additional savings and efficiencies.
3. Work on NAC (Network Access Control) . It's vital to keep remote workers from infecting the corporate network with viruses. It's also important to make sure authorized visitors don't have access to confidential assets. Individual workers should only have access to the applications they need to do their job. But it can be difficult to cut through the many different standards and products that can do these jobs. Cisco Systems Inc. and The TCG (Trusted Computing Group) both have working NAC frameworks and point solutions. Microsoft's Network Access Protection framework won't arrive until Windows Server 2008 ships.
4. Look for green computing solutions . This may well be the year your CEO asks what you're doing to help reduce the company's carbon emissions. Information and communications technology accounts for about 2 percent of global carbon-dioxide emissions. PCs and monitors account for 39 percent of that, followed by servers at 23 percent and fixed-line telecom at 15 percent. Centralized power management, higher server use and other measures can save money while helping save the environment.
5. Remember: Data leaks from the inside are gaining as much notoriety as hacker break-ins. State and federal laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act may require your company to invest in additional security and training for employees and contractors who handle customer data. It's time to review how your data is moved from site to site and make sure it doesn't end up in the backseat of an intern's car.
6. Learn all you can about Web 2.0 apps — and how they can make your employees and suppliers more productive. User-centric collaboration tools, ad hoc working groups, wikis and other Web 2.0 techniques enable workers to adapt and come together to solve problems faster than traditional, centrally developed applications. The time you save could be your own. However, make sure you're up-to-date with any security risks from newfangled social-networking technologies .
7. Be aware that solid-state storage is gaining momentum, with a number of vendors offering it in enterprise-class capacities. Solid-state drives are more reliable, run cooler, consume less power and perform much faster than traditional disk drives. The cost is still significantly higher than disks, but not as much as you might think. EMC Corp. has recently announced its plans to introduce an optional line of solid-state memory devices to replace disk drives in some of its high-end Symmetrix storage arrays. The cost is estimated to be only 10 percent more than disks.
8. Use open-source software when appropriate. Open source is free, at best, and gives you control over the source code of your application. What you do with that control depends on the in-house programming resources at your disposal and your need for technical support. User-supported open-source technology is fine for highly skilled users. Commercial open-source applications are supported by consultants who charge for their services.
9. Outsource your datacenter operations to a professional service firm. The advantages of turning over application and data management to qualified specialists often outweigh the loss of control over these IT assets. Off-site datacenters offer better protection of hardware and data resources than many businesses can afford. Their security procedures comply with state and federal laws and regulations. And the cost of outsourcing datacenter operations is often lower than keeping it in-house.
10. Take a look at 802.11n offerings from vendors. Sure, the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) has yet to finalize this 300 Mbps wireless data standard. But all of the major enterprise WLAN vendors — Cisco Systems, Trapeze Networks, Aruba Networks Inc. and so on — have released access points and client devices that comply with Draft 2 of the 802.11n standard. The Wi-Fi Alliance has certified more than 140 controllers, routers , access points, adapters and cards as compliant with Draft 2. You don't have to worry about them complying with the final draft.
11. Consider iSCSI as a better storage transport technology than the incumbent Fibre Channel. Since iSCSI runs over plain old Ethernet, you don't need a separate Fibre Channel network or specialized IT staffers. It's also less expensive to set up and easier to run.
12. Explore two-factor identity authentication. With more enterprise applications running on the Web and phishing a rising threat to security defenses, the old username/password method of authentication just isn't enough anymore. Tougher legislation is mandating higher security, and more two-factor authentication solutions are coming into the market. They don't all involve esoteric technologies like retina scanners, either. Secure Computing Corp., for instance, has a platform that generates single-use passwords for workstations and mobile devices. Another company, Passfaces Corp. , asks users to identify a predetermined face among several displayed on-screen — simple and effective.
These ideas and trends will likely occupy much of IT management's time during the coming year. But never let your guard down; others may crop up unexpectedly.
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