IT departments are under considerable financial pressure. Nothing new, but the events of the last couple of years have forced many businesses to reduce or fix their IT budget while at the same time implementing new strategies. IT Support costs have been increasingly under scrutiny.
Many Businesses now have a significant online presence having adopted e-commerce to replace bricks and mortar outlets. Even if e-commerce isn’t significant, IT infrastructure supports all business processes, and loss of IT services can have a serious effect on business operations including lower productivity, increased operational costs, and frustrated staff.
Proactive versus Reactive
Consider your car. We perhaps check the tyres, water, and oil when filling up, and send them for routine services, but that is usually as far as proactive maintenance goes. We take action only when something breaks.
For many organisations, their IT Support is similar in many ways. They keep the infrastructure up and running and try as best as they can to keep users happy, but it is only when something breaks that they take serious action. In short, the focus is on repair.
The issue with Reactive Support is that the business suffers while the issue is addressed and resolved.
Proactive support, on the other hand, is trying to keep one step ahead by continually and consistently managing the infrastructure and systems and having plans in place for any unexpected issues. Warning and alert systems provide early indications of where support might be needed. Problems are detected before, or as soon as they happen, and remedial steps can be taken before the business is affected.
IT Support can identify patterns of common problems and put preventative measures in place quickly.
It is often linked to the Risk Analysis part of Business Continuity planning. Risks are assessed on the likelihood of their occurring, and their effect if they do. The cost to prevent and repair are also considerations. The business can then decide if it is better to incur the costs of preventing the risk from occurring in the first place or the costs of letting it happen and sweeping up afterwards.
However, not all problems are predictable, and even with Proactive IT Support in place, Business Continuity planning is essential to know what to do when disaster strikes.
Proactive versus Reactive – Which
Analysis of the reasons for downtime shows that a very small number of issues cause most of the downtime. Printers are especially prone to be culprits, as are poor or no network connections, especially the Internet. User errors, malicious or innocent can also be a problem.
Staff are not productive during downtime, and it takes them a little while to come up to full speed again when services are restored. The long-term consequences of constant IT disturbances for a business are glaringly obvious.
If potential problems, for whatever reason, can be predicted using a combination of servicing, monitoring and optimising processes, giving a smoother running of the IT infrastructure, losses in productivity can be minimised. Automation of many basic tasks is already available.
Choosing a Proactive approach will reduce downtime and the associated costs-to-fix and increase productivity.
Areas to Monitor for Proactive IT Support
IT Support already operates in most of the areas that need proactive attention. These include:
- Regular network management and monitoring;
- Keeping Malware protection and Anti-Virus systems up to date;
- Monitoring the physical infrastructure; and
- General User Support.
Background tasks include:
- Keeping the alert thresholds for the monitoring systems up to date,
- Keeping malware and hack attack defence up to date. This is very important since new attack surfaces and vectors, including new malware threats, appear almost daily;
- Running user information and training sessions. Minimising downtime by keeping users educated and informed on how to report a problem, and what to do if they suspect a malware threat is essential for a secure environment. This process must start at induction;
- Defining and enabling communication with users and other stakeholders; and
- General oversight and monitoring activities.
What is needed is a planned programme of activities.
The Benefits of Proactive IT Support
Proactive IT Support provides an effective forward-planning environment. It is better for a business when compared with the chaos that often characterises reactive support.bla Minimising downtime is particularly, important nowadays.
The increasing dependence on being always available and online for many businesses, particularly e-retailers puts increasing pressure on IT Support. Not being available to current and prospective customers could cost a business dear.
Proactive support will save a business time and money, protect it against reputational damage, and provide a better working environment for staff.
In summary, Proactive IT Support Services take a long-term approach to IT Support, rather than implementing quick knee-jerk fixes. A second benefit is because of the continual monitoring, IT issues can be addressed before they become major issues with uses and business operations.