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Can hyperconverged infrastructure encourage SMEs to upgrade their IT?

Does your IT team feel like it is forced to work just to 'keep the lights on', and that because of this, new transformative projects are often pushed back or completely passed over?

The consistency of tech refresh cycles can make it difficult to hop off the proverbial 'hamster wheel' and look at the bigger picture, even to the point where some SMEs might be reluctant to upgrade their IT at all. Businesses need to ask themselves if their current refresh cycles are actually helping or hurting their performance and productivity. If the answer is the latter or is unclear, it may be time to try something new, like hyperconvergence.

Why does it seem that SMEs are reluctant to upgrade their IT?

As with many things in IT, the first obstacle to upgrading is cost. IT refreshes can be very expensive, especially because refreshing one component can lead to a chain reaction where suddenly an entire infrastructure has to be refreshed. Overall, it’s really a system of cost and benefit. The cost of stopping IT production to upgrade just isn’t worth it for many small and medium-sized enterprises.

Are SMEs reluctant to upgrade IT because they don’t feel the need to keep up with hardware updates from vendors?

Keeping up with vendor updates is a concern for some companies, but the 'if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it' attitude comes in again. As long as there is support for a component, unless there is a compelling need to update, then SMEs often won’t upgrade. They need a compelling event, like a component not being supported any longer. Look at how long people stayed on Windows XP instead of moving to Vista. People only moved off XP once the product went end-of-life. Once end-of-life comes around, that is the ultimate compelling event to get people to upgrade. If a product is supported, there is an attitude of there being no rush to update.

What are the warning signs that SMEs need a technology refresh?

The most obvious sign is when a platform fails to meet the requirements of the business, and this can most often be seen as a drop-off in system performance and stability. If the performance is decreasing, it causes a serious problem for employees who may become frustrated with the limited functionality of outdated technology.

However, most signs that a technology refresh is needed, SMEs won’t see coming. That makes outdated technology even more dangerous because it can hurt a business without warning. Aspects like disaster recovery plans are often taken for granted in IT, but they can become corrupted without anyone noticing. Businesses have to get out in front of these problems to stop disasters before they happen.

Tech refreshes also help SMEs get ahead of competition. Take a company like Uber, for example. They were able to surpass their competition because they used technology in ways the competition didn’t even consider. Uber was focused on innovating, while the competition didn’t want to fix what wasn’t broken.

Is there an upgrade ‘formula’ that SMEs should adopt?

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for tech refresh. Various factors contribute: growth rate, performance requirements, benefits/value of applications, and physical limitations of the site can all influence the upgrade decision. The conventional expectation is that IT infrastructure components should be refreshed around every three to five years.

SMEs should look to simplify. Traditionally, tech refresh cycles have been characterised by countless hours spent doing the mundane tasks of defining the infrastructure requirements, researching an appropriate solution, and vetting the vendors and sales teams, before you can migrate from the previous infrastructure and actually implement the solution. And then you likely have to train an administrator on the new solution. All of this is time lost that could be better spent on helping the business succeed.

Are things getting better for SMEs?

Things are looking up for SMEs, but there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding IT refresh. Cloud has certainly made it easier for SMEs to refresh through applications like cloud-based email and CRM. However, cloud has its limitations. The ease of use of cloud is often a trade-off for performance reliability and cost transparency. And there is also the issue of privacy.

Virtualisation has also made tech refreshes less daunting for SMEs. Still, SMEs have to worry about a complex stack of storage, networking, and servers, which they often do not have time to maintain when they’d rather be spending time on driving business value.

How can SMEs hop off the 'hamster wheel' of continuous technology refresh and implement new systems?

Today it’s possible to have an on-premises solution that enables cloud-like elasticity, agility, and economics with superior performance, reliability, and availability. This transformative technology, known as hyperconverged infrastructure, offers the cost-effectiveness of the public cloud without sacrificing performance or privacy.

What is hyperconverged infrastructure?

Hyperconverged infrastructure is all about simplification. With hyperconvergence, eight to twelve formerly disparate infrastructure components such as servers, storage, WAN optimization, backup, and data protection, among others, are assimilated into a single, highly scalable solution.

This breaks the buying cycle because it eliminates the need to deal with multiple vendors and components, since hyperconverged solutions offer a data-centre-in-a-box approach where everything below the hypervisor is assimilated into a single product. It also reduces the amount of necessary administrators and training because the entire solution can be managed by one administrator.

Hyperconverged infrastructure promises reduced total cost of ownership (TCO), partly because of the reduced reliance on tech refresh cycles.

What should you look for in a hyperconverged infrastructure solution?

SMEs should look for a solution that combines all IT below the hypervisor, thus eliminating the need for siloed infrastructure. The best hyperconvergence solutions offer more than simply storage and compute, but also offer built-in data protection, disaster recovery, and inline deduplication, compression, and performance optimization.

When comparing hyperconverged vendors, it’s also important to identify a hyperconverged infrastructure solution that has enterprise-grade resiliency, availability, agility, and offers centralised management on a global scale.

Adam Sekora, Technology Evangelist and Strategist at SimpliVity

Image Credit: Igor Zh / Shutterstock