Digital Transformation – More than just a buzz phrase?

“So, what do you do every day?” A question every IT professional has surely had to tackle. Undoubtedly the answer is often some form of “I deal with and fix everyone’s technology problems.” Firefighting technology issues has become part and parcel of any IT team’s daily regimen. Their working days are punctuated by complaints from users that the network is out, email isn’t working, the internet is slow or a computer is broken. Adding fuel to the fire on a daily basis, IT becomes more complex all while businesses are more reliant than ever on IT to deliver core services. A double whammy at its best. That said, the daily workload for IT is unlikely to change anytime soon.    

Now you may be asking yourself, “Is this when he tells me that a digital transformation is the answer? I’ve heard that before. It’s just not that easy.” Fair point. While a digital transformation can provide a competitive advantage in theory, it can be a bit more challenging in practice. Outdated legacy architecture often struggles to keep up with the volume and type of data being produced today. And there are serious concerns over the management and security of massive amounts of disparate data as businesses become ever more dependent on it.   

However, whether you’re ready or not, the transformation has already begun. Many companies in every sector across the globe are embarking on major, transformative initiatives, embracing business practices focused on integrating digital technologies, such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud, to transform how their business works. Even those that are not fully invested in digital are trying to solve discrete business problems with individual digital technologies. 

So, while it often sounds both overwhelming and over-hyped, a digital transformation should be seen as an opportunity, not a threat. Companies that see the value in improving IT agility are the ones that will surpass the competition with the help of IT teams that spend their days contributing to the growth, innovation and development of their organisation, as opposed to simply keeping it afloat.  

So how do you get there? What can IT teams do to ensure their businesses’ transformations are smooth and efficient? Here are a few suggestions.  

1. Simplify Your Existing IT 

IT is complex and every data centre is unique to the business it serves. Complexity often leads to mistakes, longer processes and increased costs across the board. Simplification should be high on the list for any IT team and moving to unified migration and data protection solutions that leverage easy-to-manage modern storage and networking gear and automation tools or processes can help ensure as smooth a ride as possible.    

Solutions that replicate directly in the hypervisor layer solve issues with the relocation of applications, virtual machines and data by amalgamating current data protection approaches into one tool. Snapshots, database tools, and storage replication can all be replaced entirely by a single, automated solution freeing up your storage team and your storage itself from dealing with these challenges and letting them focus on delivering high performance and capacity management instead of managing backups and disaster recovery. A far more effective approach than relying on restorable backups at scheduled intervals.   

2. Keep IT Flexible  

Every part of the modern data centre has seen progress in the virtualisation of hardware, which has resulted in faster and more flexible IT resources. But virtualisation has also brought expensive vendor lock-in issues. Truly hardware-agnostic replication allows for unobstructed compatibility between storage systems and cloud platforms, providing ultimate cost-saving freedom without complication or impediment. This also allows users to leverage the latest storage vendors and network components.  

3. Leverage Multiple Clouds  

Legacy hardware and software do not allow for the easy and manageable integration of cloud services. Due to the poor assimilation of management tools, it is still time-consuming and cumbersome for organisations to manage a data centre and a cloud platform at the same time. To alleviate this problem, companies should opt for modernised solutions and tools that allow for the use of private, public or hybrid cloud.   

It is also imperative the solution enables the IT team to move data, workloads and applications to another destination with a simple mouse click. This enables easy migration into hybrid cloud and keeps data in two separate locations. Keeping data on premises and off, for example, can potentially save companies the cost of another physical location.    

4. Maintain IT Resilience  

The explosion of big data is key to digital transformation. Organisations are amassing more and more data every day, while trying to virtualise every possible application to save on storage. While the cost of storage is problematic, the management of vast quantities of data can make operational overheads skyrocket. Conventional, legacy back-up strategies are not equipped to cope with this flood of data, and the inability to recover it in the event of a disaster could be catastrophic. 

As sets of data move into the petabyte arena, global organisations that need to run 24/7 should be open to choosing newer, more streamlined but also more powerful storage solutions that allow the IT team to fulfill the modern business goals of running continuously and supporting challenging data protection SLAs instead of relying on infrequent or failing backups. By utilising continuous replication, companies can achieve recovery point objectives (RPOs) of seconds and recovery time objectives (RTOs) of minutes, dependent only on the time it takes to power on VMs.    

5. Recovery After a Breach  

The ongoing and growing wave of successful ransomware attacks shows that the increasing reliance of business on IT has presented cyber criminals with a bigger surface area to attack. And this is set to get even bigger as IoT concepts come to fruition.    

Organisations have been investing heavily in prevention measures but they also need tools to overcome attacks when, not if, they happen. In today’s environment, a breach of some kind will occur. Modern solutions with autonomous replication ensure data is always available should the worst occur. Companies should be prepared for successful penetration of the defense barrier while providing a window of opportunity to identify issues before they manifest themselves. Modern storage and networking solutions also allow for isolation or even micro segmentation; drastically reducing attack vectors and giving you stronger up-front defense.    

Improving the World of IT 

To achieve success, companies need to implement technology and software that is purpose-built for the digital era: resilient to disruption, dependable in a crisis and, most importantly, capable of ensuring data is always available. With the right preparation and tools in place, tackling a digital transformation can be a positive experience with even more positive results; results that drastically improve the day-to-day world of IT.   

Sean Masters, Sr. Program Manager, Services & Support, Zerto 

Image Credit: Chombosan / Shutterstock