IT pointers for governments in 2011
The following are some end-of-year suggestions from Herndon, Va.-based CDW-G to keep IT operations in local and state governments running smoothly and effectively. The company, which provides technology products and services to government, education and healthcare customers, holds hundreds of contracts and preferred vendor awards for federal, state and local governments.
Consolidate data center server and storage systems — Reduced funding and staff make it difficult for state and local agencies to manage the ever-growing complexity of their data centers. Consolidating and eliminating servers and storage equipment — or even entire data centers — simplifies IT management while saving money and time. Blade servers can pack more computing power into less space, while server and storage virtualization can help allocate consolidated computing resources effectively, reducing excess capacity and, therefore, costs.
Update, replace or remove software and hardware that are no longer supported or way out of date — At first glance, sticking with current systems and avoiding upgrades and replacements, instead of investing in new technologies, might seem cost-effective, especially when resources are scarce. However, state and local agencies can lose productivity and end up wasting money by running systems so far past their prime that little or no support is available when they break down.
New and improved technologies are available at lower costs. State and local agencies should evaluate whether their current technologies will support future needs. That evaluation enables agencies to plan for replacements as they are needed and choose the most efficient technologies — while avoiding significant downtime and costs associated with equipment failure.
Review desktop computing for opportunities to improve energy efficiency — Stacked against other IT needs, increasing energy efficiency may not rise to the top of agencies’ to-do lists. Yet opportunities to save significant money may be right at the desktop: “Standing load” from unused computers or printers still plugged in; desktop computers and peripherals running around the clock when they don’t need to be; failure to make the most of the power management functions built into desktop operating systems.
Many agencies can consider thin client architecture, which saves energy, reduces application support costs and boosts security. Commonly used for e-mail and web applications, some agencies have expanded the technology to accommodate advanced applications like video and graphic design programs.
Ditto for the data center — Power and cooling technologies have improved significantly, and blade server deployments tend to increase power and cooling requirements. If an agency has deployed new server and storage systems but still leans on the old power, cooling and management strategies, there are still more energy efficiency opportunities in the data center. Software and storage manufacturers are starting to build power-saving features into products that automatically transition servers to standby mode when they aren’t being used — ultimately reducing manual management of power and cooling while reducing costs.
Make a tiered storage plan and make smart use of old systems — State and local agencies can quickly improve the efficiency of their infrastructure by matching their investment in storage systems with the value and currency of the data residing in them, and then eliminating any excess equipment. For long-term storage of inactive data or just for an economical, periodic backup of current data, even old tape systems can still work well in many situations.
Streamline operations by updating security group policy and user group designs — Network updates can be painfully slow when one administrator is responsible for updating multiple groups (fire departments, police/highway patrol, 9-1-1 centers) and becomes a bottleneck. Streamline operations and free up time on both ends by updating the group policy design to grant access and rights to trusted users within major groups. Just be conscious that granting too many people access and rights to groups increases risk of data loss, so aim for an organized policy that balances productivity and security concerns, and conduct regular policy assessments.