25 July 2014

Some thoughts on what IT should provide

As I have been responsible for managing IT infrastructure, architecture and software development for several organizations, I try to keep up with the latest developments. That can be a daunting task! Here are some ideas for consideration:
  • At a minimum, network security will require firewalls within your system, between what is available just within the organization as opposed to that which may be publicly available.
  • Multiple servers will be needed to provide different capabilities. Thanks to virtualization, this does not necessarily mean a different box for each server.
  • Laptops and tablets may be de rigueur, but regular PCs and thin clients have their place as well within the office. As well, don't forget the useful data that comes from scanners and mobile devices. Tailor the architecture according to what is really needed, as opposed to what the latest fads may be or what users may be campaigning for.
  • In a similar vein, not everyone needs their own personal printer, black-and-white printing is preferable to colour, and not everything needs to be printed in hard copy. In the first two cases, managed print services should be actively employed; in the last, crystallizing output in PDF format for storage in document management systems should be a preferred choice for any office (as opposed to saving everything on local hard drives), as well as providing version control.
  • Use open source software whenever you can. While Microsoft, SAP and Oracle are excellent, keep an open mind: databases such as MySQL, PostgreSQL and Firebird are also great, LibreOffice is a wonderful office suite, and OpenBravo and Adempiere (among others) work well for ERP.
  • Collaboration is always to be preferred, and blogs and wikis can convey information far more effectively in that regard. Embedding files and images within your posts can convey a message more powerfully as well.
  • The following is probably the minimum number of servers I can see for any size organization these days: ERP, accounting, email, fax, printer, document management, web, blog, and wiki. Bug reporting and data warehouse servers are probably desirable as well. It's preferable to design how these will all interrelate with each other at the very beginning, in order to ensure that it will remain scaleable with some degree of ease.

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