What is IT infrastructure?
IT infrastructure refers to everything that makes up your IT network. This includes hardware, software and the components required to make it work such as cabling and an internet connection. IT infrastructure can also be used to describe the human resources you have on hand to manage the network such as an IT manager or an IT technician.
Hardware refers to the physical parts of your IT infrastructure. In its simplest form, this could mean your computer or laptop. In reality, you’re also likely to have a server, router and other networking components such as switches. These are physical objects you can see and touch. Commonly used hardware includes;
Server: A server is used to manage your network resources. For example, it can be set up to store files, control access to a network or send and receive emails. In most networks, you will have dedicated servers that carry out a specific task. In terms of IT infrastructure, the server is a core component of any network and is used in both traditional setups and cloud-based ones too.
Switch: A switch is a device that receives data and redirects it to the place it needs to go within your network. This allows everything to run smoothly in instances where you may be accessing files or software stored on your network. Again, both onsite and cloud-based IT infrastructure use switches.
Router: A router is a device that routes data from one network to another. It is a key part of your IT infrastructure as it directs incoming and outgoing internet traffic.
Software refers to a set of instructions that tell your system how to perform a task. The most common examples of software are programs such as Microsoft Office. Your IT infrastructure will consist of more complex software too though. For example, the operating system (Windows, Mac OS etc.) is also an example of software.
Networking refers to the parts that connect everything together and make it all work. Stood alone one computer isn’t very beneficial to a business. By connecting a computer to a network, a server and the internet you can do a lot more. For example, you can browse the web, share files and work from home.
All IT infrastructure requires a human element to administer it. This might be an individual in-house, a team of people or an outsourced company like Acronyms. The level of involvement all depends on the complexity of the network and the skills a company has to hand.
The components that make up your IT infrastructure.
Onsite infrastructure v Cloud-based infrastructure
You can break IT infrastructure down into two sub-groups; onsite and cloud-based.
Onsite IT infrastructure is when the IT network exists in your office or building. This will involve servers and networking components at your place of work. Having your IT infrastructure onsite allows you to have greater control over it. However, onsite IT infrastructure usually involves large up-front costs required for purchasing the hardware..
In comparison, cloud-based IT infrastructure is when your IT network is not at your place of work. Instead, the network will exist elsewhere in a data centre. Data centres are usually owned and managed by somebody else, such as the data centre Acronyms use at Plymouth Science Park.
The main advantages of this is that cloud options are often easier to finance and paid for monthly. They are also easier to scale. Given the hardware is offsite though you have less control over the network. You may also have constraints and limits enforced upon you.
Hybrid IT infrastructure
A hybrid approach to IT infrastructure is a combination of onsite and cloud-based. This approach is becoming more common among businesses. Hybrid options allow you to utilise the advantages that both onsite and cloud have to offer.
In one common scenario, a business may have a server onsite for their day-to-day operations. They may then use the cloud for backup and disaster recovery provisions or as file storage.
What’s the right IT infrastructure for my business?
This is hard to answer.
Whilst the components of an IT network are often the same from business to business, the setup can be adjusted slightly to meet specific requirements. To get the most out of your IT infrastructure, it is best that to align it with the long term goals of the business. What works for one company, may not work for your own.
Before making a decision to change or improve your IT infrastructure have a think about what it is you would like to achieve company-wide or what problems you would like to solve or overcome. For example, if you would like employees to have the ability to work from home, then a cloud-based solution may be better set up for this. On the flip side, if you’d like your IT manager to have more control over the network, you may wish to host your infrastructure onsite.