What is IT infrastructure?
As convenience and efficiency continue to define the digital landscape, business owners must respond to an ever-changing digital environment. MSPs have a critical role here: helping establish clear yet agile protocols to keep data safe, employees protected, and workflow uninterrupted under the most trying circumstances.
One important step toward this goal is the creation of a solid underlying IT infrastructure.
IT infrastructure affects both the physical and virtual components that make up an organization's information technology systems. A properly integrated IT infrastructure also enables networking and communication within an organization as well as with external partners, clients, and customers. This allows data and information to flow seamlessly across the organization and to external parties, facilitating business processes and enabling collaboration.
MSPs, as the architects of IT infrastructure, must understand not only the basics of IT infrastructure but how to construct it according to a partner’s needs. We’ll go over IT infrastructure, and how to go about implementing one, below.
IT infrastructure definition
So, what is IT infrastructure?
IT infrastructure refers both to the physical and virtual components that make up an organization's information technology systems as well as the people and processes that manage and support a company’s system overall.
It also includes the management and maintenance of these systems, ensuring their reliability, security, and scalability. Put simply, IT infrastructure is the foundation for an organization's technology systems.
The components of IT infrastructure
The components of IT infrastructure can be broadly grouped into several categories:
- Hardware: This includes physical components such as servers, storage devices, network equipment, and workstations. Storage devices need to be made secure, workstations usable, and physical devices set up so as not to be electrical hazards.
- Software: This includes operating systems, databases, applications, and other software that runs on the hardware. This is where a business keeps its information; thus, software systems must be organized and information easily retrievable.
- Networking: This includes the physical and logical connections between devices, including local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and the internet. This is doubly important if a business employs a remote workforce: they must be sure they’re sending out the strongest, most reliable signal possible.
- Data centers: These are facilities that house IT infrastructure components, such as servers and storage devices. That is, data centers are where sensitive information is kept on physical instruments. These instruments must be clearly arranged, making information easily retrievable.
- Security: This includes the measures and technologies put in place to protect the IT infrastructure and data from unauthorized access and breaches. High-value information, such as a list of credit card or social security numbers, is often sought by black-hat hackers. In some cases, businesses themselves are liable for these breaches. A strong security system, then, has implications for a company’s very solvency.
- Cloud computing: This refers to the use of remote servers and storage to host and manage IT infrastructure, rather than maintaining it in-house. With so much information “floating around,” it must be organized and made usable. It must be protected, too, from cyberattacks.
- People and processes: This includes the individuals and teams responsible for managing, maintaining, and troubleshooting IT infrastructure, as well as the policies and procedures that guide their work. Everyone has a part to play. And by making sure everyone works together holistically, a business can more easily avoid bottlenecking or slowdown.
- Management tools: This includes tools and software that are used to monitor, manage, and maintain the IT infrastructure. Should a company’s current IT infrastructure no longer remain workable or helpful, data-informed changes will have to be made.
All of these components work in concert to support an organization's operations and enable the flow of data and information within, and outside of, said organization.
IT infrastructure types
There are several types of IT infrastructure, including:
- Physical infrastructure: This includes the physical components of an IT system, such as servers, storage devices, and networking equipment. If a company relies more on physical-device storage than cloud infrastructure, this may be the way to go.
- Virtual infrastructure: This includes virtualized components of an IT system, such as virtual servers, virtual storage, and virtual networks. Virtual infrastructure may be preferred by a company reliant on physical devices that wants to share their capabilities across multiple platforms.
- Cloud infrastructure: This includes the use of cloud-based services, such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and software as a service (SaaS) to provide IT resources. Cloud infrastructure may be the choice for companies looking to apply serverless functions.
- Hybrid infrastructure: This includes a combination of physical, virtual, and cloud-based components to provide IT resources. This is a good all-around option for a company that isn’t partial to any particular storage methodology or may need to pivot to any one at a given time.
- Edge infrastructure: This refers to the use of distributed IT resources at the edge of a network, such as in remote locations or on devices, to improve performance and reduce latency. Edge infrastructure can be ideal for companies that offer digital services across large geographical areas, allowing far-flung customers ease of access and communication that wouldn’t be possible with a more centralized infrastructure.
An MSP helps a partner develop a particular infrastructure based on that partner’s particular needs. Some companies rely less on remote work than others, or are smaller employee-wise, or have fewer risky nodes vulnerable to cyberattacks. The infrastructure implemented will vary based on such considerations. An MSP has the expertise to help a client make the right decision.
The role of a strong IT infrastructure
A strong IT infrastructure plays a critical role in the smooth operation and success of an organization. ”Strong” means:
- Ensuring reliability and availability: A strong IT infrastructure ensures that an organization's IT systems and services are reliable and available when needed. This is important for maintaining business continuity and minimizing downtime.
- Facilitating communication and collaboration: A strong IT infrastructure allows for effective communication and collaboration within and between organizations. This can improve productivity and enable the sharing of information and resources.
- Supporting business growth: A strong IT infrastructure provides the necessary resources and capabilities to support the growth and expansion of an organization's business.
- Enhancing security: A strong IT infrastructure can improve the security of an organization's IT systems and data by implementing security measures such as firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and encryption.
- Supporting regulatory compliance: A strong IT infrastructure can help an organization comply with various regulations, such as data protection and privacy laws, by implementing appropriate security controls and procedures.
- Increasing mobility and flexibility: A strong IT infrastructure enables the organization to use technologies like cloud, mobile, and internet of things (IoT) to increase mobility and flexibility for users and employees, and to access data and applications from any location at any time.
How MSPs can support IT infrastructure
MSPs can support an organization's IT infrastructure in several ways:
- Monitoring and maintenance: MSPs can monitor an organization's IT systems and perform regular maintenance tasks to ensure that they are running efficiently and effectively. This can include tasks such as software updates, backups, and security patches.
- IT consulting: MSPs can provide expert advice and guidance on how to best design, implement, and maintain an organization's IT infrastructure. This can include helping organizations identify their specific IT needs and selecting the right hardware and software solutions to meet those needs.
- Proactive support: MSPs can proactively monitor and identify potential issues with an organization's IT systems before they cause disruptions to business operations. This can include identifying and resolving issues such as network bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities, and capacity constraints.
- Remote management: MSPs can remotely manage and support an organization's IT infrastructure, allowing them to resolve issues and provide support from a remote location quickly and efficiently.
- Disaster recovery and business continuity: MSPs can provide disaster recovery and business continuity solutions to help organizations quickly restore normal operations in the event of a disruption.
- Cloud and data migration: MSPs can help organizations migrate their IT infrastructure to the cloud or move and manage their data to cloud-based data centers, to increase scalability, reduce costs and increase reliability.
- Compliance and security: MSPs can assist organizations in complying with various regulations and standards, such as HIPAA, SOC2, and PCI-DSS, by implementing appropriate security controls and procedures, and perform regular security audits.
MSPs support IT infrastructure at every inflection point, in all situations, and regardless of the difficulty or risk involved. Because IT infrastructure is an essential aspect of any digital-minded business, MSPs are also responsible for ensuring that a partner’s IT infrastructure works within their overall business model. Understanding all these aspects and abilities to support is key for MSPs to be able to draw and retain clients.
No matter what sort of business you’re developing an IT infrastructure for, ConnectWise is here as a resource. Take control of your business with a live demo of the ConnectWise platform, or visit our resource center for more insight into IT infrastructure and internal solutions for MSPs.