The Ultimate Manual to IT Infrastructure Management

The rapid expansion of technology implementation in today’s business environments can create challenges for any organization. Effective IT infrastructure management helps give you more oversight and control over all of your IT-enabled processes and business systems.

This guide will explain everything you need to know about IT infrastructure management, including what it is, how it works, examples, and how to get started.

What is IT Infrastructure Management Anyway?

IT infrastructure management is the oversight of all hardware, software, network services, and resources that power the IT environment of an organization. This is an internal initiative designed to deliver IT solutions and services to customers, partners, and employees as seamlessly as possible. 

It’s a method to monitor and maintain all critical IT infrastructure to ensure all of the resources are operational, functioning properly, and protected.

IT infrastructure management makes it possible for organizations to manage technical resources in accordance with operational needs and business priorities. It aligns business strategy with IT management, enabling a company’s technology to add value instead of draining resources. 

Rather than having dedicated IT resources and management for each technology component and managing them separately, IT infrastructure management covers everything under a single umbrella. 

There are three main categories within IT infrastructure management—each with different components and unique tasks associated with management. In some cases, IT infrastructure management is divided into these three categories—systems management, network management, and storage management. 

  • Systems Management — Systems management initiatives cover IT security components like workload automation, log management, intrusion detection and prevention, and configuration management. It relates to IT asset administration for all resources that are usually found in an organization’s data center. CTOs and CIOs are usually responsible for overseeing the operations of data centers and managing how third-party apps and services integrate with an organization’s IT environment.
  • Network Management — Network management refers to both operations and security required to manage and configure network resources, applications, and services. It involves visibility and transparency to understand all the different network components an organization manages and how to allocate network resources effectively.
  • Storage Management — Storage provisioning, data security, virtualization, and storage provisioning are all subcategories of storage management. This refers to the oversight of storage space for IT assets and business operations within the technician infrastructure. 

Resource allocation, security, and support are all key factors for effective IT infrastructure management. 

How IT Infrastructure Management Works

The term “infrastructure” is more than 100 years old, and its concepts date back even further. Traditionally, infrastructure has been used to describe public utilities, civil projects, and military planning. 

It started with railroads, roads, and canals used for transportation and irrigation within a country. Then it expanded to include telephones, electrical systems, public water and sewer, subways, and more. 

Similar to the roots of this definition, IT infrastructure encompasses the structural components and technical components to maintain functionality. But instead of highways that transport goods between cities or bridges used to cross rivers, IT infrastructure refers to data centers, servers, applications, and other technical components to support business functions. 

Like a country’s infrastructure, an organization’s IT infrastructure is complex. That’s why it’s commonly broken down into subcategories for systems management, network management, and storage management. 

In addition to these three main categories, there are seven major components of IT infrastructure management:

  • Hardware — Hardware components include data centers, desktop computers, laptops, routers, switches, facilities, mainframes, servers, and client machines. 
  • Software — IT infrastructure primarily focuses on physical components. But it also includes some oversight of enterprise software apps. This includes tools for managing service delivery, such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft, and more.  
  • Operating Systems — This refers to the OS that runs on computer hardware. Examples include Mac OS X, Windows, Linux, and UNIX.
  • Data Storage and Management — This part of IT infrastructure management relates to all of the physical components and software components required for data storage. It includes data servers as well as databases like MySQL, Oracle, IBM DB2, and more. 
  • Networking and Telecommunications — Internal network components fall within the scope of IT infrastructure management. It includes all telecom assets, like routers, wiring, and phones. It also includes virtual network software, such as Cisco networking or Microsoft Windows server.
  • Internet — All internet-related components for networking and telecommunications are included in IT infrastructure management. This includes internal servers, external services, software development tools, hosting services, cloud-based applications, and more. 
  • Consulting and System Integrations — The process of updating legacy systems with new applications is included in IT infrastructure management. 

IT infrastructure managers are responsible for the implementation, maintenance, and design of all the components listed above. Many of these responsibilities fall on CTOs and CIOs.

IT Infrastructure Management vs. IT Operations Management (ITOM)

IT infrastructure management is closely associated with IT operations management (ITOM).

But these two terms are actually two different things. IT infrastructure management is just one component of functionality supported by IT operations teams. These functions include:

  • Managing infrastructure
  • Operations governance
  • Evolving infrastructure
  • Configuration management
  • Running solutions
  • Disaster mitigations

ITOM focuses more on day-to-day operating tasks that are required to maintain IT infrastructures and deliver IT services. 

Benefits of IT Infrastructure Management

Effective IT infrastructure management is important for any enterprise organization. While the initiatives associated with implementing an IT infrastructure management strategy can often be challenging and costly, the rewards are tremendous.

Some of the top advantages include:

  • Improved productivity
  • Reduce downtime
  • Enhanced customer experience
  • Boost employee confidence
  • Smarter IT decisions
  • Less risk of IT disasters

IT infrastructure management makes it easier for internal staff to communicate effectively between locations and departments. It’s easier to get quality work down when you don’t have to worry about service interruptions or data loss.

There are fewer network issues, device failures, and other technological problems when you have IT infrastructure management practices in place. Your staff needs to rely on technology to complete daily tasks, and outages can be costly.

Your website, application, or SaaS solution might be the first interaction a customer has with your business. Even things like phone support or automated communications are important to maintain. Keeping these services running like a well-oiled machine improves the customer experience.

When you’re monitoring and managing different IT components, it makes things easier for decision-makers. Your organization can confidently make decisions about security protocols, integrations, or improvements to technical systems.

Example 1: Making Improvements to Data Centers

Let’s say you want to install a generator to power your data center to ensure everything continues running smoothly during a power outage. 

Any electrical components you’re adding or modifying to the physical structure of the facility and data center become part of your IT infrastructure. Things like generators or electrical components will likely overlap with your facilities management as well. 

Example 2: Cloud Backups

Many organizations set up a cloud system for backing up an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system. All cloud services are part of your IT infrastructure. 

Example 3: Converting Legacy Phones to VOIP

Telecommunications is a component of IT infrastructure management. Any hardware or software you’re using to update, deploy, and manage your VOIP phone system would fall into this category. 

How to Get Started With IT Infrastructure Management

A well-managed IT infrastructure is crucial for any organization. While this initiative might seem overwhelming at first, it’s much easier if you break things down into attainable steps.

Follow the blueprint below to get started setting up or improving your IT infrastructure management policies.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Existing IT Infrastructure 

Whether you realize it or not, you already have a current IT infrastructure in place—even if you haven’t formally started an IT infrastructure management initiative. 

The first thing you need to do is assess the capabilities of your existing IT systems and infrastructure. Capacity planning is an excellent approach to this step.

Why capacity planning?

Capacity planning helps you analyze all IT components based on each asset’s ability to help with different tasks. This might include network connectivity, data storage, or another key element of IT infrastructure. There are three main approaches to capacity planning:

  • Hardware Capacity — Evaluate the capacity of each device, such as hard drives and computers. 
  • Workforce Capacity — Assess whether or not you have the right people in place to optimize different infrastructure elements. This could include your CTO, infrastructure managers, or other key roles in the IT department. 
  • Software Capacity — Ensure you have the right software tools to maintain and deliver all IT components. 

This approach helps you identify any capacity gaps that could lead to a security breach or downtime. It also helps give you a better understanding of how to scale your IT infrastructure and when to do it. 

Start by running a detailed assessment of both physical and virtual IT systems. Focus on getting actual numbers that you can measure and use those as a benchmark. 

Based on this analysis, you can decide whether or not your existing IT infrastructure has sufficient resources to support your operations. Are those resources being utilized? Do you need to upgrade existing resources or get new ones?

From here, create a list of all required resources in your IT infrastructure. Then you can prioritize that list and budget for them accordingly. 

You can use network monitoring tools to help you evaluate your IT infrastructure components, the performance of those components, and their capacity. 

Step 2: Provisioning

Now it’s time to set up your IT infrastructure based on the resources you identified during the previous step. For example, you might decide to set up your data center with enhanced storage capacities and servers to extend its capacity.

There are four main provisioning categories for IT infrastructure management: 

  • Network Provisioning — This involves the set up of an IT network to assist with connectivity between users, devices, and other infrastructure components. 
  • Server Provisioning — This process relates to the setup and provisioning of all servers that function with your IT network. It includes installation and software that operate on the servers as well.
  • User Provisioning — You need to set up and manage access to networks, systems, and business resources. It refers to staff, partners, and clients. The easiest approach to user provisioning is by setting up authorization privileges and access rights at the user level.
  • Service Provisioning — Set up all required services and data related to that service. Cloud computing is a good example of service provisioning. 

Any time you’re adopting new IT resources, you need to determine whether or not the resource improves speed, reduces cost, and enhances the user experience. This will help you determine whether it’s worth investing in that particular technology. 

Step 3: Deployment

The final step involves putting your new and upgraded IT resources to use. It involves networks, servers, software, and everything else. 

Consider choosing a deployment strategy from these popular options:

  • Shadow Deployment — Shadow deployment involves the use of both old infrastructure solutions with the new ones. But you’re going to be dealing with one solution at a time instead of switching over everything at once.
  • Blue/Green Deployment — This strategy uses new and old solutions parallel to each other. Then you can switch from old to new in real-time based on the situation or work requirement. It’s a popular method for organizations that want to continue using old resources when deploying new ones. 
  • Canary Deployment — Canary deployment is a gradual change. You’ll slowly roll out new resources and assets to a particular department or smaller group of users. It’s often used to mitigate risks or manage tighter budgets. 
  • A/B Testing — A/B tests help you decide whether a new or old IT solution makes sense. When real-world scenarios arise, you’ll decide in real-time which solution to deploy. 
  • Recreation Deployment — With recreation deployment, you’ll completely power down the old solutions first, then deploy the new ones. This requires a full reboot of your infrastructure. 

It’s important to align all new resources in the IT infrastructure with existing business processes during deployment. You also need to track the performance of everything to ensure new components are doing what they’re supposed to.

Even after deployment, you still need to monitor everything and optimize them to see if there’s room for improvement. 

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Bryan Wise
Bryan Wise,
CIO of GitLab

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