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October 01, 2010

Mid-Sized Companies on the Cutting Edge of Technology

Mid-sized companies are more likely than large enterprises or small firms to adopt the latest technologies, such as cloud computing and virtualization. At least those are the findings from Symantec’s (News - Alert) 2010 State of the Data Center report.

Among almost 1,800 data centers surveyed by Symantec, mid-sized organizations (those with 2,000 to 9,999 employees) tended to use new technology as a way to cut costs and manage the growing complexity of IT.

IT managers at mid-sized firms also expect more changes and greater activity in the coming year, noted the survey, and seem to value both staffing and training more than smaller (1,000 to 1,999 employees) or larger (10,000-plus employees) companies.

Comments from several IT managers at mid-sized companies seemed to indicate that those firms are more nimble and better positioned to implement new technologies. Large enterprises can often take years to kick-start new projects, while smaller businesses may not have the resources or budgets. But medium-sized data centers have just the right mix of resources combined with the fortitude to take risks on new technologies.

But whether a company is small, medium, or large, most IT managers seem to have the same concerns, according to Symantec. Just running their data centers has become an increasingly challenging and complex job as networks have changed, applications have grown, and service level agreements have become more demanding.

Half of all companies surveyed by Symantec said that IT staff productivity is impacted by the number of applications they’re forced to support, making it even more difficult to meet SLAs. And despite the recession and its impact on the job market, most companies said they’ve faced a tough time trying to recruit and keep qualified employees.

As we approach the fourth quarter, IT managers are juggling a laundry list of upcoming projects and initiatives, but security, backup and recovery and data protection are top priorities. Symantec also finds that disaster recovery plans are in promising shape, with many managers expressing confidence in their DR plans, though several admitting that their plans still need work.

To ease the stress of managing a more complex data center, Symantec offers several recommendations to IT groups, large, medium, and small. Rather than juggle a variety of different and often conflicting applications, data centers should focus on software that can support a diverse environment. At my former company, we once embarked on a project to reduce the number of applications, finding that many of them were redundant or unnecessary. Though it caused some initial pain for certain users, in the long run it saved the company money and helped reduce complexity for IT and the business overall.

Companies should employ de-duplication closer to their data to reduce redundant information and thereby cut both storage and network costs. IT needs to adopt new storage technologies to avoid having to continually buy more storage as needs grow. Data centers should consider storage resource management, de-duplication, virtualization, and continuous data protection and recovery, all of which can help control an ever-growing storage budget.

Testing your disaster recovery plan is critical but can impact business. Companies should look at alternative ways to test their DR plans so as cause the least amount of disruption to the business.

Data centers supporting and securing both physical and virtual server machine environments should apply the same strategies to both as a way to reduce complexity.

I think many firms could take a lesson from the methods used by mid-sized companies. Though IT may be more complex and tricky to manage, data center managers and staff should consider the latest technologies – they could just save you some money and make your jobs a little bit easier.


Lance Whitney is a journalist, IT consultant, and Web Developer with almost 20 years of experience in the IT world. To read more of Lance's articles, please visit his columnist page
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