All businesses must invest in IT & IT Support

7 04 2010

I think this is something that so many businesses overlook, and I don’t mean just large corporations failing to invest enough in their IT and IT support, but also SMEs which seem to see this as a luxury rather than a necessity.

This week I have spoken to a number of SMEs who simply have cut or have never really invested in their IT systems with regards to support, maintenance and upgrades. Many of these conversations have started something like this:

“Why is our system running so slow? Performance is just not where it should be, or needs to be”


“Software these days is so in-efficient, why do I need such powerful machines”

Another classic:

“Nothing works properly here, why doesn’t it just work!”

This last one is one of my favourites as it is almost always made by people that just haven’t invested in their IT at all, typically they are using systems and solutions that are rather dated now.

So in this post I want to look at some of the questions and statements SMEs have asked and raised and give some quick responses. In addition any comments on other typical issues should be added to the bottom of this post, as it will help start-ups and SMEs alike I am sure….

Why do I need to invest in maintaining something if it works?

This is a great question that many SMEs ask. They see that their system is running fine, and then presume it always will do, without any changes in performance etc. However, they almost always forget that their use of the system changes over time, and different things are happening on their server, network and machines second by second. This means that something working fine today, has the potential to be not working so fine tomorrow.

In real and practicle terms, as soon as you start using a server, network or just a machine, you need to get a valid and good level of support in place. Things and use of IT move so fast, that one thing may be shiny and new right now, but in a couple of days it could be performing slower than a machine / network with half of the specification, simply because you have not maintained it…

Why do things get slow?

This isn’t an answer, nor a list, more of some guidance to an understanding of why things get slow…

This is almost always due to use of RAM or configuration of the machine / network. Basically there are some key things to remember, your machine configuration can change any time you install new software, this does include Windows updates or updates to any software. Updates can be triggered just by using a particular application – so you have to make sure you maintain things correctly to stay on top of the situation. In addition, more updates are installed on the server or machine over time, this could be for security reasons and should always be applied. If they aren’t, they are just wasting space on your system and can have a big negative effect on performance..

Finally, the most common thing is having processes running in the background. These processes take up available RAM and basically mean the machine is doing too much work (even though it may appear to be doing nothing). It is worth remembering that the more things that are installed on a machine, the more RAM is typically used up by either the application itself, or processes associated with it. (Some software companies are awful for this!)

We sometimes just get weird behaviour

Sometimes you get really weird behaviour, for example your system is rapid sometimes during the day, and other times nothing works and it all grinds to a horrible halt. Again this will be due to something being processed on the server. This kind of issue can be hard to resolve as it can be hard to pin-point the culprit for the issue. In some cases it can be something as simple as poor computer cabling and packets being lost across the network. Other times it can be highly confusing as it appears nothing is running at all and could be due to a Windows update, software update, actual hardware fault, IO issues etc etc..The list could go on and on….

The key thing is, if you start getting this type of behaviour, it is too late already! Good IT Support services and maintenance would have ensured this didn’t happen, however, if it is happening, get ready for some lengthy investigations into the cause and then the attempts to put this right….Whatever you do, don’t go back to software vendors and look for performance updates etc. As any updates will be negated by the real problem. You must must must address the issue immediately if you start getting weird behaviour like this…..

Pop-ups, website addresses are wrong …. We just ignore these things…

Don’t ignore this, this could indicate a machine or the network has some viruses or Trojan based software. If this is the case, your complete security and network is at risk…

What else can go wrong?

Failure to support and maintain your system can result in a catastrophic failure. Now think, you are an SME and your whole system and day to day operations run across your network. If your server goes down, it more than likely means you can’t actually run your business. In some cases, this fault (and if you haven’t been backing up your data) could spell months of lost revenue and one hell of a headache.

So the solution, invest in IT support services

Well, simply put yes! If you have a good IT Support company looking after your IT then most of your issues will be negated without them ever being realised. Users may report the odd issues, but these will be issues and small annoyances, nothing major, and nothing that will effect productivity or the running of the business. However, just because you invest in support and maintenance, doesn’t mean you don’t need to invest in your IT equipment in general.

Remember, that software, updates etc move so fast as too does IT equipment itself. If you bought something top of the range on Monday, no doubt in three months time it will be mid range at best…Because of this many organisations look to lease their hardware to ensure they can upgrade every 2 to 3 years. This kind of investment ensures not only that machines are kept up to date, but also that performance is maintained, if not improved. It also side steps many many issues with regards to hardware / network failure.

So to all SMEs out there! I strongly urge you to invest in your support services and IT investment. A great way is to look at leasing options for hardware and support services bundled in. In this way your costs are monthly and constant for the term, in addition, it ensures that your server, network, machines and ultimately software performs just as expected – helping your business do business smoothly….



2 responses

7 04 2010
Max J. Pucher

Andrew, as strange as it may sound but that problem is not just constrained to SMEs. I have 95% large enterprises and I get the same complaints.

Let me add that many problems simply arise through more data being added, thus DB indices having to be reorganized, or more complex searches being performed, and sometimes more references per search having to be resolved as more data is linked together. Users get more proficient and do more or the opposite, that users that were used to use the system in a certain way, being replaced by others who use it differently. I had one situation were a systems administrator changed the setup to shut down the client software after each use to reduce system load, which caused a long waiting time on starting it and loaded the servers with resyncronization efforts. I totally agree that ‘living with problems’ is the worst thing to do. But people are so afraid about changes and do not want to be involved in helping to solve them.

I guess that some reluctance to setup IT support comes from the complexity of application infrastructures today, even when they are just Windows environments with many interdependent software components and products that all have to be monitored and tuned independently. Sharepoint tuning is not the same as MS-SQL tuning. Ajax frontends with Java servers and DB are the worst in terms of tuning or predicting system load.

For me that was always an issue to consider. For ISIS Papyrus the staff to ensure application performance do not have to be IT experts because there is no technology stack underneath. They do need to be trained to use our system, so as you say some investment is necessary. We do recommend that our customers setup user-focused monitoring. Our Platform has the ability to log ‘user perceived response times’ from enter key to data being returned and they can see that as a graph or ‘speedometer’ in their desktop. For the administrator we offer the Application Performance Monitor that can trace the usage of all system resources per user request, even across multiple servers.

Thanks for highlighting this important issue. It should be obvious, but apparently it isn’t.

8 04 2010
Andrew Smith @onedegree

HI Max,

Yes I agree that the problem is also there at an enterprise level. I wanted to “pick on SMEs” for this particular post, simply because the people that have been talking to me about it this week are all from SMEs.

At the end of the day, you are correct, this should be obvious, and yet in the quest for keeping costs down and basically, cutting corners, this obvious need for IT support and investment gets lost. Unfortunately, in the long run, that “cut or saving” ends up costing a hell of a lot more in terms of money and business…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: