Why IT-as-a-Service may become the norm for Australia’s information associations
IT-as-a-Service takes cloud models a step further, with IT companies providing a standardised set of services that increase cost efficiencies.
Migrating a facility’s IT operations to an IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS) model can provide a more agile, customer-focused experience, which fully leverages cloud computing options. It can save time and money, and mitigate many of the hassles associated with running a complex IT environment.
For a few years now, facilities and organisations have been moving applications and storage operations to the cloud, virtualising many aspects of their IT environment. Cloud computing allows a facility to be more flexible, make better use of resources and scale the size of their programs more efficiently. Put very basically, a cloud computing model means that rather than each individual computer having a software program downloaded to it and stored to the device, a ‘cloud’ or bank of servers – either in-house or outsourced – hosts the organisation’s applications. So, rather than a facility’s IT management buying, downloading and administering individual software licences for each user, they can take what they need from a central location.
According to Darron Hutchison from Melbourne-based ITaaS provider blueAPACHE, “This saves the facility both time and money, since they can respond quickly and efficiently to changes in staff and work structures, and overcome unexpected staff turnover and other unforseen events.”
ITaaS takes the cloud model one step further, with IT companies providing a standardised set of services that increase cost efficiencies and provide an agile platform for better management of resources. This may include VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phones, cloud storage and back-ups, as well as hardware and software.
Under an ITaaS operating model, the cloud can essentially be configured to suit the needs of the individual facility, so capacity can be up-scaled or downsized to meet demand. This ultimately flexible model is becoming increasingly mainstream, as modern demands call for seamless IT performance and reliability, with applications delivered on-demand. This also results in an operating model that is generally more ‘robust’ than others, since it allows performance to be upgraded as well as capacity.
“We have one customer whose call centre is very exposed to peaks in business at certain times of the year, such as Mother’s Day and Christmas,” explains Hutchison. “Should they see a sudden need to increase their phone capacity for a day or two, they simply need to call us and we switch on extra capacity, then turn it off again when the spike in traffic drops away.”
Security is also managed by the service provider, providing an economy of scale that allows for a state-of-the-art, enterprise-level security solution to be applied to a smaller facility. This of course means that security will be more robust without the facility having to spend an enormous amount of money. Security will be centrally managed by the service provider, which allows one simple, high-level solution to be administered across all devices and the network as a whole, and places the responsibility on the provider to ensure that the client’s data is safe at all times.
ITaaS moves the onus of providing these reliable, flexible services away from an IT department as we know it today. Since ITaaS involves a third party coming in and delivering the agreed range and scope of IT services, the role of the existing IT department evolves into more of a commissioning role. The IT department will collaborate with the service provider to evaluate what services the facility requires, then the service provider will go away and work out what sort of framework is best for the particular set of circumstances in front of them.
This model tends to simplify the range of applications and services operating within an IT network, since it forces standardisation upon the facility. That is, there will be one agreed set of applications, which are centrally controlled and administered, rather than a vast array of individually downloaded programs each with their own licensing and deployment dates.
“Customers and staff expect fast and trouble-free performance from a facility’s IT network these days, and functionality definitely tends to increase under an ITaaS model. It essentially clears away the dead wood from an IT network and allows simple increases in capacity and performance,” explains Hutchison. “People come to us looking for a way to simplify their IT and business processes, and give their facility more flexibility.”
Different IT needs can be met at a lower consumption point under an ITaaS model, which also enables an IT department to better control costs. So essentially, since a third party is controlling the flow of resources (after the IT department has indicated what the facility requires to operate), the burden of providing those services in an efficient and cost-effective manner moves to the service provider. Since the service provider is working in a competitive space, the onus to provide the services as cheaply and efficiently as possible drives them to come up with the goods, or the facility will move to a new provider.
Increased financial transparency is another benefit of running under an ITaaS model. A budget will be set by the facility for a complete range of IT services, including all the applications that are needed, and the facility and service provider will agree to a cost. Changes in scale – for example, if the facility expands operations or increases staff – can be quickly accounted for by the service provider and the cost-per-staff-member ratio increases by exactly the amount of budget devoted to each individual.
Facilities can benefit from moving to an ITaaS model, setting up a number of organisational efficiencies and cost savings at the same time as reducing the workload of IT staff.
Luke Frost is a marketing and communications expert who contributes on IT-related matters.