David Jaggard co-founder of Cambridge IT specialists Fluid
David Jaggard established Fluid two years ago with fellow IT consultant and security expert John Baines to provide plain-speaking support to companies where secure, reliable and cost-efficient IT systems are vital to the business. Fluid provides pragmatic advice on IT strategy, data security and support for mobile working. It also offers proactive IT support and trouble-shooting expertise aimed at keeping the business up and running.
The company has offices in Bourn, Cambridgeshire and has a wide portfolio of clients including: Organisations with over five users that have minimal in house IT support; professional organisations that have many highly skilled personnel that work from various sites; schools that need robust IT networks and clients such as health services and defence organisations where high levels of data security are required. 1. What is the biggest change that you have seen in IT over recent years?
Concepts such as ‘software-as-service’ and ‘cloud computing’ have now become mainstream. The basic idea is that you don’t need to own all the software and hardware you use but simple rent it on a needs basis. This offers considerable flexibility to organisations that work on a project basis where demands can change rapidly.The ‘cloud’ is the internet and using this model a company can add additional server or storage capacity, or replace local applications, such as email, customer relationship management (CRM) or e-commerce systems. It can also run business services, such as an internal telephone system. For each service you put into the cloud, not only do you avoid buying the related hardware, or other equipment, but you also save the cost of power, cooling, software licensing, maintenance, support, insurance and any associated manpower expenses. The fee is charged on usage rather like a telephone bill or other utility.2. Will cloud computing benefit all sizes of organisation?
There are major benefits to this approach; it gives even smaller organisations access to the latest technology, with guaranteed service delivery, and it is possible to switch the services on and off as required. However, you need to analyse what is best for your organisation and you don’t need an all or nothing approach. There will be certain platforms and services that will benefit from a move into the cloud but this can be combined with services held on in-house servers. 3. IT systems seem to need ever more powerful servers – is there a cheaper alternative?
Energy consumption of computer servers is a big issue. The IT industry now exceeds the aerospace industry in terms of CO2 emissions and more power is being used to cool server and PC systems than is used for processing. This is particularly the case for older models that don’t power-down when not in use. If you’re only using a small part of their capacity, you will be paying to cool them 24/7 even when they are not in use. An alternative is virtualisation. One virtual host server can replace multiple traditional servers and can run more efficiently, use less power, take up less space and require less cooling.4. What other cost benefits does a virtual server offer?
The biggest benefit is that the organisation is able to do more with less equipment, and IT are able to flex and react to changes in demands from the organisation in a wholly dynamic way. Server virtualisation also cuts your maintenance and infrastructure overheads, as there are fewer machines to maintain and, if things do go wrong, it’s easy to switch applications from one virtualised server to another. New servers can be up and running in a matter of minutes, rather than spending hours setting up new hardware and software on an individual basis. 5. Companies now have to store emails and other documents for regulatory purposes; do you have any tips for cutting the cost of this?
Virtualisation can also be used for storage. Some business functions, like accounts, may use only a fraction of the storage space on their servers but email, graphics and images have huge demands. Storage virtualisation centralises your storage management, so extra capacity can be added quickly, and with technologies such as ‘Thin Provisioning’ there’s no under-utilisation. Backing up is also easier as is restoring data if anything goes wrong.6. Many companies supply laptops to their staff – how often do these need replacing?
Again I would recommend considering virtualisation. If the processing is done on the server then the laptop is only providing the user with access to it and the applications are held centrally. This means that you’ll need cheaper and less sophisticated machines and they will last longer. This strategy will also save on system maintenance. If there is a problem with the laptop you can easily swap it with no downtime for the user or fix it remotely, also the IT support team can make all the upgrades once to the main server and everything else will automatically update.Plus security is much easier to maintain, as no data is held externally, so if a laptop goes missing then no valuable data would be lost.7. I have heard about blade technology. What is that all about?
A blade is just a server computer that has been stripped down to the essentials and supplied with a modular design so you can select the options required. Their chassis-based design means they take up less space and makes swapping components easier, resulting in additional savings over conventional standalone machines. By adding blade technology into virtual storage and server solutions, you can reduce costs even further. That’s because blade systems share power and cooling mechanisms, saving more energy. 8. My staff all have their own computers, but many are not used all the time as people work from several offices – is this a waste of resources?
Desktop virtualisation can allow your employees work where ever is more efficient. If this is sometimes from home you can also cut heating, cooling and lighting bills at work, and you don’t need to rent as much office space! If you make it easier for a workforce to interact with company systems from a more diverse set of locations, they become measurably more productive in a very short period of time.The other benefit is ‘hot-desking’ where people share desks. There’s probably always part of your office that’s underused when people are working from home, off sick, or out on the road. Hot-desking helps you reduce the office space you need by allowing people to work from any desk available.9. Since the volcanic dust last Easter people have been trying to reduce business travel; do you have any advice for cheaper alternatives?
Teleconferencing has improved considerably over the last two years and you don’t need to invest in equipment. Using WebEx, for example, it is easy to set up a conference call and allow delegates to share resources such as diagrams and documents. 10. Major IT improvements are often disruptive. Is there any way you can get the gain without the pain?
I would recommend an ‘agile’ approach, once you have defined the business needs it is possible to break down the IT project into chunks each with smaller aims. These can be worked on in short, fortnightly periods. This replaces the traditional single, inflexible final goal and it seems to produce solutions that are faster and closer to budget than the traditional approach.Also I would suggest using business analytics to link all of your business data together in one place. You can access critical information in real time rather than several days or weeks down the line. This enables you to respond more quickly to key trends. For example, linking your sales data to your distribution systems means you can spot supply problems before they hit your bottom line.