Develop an IT budget plan to maximize lifespan and not break the bank

Proper IT budget planning and cost optimization can extend the life of your infrastructure, help guide refresh decisions and prepare you for software-defined architectures.

Keeping a data center efficient and on budget is a massive challenge for any administrator. What happens if something crashes, or if it's time to for a hardware refresh?

The right cost-optimization strategies -- ranging from smarter refresh decisions to the use of software-defined technologies -- can save your business capital, while increasing flexibility. Use these five questions to make better financial decisions for your IT budget plan now and in the future.

Where can I optimize costs in the data center?

It isn't always easy to save money, but you can deploy IT cost-optimization techniques to more efficiently run your infrastructure.

For example, create a shared services organization within IT that eliminates the inconsistencies and silos that can create inefficiency. Also, centralize and consolidate different aspects of the infrastructure to reduce costs, and consider cloud services.

Rework your IT budget plan for added transparency, and implement zero-based budgeting to reduce spending on unneeded technology or applications.

How does software-defined infrastructure impact an IT budget plan?

In the enterprise, there is often a tug-of-war between wanting new infrastructure and reducing costs.

The switch to a full software-defined data center (SDDC) can increase IT flexibility and reduce costs in the long run -- but it also requires hardware and software upgrades. The budget for this infrastructure may not be available all at once, so buy pieces over time to accumulate enough hardware and software for a full deployment.

It's important to consider usage spikes when budgeting for an SDDC, which attempts to deliver cloud-like resources on premises. Understand how demand spikes can impact your architecture, and maintain enough unused pieces of infrastructure -- but not too much -- to prepare for these spikes. Building a flexible budget is also key for SDDC implementation. Have capital readily available to purchase new infrastructure in the middle of the data center budget cycle.

How can I make more cost-effective refresh decisions?

Implementing the latest technology has its benefits, but can also break the bank. In the enterprise, there is often a tug-of-war between wanting new infrastructure and reducing costs. Proper IT lifecycle management can help teams strike a balance between the two, and drive a smarter refresh cycle.

First, it's crucial to monitor current IT assets. Track how effectively your equipment works using asset management tools. In general, the value of a piece of equipment, such as a server, will drop quickly at first but level out around its third year in use.

When equipment gets too old, dispose of it properly to save money and keep management happy. Before you take out the trash, confirm that your disposal won't break any local, state, regional or national laws.

How can I extend my data center's life?

If your data center is reaching its limits, there are several options to consider before buying new equipment or making other capital investments. Regularly evaluate power, cooling or space requirements as part of your IT budget plan.

If you're reaching space or capacity limits, clean and optimize existing servers and throw away zombie servers to make room for future infrastructure. Make minor fixes on older equipment, such as replacing an air filter, to preserve efficiency for the short term. Use preventative maintenance techniques to assure everything works properly and to identify equipment in need of bigger fixes.

If cleaning and optimizing existing equipment isn't enough, add new equipment to the data center. For example, new in-row coolers can help increase cooling capacity and extend the life of equipment. Make sure any additions meet all laws and codes to stay compliant.

How can I construct a cost-effective data center project plan?

A move to the cloud or a major overhaul of data center infrastructure requires an in-depth project plan that outlines all steps for IT to follow. Set clear expectations and establish firm boundaries over who has final say for each piece of the project. Identify any possible areas of conflict, and dictate whether IT or the business will make the call on purchases or changes.

Don't underestimate the importance of planning -- your budget may be at stake. For example, a $1 change made during development, could become a $10,000 change in a production environment, according to consulting firm Scott Ambler + Associates.

If a change arises, work through the issue with all groups involved in the project and determine the right course of action.

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