How would you rate your IT budget this year?
Our IT budget is about 8 percent higher than last year. Much of the increase is due to the growth of our virtual server environment and the additional costs associated with moving our disaster recovery site. When looking at disaster recovery, we are very interested in making our data center more green. We’re especially looking to improve our power efficiency. Given the rising cost of electricity, this is going to be a very important factor moving forward.
What is the top technology that you can’t scrimp on?
Server virtualization is one of our most important technologies. During the past 18 months we have been planning our migration to virtual servers. We anticipate trimming our servers from 370 to a little more than 100 physical boxes. We’re also very interested in desktop virtualization. We have seen some very impressive solutions, and we are in the process of evaluating those right now. Our goal is for our attorneys to be able to view their Microsoft Office, database and web applications from any machine, anywhere in the world. Whatever we wind up with, it has to be something that has the look and feel of the desktop or notebook the attorney uses in the office.
How are you measuring ROI on your server virtualization project?
Certainly a smaller server footprint is going to have an impact on our operating costs, especially for electricity, heating and air conditioning, physical space and hardware. A little more interesting is the impact on such things as decreased downtime when migrating virtual servers — whether planned or not — and the impact on disaster recovery. Simply shipping an image to the DR site and knowing that it is exactly what we have in production is an incredible benefit.
What’s another technology trend affecting your business?
There are several technologies we are looking at. For starters, we are migrating to a new disaster recovery site that will put us in a top-tier facility. We realized we had to fortify our remote access solution about four years ago after the Bird Flu appeared. We wouldn’t be able to handle remote access if the majority of our employees couldn’t get to the office. We also feel that telepresence is here to stay, and it’s just a matter of time before we start rolling it out. With the high cost of fuel escalating travel costs, more and more businesses will look into videoconferencing, which over time will bring down the cost of the technology and make it easier for us to justify.
What’s your advice to other IT managers?
Get aligned with your business units, play to your strengths and look forward. IT managers spend the majority of their time putting out fires, so they aren’t afforded the luxury of thinking about how things should work. Virtualization, whether it is servers, desktops or meetings, is something that you should at least be talking about within your organization.