Male and Female standing in a comms room having a discussion

In the first of a new two-part blog, I’m going to draw on my years of experience in the sector to give you a step-by-step guide on building a high-performance IT infrastructure.

I call this ‘The complete playbook’ and it contains everything you need to know.

First, let’s cover the basics:

A: What is IT infrastructure?

IT infrastructure is the collection of all the technology components needed for a business or organisation to function and manage its digital information. This includes things like computers, servers, software programmes, network connections, and other tech tools that help a company run smoothly and efficiently.

B: What do we mean by high-performance?

High-performance IT infrastructure is vital for businesses because it helps them work faster, more efficiently, and more securely. Plus, it reduces the chances of things going wrong and helps keep costs down. In short, it’s a game-changer for any company looking to succeed in today’s fast-paced world.

C: What will my complete playbook include?

This playbook will cover key steps to planning, building, and maintaining a high-performance IT infrastructure, using specific examples of good and bad design decisions to help guide you.

I. Planning Your IT Infrastructure

A. Assessing your current IT infrastructure means taking a close look at all the technology you’re using right now to see what’s working well and what needs improvement.

For example:

  1. You might find that your office computers are slow and struggling to keep up with daily tasks, which could mean it’s time for an upgrade.

  2. Maybe your Wi-Fi network isn’t reaching all corners of your workspace, making it difficult for employees to stay connected.

  3. Or perhaps your server is outdated, which could limit your ability to grow and handle more work as your business expands.

By identifying these issues, you can make better decisions about how to improve your IT setup and keep things running smoothly.

B. Figuring out your business needs and goals means making sure your infrastructure supports what your company is trying to achieve.

Here are a few examples:

  1. If your business relies heavily on data analysis, you’ll want to invest in computers with fast processors and ample memory to handle the work quickly and efficiently.

  2. Maybe you run an online store? Having a secure and reliable website is crucial. This may mean investing in better web hosting and security measures to protect customer information.

  3. Does your team often collaborate on large files? If so, having a fast and reliable file-sharing system in place would be a priority.

The key is to focus on the big picture and what will benefit your business in the long run, rather than just looking for the cheapest short-term solutions that could end up costing you more in the future.

C. Thinking about potential challenges means trying to predict what obstacles your business might face in the future when it comes to technology.

Here are a few examples:

  1. As your company grows, you may need to handle more customer data, which could require more powerful servers or additional storage space. Planning for this now will save you time and money down the road.

  2. New technologies are always emerging, and staying up to date can give your business a competitive edge. For example, upgrading to a faster internet connection might enable you to offer better services or adopt new tools that boost productivity.

  3. Security threats are constantly evolving, and you should always be prepared for possible cyberattacks. This might involve updating your security software, training your employees on best practices, or implementing stricter access controls to protect sensitive information. Read my previous blogs on cybersecurity [Cyber Security: How to Avoid Being Hacked – Operum] for tips on how best to protect yourself.  

By being proactive and considering these potential challenges, you’ll be better equipped to handle any obstacles that come your way and keep your business running smoothly.

D. Creating a plan for your new infrastructure involves putting together an easy-to-follow roadmap for upgrading your tech setup.

Here’s a simple way to approach it:

  1. Set a budget: Figure out how much money you can spend on upgrading your technology. This will help you prioritise your needs and make smart choices.

  2. Create a timeline: Decide when you want to start making changes and how long you expect the process to take. Break down the project into smaller tasks with deadlines to stay organised and on track.

  3. Identify resources: Determine what you’ll need to get the job done, such as new hardware, software, or help from IT professionals. What kind of IT support services are available? Check out our website for an example [IT Support Services – Operum]. Make a list of these resources and where to find them.

  4. Communicate with stakeholders: Keep everyone in the loop, from employees to management, about your plans for improving the IT infrastructure. Their input and support will help ensure the project’s success.

By breaking down the process into these manageable steps, you’ll be better prepared to upgrade your IT infrastructure and make sure everyone’s on board with the plan.

II. Building a Safe and Secure Network

A. Understanding network security risks means being aware of the various online dangers that could harm your business.

In simpler terms:

  1. Cyber threats, such as ransomware and phishing attacks, are sneaky ways that hackers try to steal your data or hold it ransom for money. These attacks can cause serious damage to your business.

  2. To protect your company, it’s important to stay up to date on the latest types of threats and how to fight them off. This includes learning about new scams, viruses, or hacking techniques that cybercriminals might use to target your business.

  3. By staying informed and taking steps to improve your network security, you can better defend your business against these risks and keep your data safe.

In summary, knowing about network security risks helps you build a strong shield around your business to keep the bad guys out.

B. Choosing the right firewall and security measures means picking the best tools and strategies to protect your business network from cyber threats.

Here’s a more detailed explanation:

  1. Invest in a next-generation firewall (NGFW): These firewalls go beyond just blocking unauthorised access; they also offer deep packet inspection (DPI) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) to catch and block more advanced threats. DPI checks the contents of data packets, while IPS identifies and stops suspicious activities in real time. 

NGFW Brands:

o   Cisco: Cisco offers a range of NGFW solutions, including their Firepower series, which provides advanced threat protection and deep packet inspection.

o   Palo Alto Networks: Known for their high-performance firewalls, Palo Alto Networks provides the PA Series NGFWs with features like application visibility, threat prevention, and advanced URL filtering.

o   Fortinet: The Fortinet FortiGate series of NGFWs offers advanced security features, including intrusion prevention, web filtering, and sandboxing.

2. Explore other network security hardware: Besides firewalls, consider using additional network security devices, such as:

VPN Gateway:

1.     Cisco: Cisco’s VPN gateways, like the Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) series, offer secure remote access and site-to-site VPN connectivity.

2.     Juniper Networks: Juniper’s SRX Series VPN gateways provide high-performance and scalable VPN solutions for businesses of all sizes.

3.     OpenVPN: OpenVPN offers both software-based and hardware-based VPN solutions, such as OpenVPN Access Server and OpenVPN Cloud, which can be deployed on various platforms and devices.

NAC System:

1.     Cisco ISE (Identity Services Engine): Cisco ISE is a popular NAC solution that offers secure network access control, guest access management, and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) support.

2.     Aruba ClearPass: Aruba’s ClearPass Policy Manager provides advanced NAC features, including device profiling, role-based access control, and integration with multi-factor authentication systems.

3.     Forescout: Forescout CounterACT is a NAC solution that offers real-time visibility and control over devices connected to your network, including IoT and OT devices.

3. Don’t rely solely on antivirus software

While antivirus programs are essential, they shouldn’t be your only line of defence. Combine them with other security measures like firewalls, email security solutions, and regular software updates to create a more comprehensive security plan. 

o  Antivirus Solutions:

o   Email Security Solutions:

o   Patch Management Tools:

By selecting the right mix of firewall and network security tools, you can build a robust shield around your business network, keeping it safe from various cyber threats.

C. Securing your network involves following best practices to keep your company’s data and systems safe from cyber threats.

Here’s a simpler explanation with a few examples:

  1. Use strong passwords: Encourage employees to create complex passwords that are hard to guess, using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. For example, instead of using “password123,” use something like “P@ssw0rD!$ecure.”

  2. Multi-factor authentication (MFA): Add an extra layer of security by requiring users to verify their identity using a second factor, such as a text message code or a fingerprint scan. For example, after entering their password, employees might need to enter a code sent to their phone before they can access their email.

  3. Data encryption: Protect sensitive information by converting it into a code that can only be read by someone with the right decryption key. For example, you might encrypt customer credit card information stored on your servers to prevent unauthorised access.

By following these best practices, you can greatly reduce the risk of a costly data breach and keep your business’s valuable information safe and secure.

D. Testing your network security means regularly checking your systems for any weak spots that could be exploited by cybercriminals.

  1. Vulnerability scans: Use automated tools to scan your network for known security issues, such as outdated software or misconfigured systems. For example, a vulnerability scanner might detect that your web server is running an old version with known security flaws, prompting you to update it.

  2. Penetration testing: Hire ethical hackers or use specialised tools to simulate real-world cyberattacks and see how well your network defences hold up. For example, a penetration tester might try to break into your network using common hacking techniques to see if they can access sensitive data.

  3. Fixing security gaps: After identifying any weaknesses, work quickly to address them and strengthen your network security. For example, you might patch a software vulnerability, update firewall rules, or improve access controls.

By regularly testing your network security and addressing any issues you find, you can stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and keep your business’s valuable data safe from potential attacks.

Okay, that’s the end of part one and a good place to pause. I think you’ll agree we’ve got off to a fascinating and comprehensive start to our guide to building a high-performance IT infrastructure. In part two, we’ll continue with topics such as the importance of Fast and Efficient Networking, Cloud Computing and Virtualisation, Maintenance and Troubleshooting, and more. We’ll be back with part two very soon so stay tuned, follow, and subscribe for more useful, informative, and completely free IT content like to your inbox each and every week. 

In the meantime, if you need IT support of any kind, please reach out and contact my friendly team of experts at any time. At Operum, we can help with everything from cyber security, cloud computer, and IT compliance to IT infrastructure support, cyber essentials, and more. We love working with our IT support clients and using our IT knowledge and experience to make their lives easier. You can contact us here: [Contact Us – Operum].

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