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Q&A: Pro tips on avoiding legacy infrastructure failure

January 29, 2018

Q&A: Pro tips on avoiding legacy infrastructure failure

We sat down with Samuel Alt, technical support specialist at Ingram Micro, to get his insight on legacy infrastructure. He fields thousands of critical tech support calls and has extensive, hands-on experience with both data centers and the cloud. Here’s Samuel’s advice based on real-world business scenarios.

When it comes to upgrading legacy infrastructure, is it all about years?

Date of deployment is just one aspect when considering the sustainability of IT infrastructure. One of my first questions for customers is about maintenance and documentation of updates. Think of the old car or truck that your grandfather handled with meticulous care, preventing issues before they happen—there’s a reason for its longevity. For legacy infrastructure, I want to know the health of the system as much as its age. Is it being updated and maintained regularly? Keeping software updated is just as important as keeping hardware updated, so checking both regularly is recommended to avoid a failure.

Give us an example of a time legacy infrastructure failed.

I fielded a tech support call from a client who not only had aging physical servers and infrastructure, but also failed to properly keep updated from a software perspective. As a result, they experienced a costly domino effect. Their servers died, their surge protectors failed and they didn’t have proper backup batteries in place. As a result, they experienced extreme downtime, which cost them a lot of money. We got them up and running as soon as we could, but downtime resulted in long-term cost and customer issues for them.

How can businesses avoid legacy infrastructure failure as described above?

Maintain and gain insight into your infrastructure before a catastrophic failure like this occurs. If you take a server down for an hour on your terms for an update, it’s better than downtime that you can’t control. Do the work up front to avoid the issue. It’s like the robbery victim who only installs a security system after the break-in. The upfront investment is nothing compared to the loss.

Do you consider warranties when advising customers of legacy upgrades?

Yes. Ingram Micro offers 1-, 3- and 5-year warranties. If you’re on a 5-year warranty and have experienced no issues, don’t push it another 5 years. I’d let it go another year or so before worrying about failures. However, I’d always have some redundancy built in for cases like this—in case the server were to go down.

Where does the cloud come into play?

The cloud, in my opinion, presents the easiest and most cost-effective way to avoid failures. I don’t know why SMBs would avoid the cloud, at least as a supplemental safety net. Why spend sizeable amounts of money on your own hardware—in hopes that it will work properly and won’t fail—when you can get things done quickly and securely in an on-demand environment? Obviously every business is different, but the majority can win in the cloud. When I hear about hardware failures, especially without a proper disaster recover solution in place, I think about how the cloud could have circumvented the failure. If an SMB claims the cloud is too expensive, I kindly ask them to consider how much their data is worth.

What backup tips do you have for SMBs or startups?

I highly recommend “the rule of 3.” Store 3 copies of your data at all times. Store 2 on different media components (e.g., hard drive, tape) and 1 offsite (e.g., cloud). For my personal data at home, I take it to the next level and create 5 copies, but that may be a little excessive.

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