Is your IT operation on the brink? Then 'fess up

Many IT organizations were starved during the downturn. Come clean now and get the resources you need before it's too late

There's a perfect storm brewing in IT. The economic downturn has raided budgets, prevented necessary IT positions from being filled, and deferred vital system upgrades and maintenance. At the same time, new technology -- and businesses' increasing reliance on it -- has yielded a bulging pipeline of new applications to field and support.

The result? IT is now managing too much with far too little. Look around at your infrastructure. If you can honestly say that your systems are in good shape -- backups tested and operational, patches applied, event logs examined for brewing problems, staff well-trained, disaster documentation current, and so on -- you are in the minority and should consider yourself extremely lucky. More likely you're sitting on a house of cards.

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That's a harsh place to be, but it's about to get harsher, because we're starting to emerge from the downturn. That should be good news -- but for many IT operations, these tidings will not be welcome at all.

Companies that have been sitting on their cash will soon loosen their purse strings, if they haven't already. At the same time, no one feels particularly confident about the recovery, so few businesses are going to run out and hire more system admins, nor are they likely to decide now is the best time to perform an infrastructure vulnerability review and put things on a solid footing. Instead, they're going to pay for a bunch of new projects that will drive revenue and beat the competition to the punch.

Which is why your dilemma is about to get worse -- a lot worse. You've made things work with less people and less money and have squeaked by, hopefully without any major disasters, but soon the business will run hotter and the solutions pipeline will deepen. As business heats up, stakeholder tolerance for unplanned downtime will shrink even further. When disaster finally does strike, the blame will fall on you. With a huge pool of unemployed IT talent scrounging for work, you may well see the job you successfully protected during the downturn go to someone else.

Over the past couple of years, to stay employed, many of us have have grinned and beared it as new solutions have been tossed onto our plates. Instead of steadfastly insisting on adequate redundancy, maintenance resources, and testing time for new solutions, we've plowed ahead and deployed. This has kept management and stakeholders happy, but it's also filled our closets with skeletons.

The only solution is to come clean -- now. Expose the true state of your infrastructure -- however bad it may be -- and make sure that rectifying whatever high-risk problems you may have rises to the top of management's agenda for recovery spending. If you wait until the recovery is in full swing and the business has already committed capital to new projects, you'll be too late.

I'm fully aware that this will almost certainly be a painful exercise. When you fess up, you'll effectively be admitting that you haven't been doing your job: Not maintaining backups? Servers aren't patched? Haven't tested site failover in a year? What exactly have you been doing down there?

Nonetheless, it's time to man up. Your management needs to know you've been given priorities that make it impossible for you to do your job the right way -- and need the resources to fix the situation. If you fail to come clean, then be prepared to bear the responsibility when, one after another, things break.

There are thousands of unemployed IT professionals, hundreds of managed services companies, and some flashy cloud-based, IT-as-a-service providers who will be happy to pick up the pieces.

This article, "Is your IT operation on the brink? Then 'fess up," originally appeared at Read more of Matt Prigge's Information Overload blog and follow the latest developments in storage at