Based on the initial inspections carried out recently, Handmade Furniture Ltd has experienced difficulties managing the IT infrastructure as well as providing IT support for staff. The existing network management and support services are carried out in an uncontrolled procedures which have resulted in number of data losses and possible hacking attempts. This can lead to future compromises such as financial losses, disruption of services etc., which can tarnish company’s reputation.
This report includes the justifications of selecting network management plan for the company based on the current infrastructure and future implementations. The selection of the choice should consider multiple criteria which are costs, security and administrative controls as key points along with technical expertise.Report consists of terms of reference followed by justification for the selection of network management plan, elements of network management plan, options for improving IT support and recommendations.The suggested network management plan will be extended for the proposed network infrastructure and security upgrade project in near future.
The scope of this report is to provide guidance on selecting an option for IT support by preparing a network management plan. The reports prepared for the reference of the Handmade Furniture Ltd board members. Report includes key elements of the network management plan and excludes technical details of design or configurations and product descriptions. Main sections are the elements of network management plan including fault management, configuration management, accounting management, performance management and security management. There will be several follow up reports after which include technical plan. This will be submitted after the IT staff have been hired.
It is suggested to have own IT support staff and completely manage and maintain IT support in-house for an agreed number of months. Once the IT operations are streamlined and new upgrades completed, IT support outsourcing option needs to be selected.
As the Initial step, Handmade Furniture Ltd should identify the IT staffing needs. This should include identifying the job role, qualifications and experience level and the communication hierarchy. This step requires in-house human resource skills to recruit staff based on the recommended staffing needs. The option of selecting permanent IT staff or contract staff needs to be done carefully. The higher level positions need to be permanent whereas desktop support etc. can be on contract basis. Furthermore, the web development project needs to be outsourced as there is no need to have a permanent web developer in-house.
Once the IT staff are available, next step is to assign job roles and duties to the staff. Along with the job roles, the immediate supervisors need to be listed. In addition to daily job role, IT team will have additional work to streamline the current network infrastructure and the operational procedures. Most important point is to have backup staff. Each IT job role needs to be backfilled with another staff member.
There will be two sub plans included in the management plan. These are :
1. Plan to manage the network infrastructure restructuring.
2. Plan to maintain the new network operations and procedures.
First sub plan will provide IT staff with adequate training to prepare for the upcoming network upgrades. Second sub plan is to use in-house IT staff for network management within the company.
Justification of network management plan selection
As opposed to IT support outsourcing, use of in-house IT staff has several advantages. Considering the existing network issues and incidents as well as operational procedures, company needs to have major changes. Subsequently this can result in backup/archiving company’s data, changing passwords and creating user accounts etc. The most important asset of the company is its data. Therefore, use of an outsourced party to handle company’s data is not a recommended practice. (Vigeant, 2015). The upcoming project for network upgrades include implementing a WIFI system, upgrading all PCs and moving emails and systems to cloud. These tasks require handling user accounts, data as well as security procedures . There will be high level of readiness for the future projects by establishing an in-house IT staff.
One of the downside of the in-house IT staff is the operational cost when considering employed funds, claims and expenses. On the other hand, there is a big competition between the IT support companies offering attractive costs for maintaining networks. However most of these offers include limited number of support engineers compared to a team of staff available in house. The more support staff available in the outsource team more budget required. (Rossi, 2016)
Another advantage is the efficiency of communication. With an in-house IT support team, there will be two levels of communication between staff and the manager or senior staff member. With an outsourced IT support team, there can be multiple levels of communication such as between managers/senior staff, senior level to junior level etc.
A help desk is required to manage IT support requests handled by an outsourced IT team. At the current level, company should streamline the IT operations before implementing a help desk. Therefore, company is not in a good position to outsource IT operations.
With the implementation of new proposed IT procedures such as cloud based email, etc. there can be more frequent support incidents as users are new to these applications. Assign to handle a large volume of incidents by an outsourced team can be expensive and inefficient without implementing a help desk. On the other hands, once new systems and network elements are in place, there can be an increase in IT support incidents. Therefore, having more IT support staff in house can be an extra cost. At this stage, best option is to outsource IT support. (Vigeant, 2015).
One of the major decision point of the selection of in-house or outsourced solution is the size of the network. Generally a network with 50-100 PCs is consider as a small to medium business. It is not required to have a large IT support team as the supports requests can be handled in house. (Gluck, n.d.).
Followings are the key benefits of outsourcing IT support (Editors, n.d.)
· Reduce labor cost
· Can focus on key business
· Less training is needed as outsourced IT staff should have the required skills.
IT Staff requirements
Selecting skilled IT staff is essential for the successes of the management plan .There are no IT staff to train the new staff, So the new IT staff need to be able to work with minimum supervision and guidance. Following is an overview of the skills required.
|Head of IT||PM, Information security, Networking||10+ Years||Optional ( If available in house)|
|Senior network administrator||Microsoft Windows server, Wireless networking, Cloud office 365||5+ Years|
|Network administrators||Microsoft Windows server/desktop, Wireless networking, Cloud office 365,cabling||3-5 years|
|Desktop support||Microsoft Windows desktop, Hardware, Wireless networking||1-2 Years|
|Web Developer||Web design/development skills||3-5 Years||Needs to be outsourced|
Table 1: In-house IT staff requirements
Job roles for IT staff
This is important to define level of authority and responsibilities. At present, there are unrestricted controls between staff. Most important point is that no single person assigned responsibilities. Each task should have a backup person assigned.
Security management -Install and configure central antivirus console
This is required because currently the virus guards are installed as standalone in each PC. Monitoring of virus guards is not easy with this setup. It is not a good practice to assign users to monitor virus guards. Installation of new antivirus has to be done by the network administrators and the monitoring needs to be done on daily basis by the SNR network administrator. Also, a report on a given frequency can be submitted automatically to head of IT. (Safari, n.d.)
Accounting Management -Configure a central backup plan
User data for all the PCs has to backup automatically to a central storage. Existing NAS storage can be used for this. The important point is that data must be backed up automatically on a schedule. Two options available for this
1. Use backup software to backup files to NAS
2. Create folders for each user in server and the folders should backup to NAS storage.
Also network segments need to be used (Ex Virtual Networks or VLANs) to provide access control, based on users and groups. Also, a directory service is required so that each user has their own user account and password. This helps to apply access controls to folders and files based on user ownership.
Fault Management -Implement a help desk
The existing and current IT support requests can be better handled by implementing a help desk. Help desk provides reporting and monitoring facilities for support requests. (Safari, n.d.) Once company plans to outsource IT support,this help desk can be useful to manage the outsource team as well. However, since all the offices and users are in one location, having a help desk is not mandatory and the implementation is subjected to cost.
Help desk has two options:
1. Develop a customized help desk (This needs to be outsourced).
2. Buy an off the shelf help desk product.
Configuration management -Network and operational procedure documentation
At present, there is no documentations about user accounts, configurations etc. This can cause critical issues especially in a crisis situation. As an element of the network management Plan, Company should start documenting all networks and IT related configurations, credentials etc. All changes have to be approved by head of IT and a sequence of version needs to be used. Documentations need to be stored as hard copies and soft copies in a secure place. (Safari, n.d.)
Performance management – Implement a network monitoring system
There needs to be a network monitoring system (NMS) which provides network performance, speed, errors and alarms etc. in real time. This should have features to send alerts to administrators via SMS, generate reports etc. One of the examples of a NMS is SOLARWINDS. (Solarwinds.com, n.d.)
Diagram 1- Monitoring plan work percentage
As shown in the diagram above overall management plan can be divided into 5 phases according to FCAPS model for network management. Out of these phases configuration management requires highest amount of time and effort followed by fault management. The reason for this is that currently there is zero level of documentation. Also no standard fault management procedure is in use. Performance management requires less effort as the network is currently in acceptable performance level. Under accounting management more work will need to be done in proposed future project as there is a need for a directory to manage user accounts via server.
Two options for having in-house IT staff at the initial stage is either to hire permanent staff or hire contract staff. Company needs a senior level IT manager on permanent basis to manage in-house IT staff as well as any future outsourcing requirements. Desktop support and junior network administrators can be hired on contract basis either on an hourly rate or a fixed cost. However, the IT manager should ensure that all work done is being documented in order to provide continuous support services. After the initial stages of the management plan there should be reviews to decide to go with an outsourced option or to continue in-house IT support.
The website development and help desk implementation work needs to be outsourced. Having these resources in -house is an additional financial overhead.Two options to outsource IT support services are either to outsourced engineers internally within the company or to request support as required using either on-call or remote support. The first option requires extra operational cost for space, electricity and power etc. However, this option is more recommended than the second option. Second option requires service level agreement (SLA) with strict terms on initial response time. Also, this option requires a help desk to be maintained to log incidents and manage response time.
In terms of help desk a customized help desk is most suitable as most of the off the shelf packages have extra features which is not required and is adding extra cost. Also, most of the outsourced companies offer a help desk service, included in their services being offered. This can be considered as well.
It is recommended to have in-house IT staff for the initial stages of the network management plan and for the duration of proposed new network upgrades. Company has to take the decision of continuing with in-house IT staff or outsource IT support services at the end of the implementations. The decision might be based on cost, number of incidents, as well as other operational policies and procedures. Having an in-house senior level managerial position to provide overall management of the IT services is mandatory.
At present, company has zero level of IT support. From this point up to the completion of network upgrades, continuous support service is required with extra effort involving outside of the office hours work as well. With an IT outsource team, this is not practical as there are agreed work time in an outsourced agreement. The extra hours might be charged separately with a higher rate.
Use of FCAPS model for network management is recommended as the five areas of these models is essential for the management plan. Documentation plan is an important sub plan of the overall plan. Company needs to start from level zero in documentation. Documentation includes network configurations, user accounts and passwords, file permission for users, backup plan as well as hardware warranty and software license vendor details.It is expected to increase efficiency after implementing the help desk. Managing operational procedures through help desk saves time and cost.
The final conclusion is that Handmade Furniture Ltd requires in-house IT staff at the initial stage of the network management plan. Further they should recruit a senior level person as the level of CIO and head of IT for overall IT management role. In addition to this, company should start documenting all IT related work, configurations and procedures.
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Rossi, B. (2016). In-house vs. outsourced IT: what makes the most business sense?. [online] Information Age. Available at: http://www.information-age.com/house-vs-outsourced-it-what-makes-most-business-sense-123461194/ [Accessed 26 Feb. 2017].
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Vigeant, S. (2015). In-House vs. Outsourced IT Staffing: The Pros and Cons. [online] Dataev.com. Available at: http://www.dataev.com/it-experts-blog/in-house-vs.-outsourced-it-staffing-the-pros-and-cons [Accessed 25 Feb. 2017].