Defuse the Technical Debt Time Bomb
While it has certainly been in the news more often lately, technical debt has been a challenge for organizations since the days of vacuum tubes. Other than the recent air travel examples in the last few months, there is a constant stream of articles about health care providers, colocation services, public utilities, and other companies falling victim to their lack of investment in modern technology platforms and solutions.
The Tech Debt Time Bomb
Failed endpoint hardware. Overextended file servers. Corrupted email servers. Storage arrays beyond their end of life. Legacy Private Branch eXchange (PBX) systems. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) batteries. That router that could die any day. Shall I go on? (Notice I haven’t even mentioned security yet….)
Most organizations have at least a few systems that are either too expensive to upgrade or are not deemed enough of a priority to replace. When those systems fail, though, there are almost always unforeseen consequences, dependencies, or costs that could have been easily avoided. These are usually the systems that someone also decided not to build redundancy into when they were designing the solution years ago.
Even newer challenges like using ungoverned shadow IT to run critical processes can worsen technical debt, since these stopgaps provide a bandage that hides the weak system underneath that it relies on.
Oh yeah, and security – Legacy security solutions are really no match for the sophistication of the threats and attackers that exist today, so every week you hear about organizations that are devastated by ransomware, or notifying their customers that they have had a breach.
There is a light at the end of this tunnel, though….
Cloud Solutions to the Rescue
Cloud technology provides a path out of this mess for many of the impending system failures I have called out above. Platforms like Microsoft 365 and Azure provide better versions of all those services and the barrier to switching is fairly low, considering there is really no large capital expense required to make the switch. Plus, imagine how much time the IT team gets back if they no longer need to babysit those legacy systems.
Cloud platforms are always up to date and there is always constant improvement to these platforms. No more risky (and expensive) stairstep upgrades. The cloud provides predictable cost for both licensing and the effort required to manage and maintain the platform. Depending on the need, cloud-based virtual desktops can even eliminate much of the capital expenditures for workstations, plus they add some security and manageability features.
Speaking of security (I know, there it is again), modern and cloud-driven security platforms are a match for the threats that exist today, and these platforms are constantly improving. Beyond endpoint protection and automated response, platforms like Azure Active Directory, Defender for Cloud Apps, and Sentinel allow you to continually monitor and maintain a vastly improved security posture.
Your compliance program gets easier, too. Microsoft Purview provides robust compliance features like retention, data labeling, Data Loss Prevention (DLP), and insider risk detection. Purview also evolves as the rest of the Microsoft 365 cloud solutions do and can replace third-party product point solutions that require upgrades, maintenance, and separate alerting and management processes.
The legacy PBX can be replaced by Teams Voice, and Teams is natively connected into the security stack and Purview to provide a one-stop shop for collaboration and interoperability with SharePoint, OneDrive, and third-party SaaS systems. Plus, storage stops requiring so much separate effort since it is included and managed alongside the cloud services.
Automation and development with Power Apps are also available and can help get those manual processes that live in people’s heads (and 7 linked spreadsheets) documented and implemented as applications that people can simply use, and not manage.
Staying Up to Speed
While all the benefits I describe here are real and extremely impactful, there are some changes that the IT team will have to get used to. The constant changes can be challenging to keep up with, but they are also the reason technical debt is a thing of the past. You do need to pay attention to the published product roadmaps and announcements, plus have established ways to communicate these improvements to your organization.
Staying current on supported Windows releases, Office versions, and endpoint compliance becomes very important, but again, also stops you from falling behind. Good thing you now have far better tools to manage those endpoints with, like Intune.
The Bottom Line
Cloud solutions really do help resolve technical debt once and for all across a significant number of systems. It may not meet the requirements for every need and scenario but using these new platforms will significantly reduce the time and money required. The IT group can now focus more effort and capital expense on systems that do require more care and feeding, and that allows you to get more done with less, reduce risks, and give people better tools all at the same time.