Sunday, 26 July 2015

Scalability

You know that feeling. You've just spent a small fortune, upgrading your IT infrastructure. The office has been in chaos for two days while the new system was installed, tested and
finally working. Your staff have been trained and you’re looking forward to some productive output from them.

Then your IT manager comes and says, "We are at 90% capacity and by this time next month we’ll need to look at expanding it again."

It seems that every time you plan and implement an upgrade it goes out of date as soon as it’s commissioned.

This is a downside of having a rapidly growing business.

Could it get any worse?

It certainly could!

What if your business is contracting?

How would you feel if the IT manager came to you and said that all the new installations, which had cost you a small fortune, were no longer necessary, because the old system could cope with the reduced work load?

Money down the drain!

As a 14 year old, I grew 8 inches (22 cm) in one year. My shoe size went from size 5 to size 11 in that time. I needed new shoes every few weeks, because I grew out of them almost as fast as my parents could afford them.

IT infrastructure can be like this when a business is growing rapidly.

When you are 14 and growing so fast, you have a hard time just staying on your feet. You need time to adjust to your new size. This is not a serious problem, because, apart from a few scratches to your knees and bruises to your ego, you grow out of it unscathed.

A business can’t keep falling over. Usually the first fall is fatal.

Scalability

The problem with shoes is that they are not scalable. But it’s not too difficult to replace them.

If your IT infrastructure is not scalable, you have to replace it, just like shoes. Buying new shoes is no big deal. Replacing your IT system is more like having a heart transplant.

Managing rapid and unpredictable growth can be a nightmare for the IT department. Just like the 14-year-old's shoes, your system is too small almost as soon as you have upgraded it.

Contraction also presents problems. 14-year-olds don't normally get smaller, but businesses often do. Sometimes this is deliberate, like a former client, who reduced his work force from 10 workers, to just himself and his son as an apprentice. His smaller, leaner business was more profitable for him, but with a fraction of the former overheads and infrastructure.

Sometimes markets change and cause businesses to contract quickly. This can leave you with redundant capacity, which really means money tied up but idle. The dilemma is, do you get rid of it? Secondhand computer equipment is worthless, and what would happen if you sold it then started growing again?

If you own all the equipment and software there is no simple answer.

Planning

Some might argue that planning will solve these problems.

Planning is necessary, but some things are just not predictable. The best plans in the world don't make provision for unpredictable, sudden changes, like the live cattle export market, when Indonesia unexpectedly reduced the number of cattle it would buy from Australia.

If your business can be subject to unpredictable, sudden changes, you need the flexibility to change with the situation.

The Cloud

One of the main advantages of cloud solutions is their scalability. They can expand and contract with your business, almost at a moment's notice. You no longer need to be caught short of capacity nor commit to hanging on to excess.

Even businesses, with massive data needs, might find the Cloud offers better solutions than having their own supercomputers. In a sense, the Cloud is the biggest supercomputer of them all.

David Stepania examines this in his article, Supercomputing vs. Cloud Computing and concludes that in a number of cases the Cloud might be a more efficient solution. He says, “… the distributed computing of the cloud is … much more affordable… [and] It scales seamlessly: processing power grows as additional servers (with their processors) are added to the network.”

By contrast, adding processing power to a supercomputer can be a major project in itself.

The Cloud allows you to scale up and down as you need, and only ever pay for what you need, and only for as long as you need it.

Open source, bespoke software

Open source, bespoke software is easily scalable when your business is growing. You can add functionality and increase capacity at any time. Your software can grow with your business. Software packages are usually priced according to capacity. This can mean that if you plan to grow to 1,000 customers, you might have to pay for the capacity up front, before you generate the cash flow to pay for it. Open source, bespoke software can spread the costs over the growth period and spread your payments over the whole growth phase.

If your software is not scalable, you could be like the 14 year-old, with tight shoes, or a 12 year-old, who had to wear big brother’s or big sister’s hand-me-downs, which were two sizes too big.

nuBuilder

nuSoftware and nuBuilder software is open source and bespoke. It can grow and change, seamlessly, to match the fluctuations in your business needs.

If you have the skills, you can do it yourself.

Or you can call the team at nuSoftware and get their advice and let them manage it for you. They will help you choose the best options.

You can have scalable solutions at reasonable cost, with the support of the team who developed the software, and who have a vested interest in making sure it works for you.

Image Credits: Karl- Ludwig Poggermann, labyrinthine circuit board lines  
                      Pete, Project 365 #227: 150813 Feeling Wired

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