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THE CHALLENGE

Manufacturers of IT equipment are keen to emphasise how easy it is to set up and use their devices. ‘Out of the box’ and ‘plug and play’ are the new norm, even though there is usually an extensive setup procedure to go through. This is undoubtedly true where the total ‘network’ consists of a single device or a small number of devices, probably with an equally small number of users. Over time the users or users become confident with this and assume that one or more additional devices can be easily added using the same ‘out of the box’ approach. If they are lucky everything works as it should, at least in the short term, and their IT setup does indeed appear to be working like a simple utility.

However it is extremely unwise to take this approach for the simple reason that, unlike a car or electric wiring in a house, an organisation is constantly changing its IT setup. Whilst IT equipment tends to be pretty tolerant to moderate demands on its flexibility, over time the constant creating, storing, sharing and re-storing of data files can easily cause the integrity of these files to be compromised. The all too common result is that the IT becomes prone to slowing down or just becoming unreliable. At this point productivity of the organisation begins to deteriorate, perhaps initially without management thinking of it in quite those terms. The false sense of confidence created by the experience of running a small network means that organisations tend to think they can go on patching things up as they go along.