20 IT Disasters You Can Avoid

IT mistakes--inside the data center, SaaS, security or even using bleeding edge technology--can lead to cost overruns, missed deadlines, and in some cases, can get you fired. Here's a list of top disasters you can avoid with tips from experts.

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It's easy to see why some companies keep going back to the same vendor again and again to fulfill all manner of IT needs. Large IT vendors love to offer integrated solutions, and a support contract that promises "one throat to choke" will always be appealing to overworked admins. If that contract has you relying on immature products that are outside your vendor's core expertise, however, you could be the one who ends up gasping for breath.

Rarely is every entry in an enterprise IT product line created equal, and getting roped into a subpar solution is a mistake that can have long-term repercussions. While giving preferential consideration to existing vendor partners makes good business sense, remember that there's nothing wrong with politely declining when the best-of-breed lies elsewhere.

18. Plowing ahead with plagued projects

Not every IT initiative will succeed. Learn to recognize signs of trouble and act decisively. A project can stumble for a thousand different reasons, but continuing to invest in a failed initiative will only compound your missteps.

For example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation wasted four years and over $100 million on its Virtual Case File (VCF) electronic record-keeping system, despite repeated warnings from insiders that the project was dangerously off-track. When the FBI finally pulled the plug in 2005, VCF was still nowhere close to completion.

Don't let this be you. Have an exit strategy ready for each project, and make sure you can put it in motion before a false start turns into a genuine IT disaster.

19. Not planning for peak power

Sustainable IT isn't just about saving the planet. It's also good resource planning. When energy costs spiral out of control, they threaten business agility and limit growth. Don't wait for your datacenter to reach capacity to start looking for ways to reduce your overall power consumption.

From CPUs to storage devices, memory to monitors, energy efficiency should be a key consideration for all new hardware purchases. And don't limit your search to hardware alone; software solutions such as virtualization and SaaS can help consolidate servers and shrink your energy footprint even further. The result will be not just a more sustainable planet, but a more sustainable enterprise.

20. Setting unrealistic project timetables

When planning IT projects, sometimes your own confidence and enthusiasm can be your undoing. An early, optimistic time estimate can easily morph into a hard deliverable while your back is turned. For that reason, always leave ample time to complete project goals, even if they seem simple from the outset. It's always better to overdeliver than to overcommit.

Flexibility will often be the key to project success. Make sure to identify potential risk areas long before the deadlines are set in stone, particularly if you're working with outside vendors. By setting expectations at a realistic level throughout the project lifecycle, you can avoid the trap of being forced to ship buggy or incomplete features as deadlines loom.

This story, "20 IT Disasters You Can Avoid" was originally published by InfoWorld.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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