When you’re constantly scrambling to keep the lights on and serve customers, it can seem expedient to make a user happy by changing a configuration, installing a new application, or adding a new device or service that the user requested. This may put out the fire of the moment, but it can also make your IT environment less secure.

Variety may be the spice of life, but from the perspective of an IT manager, more variety means a bigger headache. When you introduce something new to your IT environment, that “something” needs to be managed, monitored and maintained. It also has to be documented and patched and have security policies applied.

Given the challenging threat landscape and the mix of tools and services required to protect the network, one-off configurations add an unwelcome layer of complexity that can make your IT environment more vulnerable to hackers. More often than not, changes made for the sake of expediency aren’t communicated to all users and administrators. This can cause performance and compatibility issues, as well confusion and conflict among users. Financially, the cost of a new application, device or service, combined with ongoing management costs, can eat away at already tight IT budgets.

The best way to reduce these headaches is through IT standardization. By controlling the systems, devices, applications, services, operating systems and configurations on your network, you make IT operations more efficient and easier to manage. Consistency in IT infrastructure makes budgeting more predictable. User training and support are less complicated and, therefore, less expensive. Upgrades are easier to implement, which means a faster return on investment. IT standardization can also improve your negotiating position with vendors and provide you with access to more reliable, enterprise-grade technology.

From a security standpoint, a standardized IT environment is a simpler IT environment, which is easier to protect. You won’t have to manage, track, monitor and troubleshoot a high number of disparate tools and services. This makes it possible to recognize and react to suspicious activity more quickly and accurately with fewer false positives. The investigation, resolution and logging of security incidents becomes more manageable because technology and processes are consistent.

There are a number of factors to consider when standardizing your IT environment. First, determine from a business standpoint which departments and functions can be standardized. There might be certain tasks that require very specific tools, so you may need a few variations on the overall standard. Organize and document this information to guide your decision-making and ensure that your budget is adequate.

These decisions should be made with input from employees who will use these tools every day. Find out which tools they prefer and why so that you can choose a similar alternative if their top choice won’t work. Better yet, involve users in the process of vetting solutions and vendors so the features and capabilities align with business needs. Just make sure you go with reputable vendors whose products won’t be discontinued or obsolete in the near future.

IT standardization is critical to effective IT operations, security and management. Let us analyze your IT environment and help you develop a realistic plan that simplifies infrastructure while supporting business processes.