2022-10-28 / IT infrastructure

How to build a secure & professional IT infrastructure

by Sabrina Stein
Last edited on: 2023-07-04

In this article, you'll learn how to build an IT infrastructure that works for the long term, is tremendously secure, builds trust with your customers, and gives you the flexibility and freedom you need to be a successful entrepreneur. And if you want it: Even with almost no additional work for you!

Why a well-designed IT infrastructure is so important for your company

Efficient, automated and sustainable processes. A high degree of customer orientation - both in product development and in all processes. This is how companies that have the potential for success and growth.

Without digitization and a willingness to embrace new systems and processes, it could be difficult to keep up with - or outperform competitors. The foundation for this is your IT infrastructure.

Do it differently than most!

Regardless of whether you are just setting up a new company or have been an entrepreneur for some time and now finally want to build up a modern IT system - in addition to the daily challenges, there is often little time to think in detail about the appropriate IT strategy. And so the topic either remains on hold for another year - or they fall back on solutions that seem reasonable in the short term in order to at least be able to "keep up" with modern requirements and technologies.

There are reasons why both are anything but smart:

  • You and your customers - perhaps completely unknowingly - accept enormous security risks. This can lead to legal and financial consequences on both sides.
  • The trust of your customers could drop from 100 to 0 overnight. You can imagine what this means for your sales.
A combination of outdated structures and increasing requirements leads to a downward spiral in the long run. It is important to build the IT infrastructure correctly from the start. Otherwise, not only the business processes but also the security of the company can be put at risk.

If personal data is stolen in a cyber attack, you may face high costs - for legal reasons. But not only that: a data loss can shut down your business from one day to the next - for example, if you run an online shop and many work processes are automated and digital.

What are the characteristics of a high-quality IT infrastructure?

If, on the other hand, you want to build IT that supports your success, it should meet the following criteria:

  • When you build an IT infrastructure, it should be available and secure for the long term.
  • Just like your company, an IT infrastructure should be able to grow without having to rebuild and change all structures.
  • You should remain as independent as possible at all times.
  • You should be able to be sure that both your data and that of your customers are protected from data misuse and that the data is handled in a GDPR-compliant manner.
  • In today's world, sustainability is becoming increasingly important in business - so your IT should also be built in an extremely sustainable way.

What your IT has to do with customer satisfaction

When your customers notice that everything "works" at your company, it increases their trust and satisfaction with you. This is more an indirect process. Of course, the customer is not going to knock on your door tomorrow and say, "How nice, you haven't had any website outages or dropouts in the sales process."

On the other hand, they will notice how quickly their concerns are noticed and dealt with, or how well your website performs. And yes: IT is always not the only influencing factor here. But it often provides the foundation for all processes. If there are problems here, you can have the most dedicated employees in the world - the process is still disrupted.

Always remember: your data and customer data may be the most valuable working asset in your organization. Therefore, if you want your business to survive in the current times in the long run, you can't avoid a well-designed and secure IT infrastructure.

What exactly counts as IT infrastructure?

The IT infrastructure is very individual, depending on your business or organization and the processes required here.

Basically, your IT infrastructure includes all software, hardware and network components that are required for secure and smooth operation. In addition to servers (including e-mail & backup servers) and employee PCs, this can include your telephone system, routers and other technology.

On the software side, this includes not only the operating system, but also your website's content management system and applications such as customer management software and other programs.

Furthermore, your network connection is essential, which also includes W-LAN networks. Your own data center could also be part of your IT infrastructure.

Everything that serves security and supports the operation of IT is also included. Here, for example, cooling technology or the power supply should be mentioned.

It is not always necessary, possible or reasonable to set up all these elements directly "on site", i.e. directly in your company. Partially or even completely, various components can also be located at a service provider who, for example, looks after your cloud with all company data in a data center.

It is important that all elements work together perfectly so that the performance and security of your IT are guaranteed at all times.

IT infrastructure structure - the components

The requirements for the structure of your IT in detail

Which factors in particular ensure the quality of your IT? Find out now.

How to save your IT from growing pains

You need sufficient storage space and performance for all necessary processes at all times. Even as your business grows, and therefore most likely the amount of data to be stored and processed, your IT infrastructure must be able to handle it.

You probably can't know at the beginning what your requirements will be in two or five years. That's not a big deal, either - at least if your IT infrastructure is sufficiently flexible - i.e., expandable.

Your network and existing structures should be expandable at any time without incurring major expense. In simple terms, this means, for example, that additional servers can be added quickly or virtual machines expanded without affecting the performance of the entire system.

At the software level, changes to the system should never have a negative impact on the performance of the applications.

It is essential to have the appropriate expertise to implement such a flexible IT system.

Uninterrupted availability for uninterrupted success

To ensure that all processes in the company run smoothly, the permanent availability of your IT structures is essential.

The main reason why many companies already use an external data center for their IT is the high level of reliability and freedom from disruptions that this provides.

Providers specify the annual availability as a percentage in their service level agreements (you can find ours here, for example). You can calculate for yourself how many days (!) a year your system would be unavailable if an availability of 99.0% is specified. The question is: Can your company afford that? Always take a close look at such a statement.

If you have your own server rooms, you are responsible for availability. In this case, you need very competent IT staff who can also act extremely quickly in the event of a server failure.

An important influencing factor in this area is redundancy - i.e. "double" data connections and backups of your data, which take over from the damaged structures in the event of a failure.

In addition, solutions must also be found for the absence of your IT staff. For example, if you only have one person responsible for your own IT structures, things could get serious in case of illness. If your IT is located in a data centre, there is often sufficient staff available here so that this problem does not usually exist.

This keeps your IT efficient - and you with it!

The performance of your IT is of course related to the aspects already mentioned. It is additionally important that all components are well adapted to the needs of your company. For example, if a lot of data is always being transferred at the same time, correspondingly more powerful hardware, network technology and also software is required. Likewise, all components must "work together" well.

Therefore, be sure to find out which hardware and software is optimal for your concerns and harmonizes optimally with each other. Here, too, a certain level of experience or the right specialist personnel is necessary.

Ensure data privacy and data security

The secure transmission of data and thus IT security is not just "nice to have" for you as an entrepreneur, but an absolute obligation. Critical and sensitive data in particular must always be transferred and stored securely. In addition to the often personal data of your customers, this includes all the data that ensures business operations.

Cyber threats are also always a threat to the company's success. Data loss & misuse as well as the loss of trust of (potential and current) customers are the result.

Threats from cyber attacks have increased significantly in recent years. Learn more about potential threats here. Those who become more digital, of course, also expose themselves to a corresponding threat.

But your company data must also be protected at all times from "normal" theft, as well as fire and other external influences. Therefore, effective security measures at all levels are a must.

Data from the healthcare sector is particularly worthy of protection. Here, human lives can even be at stake in the event of an emergency.

The factor sustainability in IT

IT and sustainability? Are you wondering how this fits together? We'll tell you!

Just by digitizing your data, you save yourself all the printing and filing of important documents, which may also be needed in different places. Once stored centrally, you can access them from anywhere.

Basically, of course, a lot of power is consumed by the operation of IT - but there is also a lot of potential here for this very reason.

Possible measures include:

  • using energy-efficient hardware
  • using green electricity for the operation of your IT
  • using energy-efficient air conditioning technology
  • and much more

More and more companies and consumers attach great importance to sustainability and the conscious use of resources. If you operate your IT in a sustainable manner, then also communicate this to your customers and partners! - This will certainly earn you a bonus point with them! Because customers are consuming more and more consciously!

Those who operate their website sustainably even ensure better Google rankings. This is not a so-called ranking factor, but: whoever builds his website in such a way that as little data as possible has to be loaded, saves resources. This also makes the site faster - and website speed is indeed a good sign for Google.

You can find out how we at Keyweb operate our data centres sustainably under Green Hosting.

Considerations before setting up the IT infrastructure

Not only the fundamentally important requirements, but also the individual situation of your company and its employees influence how your IT infrastructure should be set up. Learn more about the factors in detail now:

Employees and their working environment

How often and from where do how many employees access your IT system? Among other things, this information should be a measure of the system's performance. It makes a significant difference whether 200 employees access a shared application at the same time or whether you only have five employees who also use different applications.

A well-functioning IT infrastructure is also important for home office or remote work to work optimally. If you or your employees want to access the company network or customer data while on the road, for example, all precautions must be taken to ensure the necessary security. In addition to access rights, this may involve a VPN connection and, of course, the corresponding servers. In addition, there may be cloud-based applications that the employee should be able to access.

Activity of the company

What exactly is your field of activity and how important is digital information for your company?

What kind of data do you work with?

Is it personal data? Is the data highly confidential? - Or could anyone theoretically view it without causing great harm?

Is there data whose loss would bankrupt you?

What would it mean to you if your systems or data suddenly failed?

These questions alone will give you a sense of whether and which data and processes are particularly important or worth protecting - be it from theft, misuse or failure.

Required and used software

Depending on the software to be used and the number of users, the need for the performance of the IT infrastructure may also differ. In the course of setting up an efficient IT infrastructure, it can make sense to reconsider the software used so far and, if necessary, to use new software or to supplement the software used so far. If you are setting up a new company, it makes sense to inform yourself in advance about the software alternatives and, if necessary, consult an expert.

All of these considerations should be incorporated into the process of building IT.

Legal criteria to be observed

In times of digitalisation, more and more customer and employee data is also being managed digitally - as is certainly the case with you. The EU GDPR sets clear and at the same time strict rules for handling personal information - because every user has a right to informational self-determination. The currently applicable laws and guidelines should be observed when setting up your IT infrastructure. It is also important here to always stay up to date - especially if you work with personal data.

Implementation of the IT infrastructure for your company

Just as individual as every company can be, so can the way the IT infrastructure should be set up. You have to take a lot into account to achieve the optimal result for you.

A very important point is the question to what extent IT is located in your internal rooms and structures and to what extent it is located with external providers - be it so-called system houses, other IT providers or hosting providers such as the Keyweb AG.

The external variant is realised at hardware level, for example - depending on the scale - via virtual servers, private servers, dedicated servers or cloud variants. You can read about the important differences here.

Building IT infrastructure in the cloud

With cloud IT infrastructure, users access the company's IT and corresponding applications via an internet connection. In this case, the cloud (storage space, CPU power, application software) is located at an IT service provider or hosting company and is often also managed by this company. This can create advantages for your company.

The advantages of the cloud option

The in-house operation of IT can generate quite high costs - because here all components have to be organised and looked after as well as maintained yourself. If your IT is located in the form of a cloud in the data centre of a professional and trustworthy provider, you can assume that all basic necessary components and processes are always taken care of.

  • This reduces the IT administration effort for you.
  • With a trusted provider, you get the data security you need.
  • Your data is available from anywhere at any time.
  • You do not have to buy expensive servers and network technology yourself.

But what do the different cloud variants actually mean?

Private Cloud, Public Cloud or Hybrid Cloud?

A private cloud means that you can use a complete "self-contained" server environment for yourself or your company. This means that no other hosting customer has access to the corresponding servers and cloud structures, even with a hosting provider - as would be the case with shared hosting, for example. With a private cloud, you have your own server structure for yourself.

In a public cloud, on the other hand, the services contained here are publicly accessible. The provider manages the system and makes it available to countless customers.

The hybrid cloud combines both solutions. Particularly critical or sensitive data is stored in the company, while other data is stored in the public cloud.

The private cloud is the optimal variant especially if companies place a lot of value on data protection and security. The solution that makes sense for your company therefore depends on your security and quality requirements.

Basically, however, the following is important: Only use solutions for location-independent data storage if you can also be sure that your data is located in a secure and certified data centre. There should be special security conditions here.

How the IT infrastructure is ultimately set up and to what extent it should be cloud-based is something you have to decide individually.

An experienced IT professional should support you regarding your cloud solutions. Even though this may generate costs, you will save yourself costs in retrospect due to possible planning errors.

In this blog article, you will learn in detail what you should pay attention to when using cloud solutions.

IT security measures for building your IT infrastructure

All security-related factors and measures should also be strategically well planned and implemented from the beginning. Here we give you a brief overview of what mainly matters.

In order to protect oneself from hackers, data loss and system failures, so-called technical measures as well as organisational measures can be taken. On the one hand, everything that concerns the technology on the hardware and software side and, on the other hand, defined regulations and measures with the help of which IT security is ensured in the company.

You can learn about the most important measures now.

The secure data centre as the basis for your IT security

The basis for fail-safe IT is, of course, a fail-safe data centre in which various servers are operated. Fail-safety can be realised through various factors:

  • uninterruptible power supply - based on isolated circuits, emergency power generators and, of course, high-quality technology in this area.
  • camera surveillance and access security to protect the server rooms from burglary and theft as well as manipulation
  • various measures that protect against fire and other environmental influences
  • data network redundancies
  • a fail-safe cooling system

In terms of environmental friendliness, the technology should also be operated as sustainably as possible.

If you use an external service provider, please make sure that the data centre is TÜV-certified, which also confirms the quality of the systems.

You should also pay attention to the server location because it can have a major impact on the applicable data protection regulations. Learn more about this on our page server location Germany and in this blog article on data protection. You can find another article on data protection topics here.

How to protect yourself from cyber attacks

Even if it sounds banal: Make sure your company is protected by secure anti-virus software and a firewall. Find out about current and powerful solutions and if you are unsure, it is better to consult an expert. When it comes to your business, you should not save in the wrong place! And very important: always keep your security software up to date! - Only then can it deliver what it promises.

It is also important that you regularly deal with - and know the current threats.

To protect yourself from so-called DDoS attacks, also make sure that there is server-side protection in this regard. If your servers are located at a hosting company - or should be in the future - you can ask them whether there is server-side DDoS protection.

You can read about cyber threats in detail in our blog article.

Encryption & VPN

If you and your employees use W-LAN connections inside or outside your company, please make sure to additionally secure the data traffic via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection.

The VPN should be an internal company network. Your IT manager or IT expert can set this up for you. It is important that all employees with a mobile device can only access the company's internal system via this connection.

In addition, only use software solutions that work with secure data transmission (e.g. video conferencing tools). Here, for example, pay attention to end-to-end encryption.

Access control and access rights etc.

On the one hand, access control can refer to the server rooms, which can only be entered with a token or password, for example. In the case of an external data centre, appropriate security standards should also apply here.

On the other hand, access rights and user accounts must be defined at software and file level. These determine which employees can access which data and to what extent they are allowed to change it.

Assuming, for example, that you use a program to manage customer data, it makes sense to give interns fewer rights than department heads in the accounting department. In addition, only people who need access to the server rooms for their work should have access.

What is important in the home office

What you must not forget in the process: Data protection and data security should also be observed in the home office. With the programs used here, make sure that data is stored and transferred securely.

Here you can find a blog post on secure video conferencing. You can also find helpful information on secure home office software here.

IT security concept

An IT security concept deals with the security risks that could occur in a company. It describes concrete standards and regulations with which dangers are to be contained. This document is an important basis for your IT security management.

In an IT security concept, the company determines the exact measures that are appropriate for it. The individual weak points are determined and remedied through concrete actions. The concept takes into account all areas of the company. In addition, this measure serves to define standards for secure IT.

Emergency management: The emergency plan

An IT emergency plan should also be drawn up as a precaution. It describes concrete instructions for action that must be implemented in certain situations. Scenarios include hacker attacks, power outages and other disruptions. It includes, for example:

  • instructions at technical level
  • notes on communication with responsible persons
  • departments to be contacted

Probably the most important factor for your IT security

It is not always "just" the technical systems that are hacked. One of the biggest security factors is employees who do not yet have sufficient skills in the area of data security.

It is important that employees handle sensitive data very carefully and are able to use the technical conditions that are supposed to ensure IT security accordingly.

Only one thing can help here: train your employees and promote awareness of security issues. For example, knowledge on the secure handling of e-mails and the links they contain or on the creation of passwords can be passed on to employees in training sessions.

Training employees on data protection topics is an essential task of the data protection officer. IT security training can be carried out by a sufficiently qualified employee in your company or by an external service provider. It is important to include practical examples when passing on the information. Only in this way can these measures bring success.

Would you like to learn more about data protection in the company? Find out more in our blog article on this topic.

Regular measures for a secure IT infrastructure

IT security is an ongoing process that must always adapt to current conditions. One more reason why you - or those responsible for your IT - must also have the necessary expertise and up-to-date knowledge.

In this ongoing process, some measures can ensure your IT security.

Regular safety checks

So called Pentests are used to identify weak points - i.e. security gaps - and then eliminate them. This test shows you where, for example, problems exist in the configuration of your IT system or your website. The measures to eliminate the vulnerabilities are to be carried out by an expert.

Backup: Data backup to restore data

If, despite all measures, an unavoidable IT security incident should occur and data is damaged, it is necessary to restore it as quickly as possible. This is the only way to continue working smoothly.

Therefore: Create backups regularly!

The more important your data is to business operations, the more important it is to back it up. Depending on how frequently and regularly data is revised and supplemented in your company, different data backup strategies can make sense.

With a full backup, all data is copied. In a differential or incremental backup, only the parts that have changed since the last version are copied.

So you should not only think about a solution for implementing your backup, but also about a certain strategy that determines how often which form of backup should be made.

Detailed information on the backup strategy can be found in the corresponding blog article:

Regular updates of the software and systems used

A technical measure at software level: Please make sure that you always use the latest updates for the software you use. This does not only apply to security software. There can also be security gaps in other applications, which can often be closed in the form of an update.

In most cases, you will receive information from the provider directly via the software or by e-mail. Nevertheless, you should proactively inform yourself about innovations on a regular basis. If you have an IT manager or an IT contact person, he or she will take care of this task.

Expert support in setting up and operating your IT infrastructure

As already indicated several times: A decisive factor for a high-quality IT infrastructure is the well-trained expert staff. Because only an expert who is also very familiar with current technologies can optimally implement the relevant factors and consider everything important.

If you are currently lacking the appropriate experienced specialist staff or simply the necessary time, it can be advantageous to commission a service provider with the design of your infrastructure. Especially if you do not have professional IT staff or a corresponding IT department, seek expert advice!

To ensure that this also remains up to date, constant professional support is also important.

Managed Services for continuous professional support of your IT

If your IT resources are partly or completely with a service provider, you can have them support you through the Managed Service. For example with:

  • server maintenance and care
  • supervision, i.e. monitoring of your IT infrastructure
  • application management
  • installations and configurations
  • creating backups
  • and much more

Such a service can support you to a great extent and ensure that all systems are running optimally at all times and that problems are detected and solved at a very early stage.

The advantage of relying on a managed service provider is that they can draw on their expertise and experience and always implement appropriate measures professionally and quickly.

At first glance, using managed services can be a higher investment for companies - but on the other hand, you save time for implementation and, if necessary, training of employees as well as other personnel costs related to the operation of your IT. Since the IT structures are usually located in the provider's data centres, you can also be confident that the above-mentioned quality criteria such as fail-safety, redundancy and others are met - especially if the provider is certified.

When professional support for your IT infrastructure makes sense

1. If the development and support of the IT infrastructure places an excessive demand on the performance or resources of the company, so that other relevant tasks can no longer be carried out properly.

2. If there is a lack of skilled staff or the necessary knowledge to build up the IT in the long term and securely or if a quick and professional adaptation to the current and permanently changing challenges is not possible.

3. If you simply want to focus on your core business and strategic issues as well as the growth of your company instead of always being distracted by IT issues as before.

Find out all the important details on the topic in our blog article on managed services.

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Whether and to what extent you ultimately want to work with professional service providers and cloud providers should be carefully weighed up, taking into account the aspects mentioned.

We wish you every success in setting up or modernising your IT infrastructure and are always happy to answer any questions you may have.

The Keyweb AG