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The seven critical skills all IT teams should possess

FYI, this story is more than a year old

A productive and successful business is one that chooses its technology wisely and ensures the necessary support mechanisms are in place to deliver round the clock availability.

Just one hour of business downtime could be catastrophic and whilst some support mechanisms may involve automated processes such as hardware failover, nothing can beat the reassurance of a highly skilled in-house technical team.

However, skilled teams aren't made by magic, they are created through good recruitment and effective training. Well-trained IT staff not only have the skills to support an organisation's entire infrastructure, they can also bring fresh ideas to projects, pre-empt potential issues and make systems more efficient.

Better in-house skills keep businesses running smoothly

No matter the size of the business, there are fundamental skills all IT teams should possess. The following seven will help to keep any business's day-to-day operations flowing smoothly and ensure no beats are missed through lost data or downtime.

1) Data storage and integrity

Data storage has changed quite dramatically in the last decade. The typical data server in many companies has evolved from a single physical server into arrays of virtual servers and cloud-based storage. It's important that any IT team has a broad understanding of new storage technologies and capabilities to know how best to select the right solution to meet the company's business needs.

As data integrity is of key concern for all companies, ensuring backups are securely stored and immediately accessible if a restoration is needed requires IT staff to be routinely trained. Choosing a training route that provides a current in-depth understanding of storage configuration, disaster recovery solutions and resilience will ensure the skills are in place to keep data safe, secure, available and recoverable.

2) Software development

If an organisation is using bespoke software, server database solutions, or software that has been developed in-house, regardless of how a company implements a software solution it's important to have trained IT staff to understand how it's being implemented and utilised within that company to ensure optimal results, as many such systems are either customer facing or drive operations essential to overall company productivity.

In-house software development skills are a tremendous asset even if a company is using an off-the shelf solution, as it's very rare that any off the shelf solution will meet all the specific business needs without some level of customisation. This is where many software companies charge extortionate consultancy fees in addition to annual support costs to develop and implement a custom solution. With trained software developers on staff a company can control the overall project costs, manage implementation and maintenance schedules as well as ensure a more seamless integration with other vital internal systems.

3) ITIL knowledge

If a recent project has failed or it's becoming harder to keep track of configuration changes, ITIL training will help to address and avoid these issues, along with the associated risks. ITIL, the most widely accepted method of IT service management worldwide, provides standards on best practices for project and change management measures that can be put in place to ensure a project's success.

4) Security

Denial of service (DoS) attacks, company-wide virus outbreaks, and compromised business data are all risks that modern organisations face. Data needs to be safe and secure at all times. It's also essential that end-users are aware of potential security risks through security awareness training and the introduction of a user security policy. Whether there is a dedicated security team or one team handling all IT issues, organisations must ensure technical experts have the necessary skills to establish and maintain policies, configure, support and troubleshoot security systems 24 hours a day.

5) Database design and management

Database design and management skills can significantly increase productivity and ensure that business functions are supported quickly, securely and cost-effectively. Oracle is the second largest software company in the world and the world leader in database management and administration. Arranging Oracle training for key IT team members can ensure an organisation can tap into sophisticated database design and have the skills available to support issues and manage change.

There are also many problems that can arise from poor database management, such as unsecured data, data corruption, inadequate data mappings to meet short term and long business needs to name a few. Having individuals in-house who are trained on the complexities of database architecture and design as well as management and support of a company's vital data will ensure databases are scalable, secure, and accessible for both short and long term company viability.

6) Networks

Connectivity issues can mean costly problems for a business, just a few short moments of a network outage on a customer-facing site could result in lost transactions, customers and revenue. A highly trained network team will have the skills and expertise to ensure high availability of key business systems. They'd also be trained in vital skills to configure, support and deliver a wide range of networked services including VoIP, mobile networking, and networked collaborative applications such as SharePoint. In today's connected world, it pays to protect business interests around the clock.

7) New and emerging technology

For many organisations, the reliance on applications and hardware has changed the skilling needs since the introduction and adoption of virtualisation and cloud. However, without constant IT skilling, many businesses cannot take advantage of the many benefits that new technologies provide, nor can they anticipate the changes that could impact their business in the future which could introduce risk or obsolesces.

Keeping up to date with changes to existing and emerging technologies is essential for any business and as IT professionals inherently have a passion and drive for continuous learning the best thing an employer can do is provide a path to enable that continued learning.

Investing in-house always pays dividends

A trained, motivated and enthusiastic team instills confidence that systems are secure, that they are performing at optimum levels and that the risk of downtime has been significantly reduced or eliminated. The seven skills identified in this article are essential to any business regardless of size. Through proper training, businesses can take full advantage of new technology whilst supporting and protecting existing investments.

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