What is IT infrastructure? (Components, types and benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 11 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Infrastructure of all types is an underlying feature of a good organisation, underpinning the actions and reactions companies take to the market. In the current digital age, the majority of this infrastructure supports computer systems and the facilitation of developments in the digital landscape. That's where IT infrastructure is key. In this article, we discuss what IT infrastructure is, why it is so important to companies around the world and some of the parts that compose a standard IT infrastructure system.

What is IT infrastructure?

The answer to 'What is IT infrastructure?' is simply the components you use in operating and managing enterprise IT environments and systems. This includes both in-house hardware systems and networks and infrastructure hosted on cloud servers through third parties. Everything you use in the delivery of IT systems and services is a part of IT infrastructure, from the programs you download that run on top of existing IT resources to the very servers all of your work runs on.

What are the components of IT infrastructure?

You may use very different components in IT infrastructure, due to the many tasks necessary for your IT system. Infrastructure is, therefore, both digital and physical. Here are some key components in IT infrastructures, along with a description of what they are and how they interact with the rest of the components in your IT systems:

Software

Software is the digital infrastructure that runs on a company's hardware. This includes underlying features such as the operating system, whether Linux, Windows or macOS and pieces of software such as the Microsoft Office suite or industry-specific software, which improves the progress of companies in industry-specific tasks. Software primarily interacts with the servers hosting it and the hardware running it. Software is arguably a key part of IT infrastructure, as, without it, companies cannot interact with IT infrastructure.

Hardware

Hardware is the broad term you use for facilitating access to software, referring to the physical items hosting and running your IT infrastructure. In this case, hardware refers to individual devices used by staff members on a daily basis when accessing software, data and communicating with customers. Hardware runs software upon it and hosts file-sharing information such as cloud data.

Cloud systems

Cloud services are those hosted digitally, using typically locally installed services and hardware in a remote manner. You find cloud servers on third-party services, as they are incredibly resource-intensive. This is due to the scale of the task, as terabytes of data require the transfer from location to location on a constant basis. Cloud systems interact with local hardware, conveying data and on-the-go problems in a reliable manner through an Internet or VPN connection.

Connectivity

An Internet or VPN connection is at the heart of IT infrastructure. Network cables and online connectivity are the ways that all of your systems communicate with one another, converting your individual pieces of hardware and software into more tangible and cohesive infrastructure. Connectivity is both online and offline, with more secure systems tending to not connect with the wider Internet due to the risk of hacking and other forms of cyberattack. Connectivity affects every individual part of your IT infrastructure.

What are the types of IT infrastructure?

There are several different types of IT infrastructure. As technical information evolves and changes, different systems are in place at different times, taking full advantage of technological developments. Read on to learn about some of the key types of IT infrastructure, how they vary from one another and the most suitable cases to use each one:

Traditional infrastructure

Traditional infrastructure is the type of structure produced by evolution and development over many years, seen in the vast majority of modern companies. In traditional infrastructure, the company manages each part of its own infrastructure on-site rather than outsourcing its digital solutions to an external partner. This is the norm, as typically companies develop their own networks without access to cloud technology.

Current companies retain their traditional infrastructure for a range of reasons. First, the sunk cost fallacy plays a significant role in the retention of traditional infrastructure. With thousands of pounds of spending on their IT infrastructure, replacing it with a cloud-based system is a daunting task. Furthermore, entrenched procedure plays a role. With existing file structures and servers, we set companies in an existing pattern of tasks and procedures and making changes severely damages efficiency in the short term.

Related: What does the IT department do and what are IT roles?

Cloud infrastructure

Cloud infrastructure describes the parts, software and resources necessary when creating cloud computing systems. Creating your own cloud network is possible using a range of different hardware items with connections to a server at the core of the infrastructure. Cloud infrastructure is relatively unscalable at low levels, thus smaller businesses benefit by making full use of existing cloud services such as those Amazon, Google and Microsoft offer their business clients. Cloud infrastructure is key when businesses operate in a remote and scattered way.

Connecting to your documents when working on a building site is essential, as accessing plans provides better information on the tasks requiring completion next. The cloud boosts workplace flexibility and makes remote employment far more feasible and is, therefore, an increasingly present form of IT infrastructure in the services industry and anywhere without physical premises in place.

Related: A step-by-step guide on how to become a cloud architect

Hyper-converged infrastructure

Hyper-converged infrastructure is a new and developing concept with little uptake throughout the business world due to the current experimental nature of the infrastructure. Management of computer hardware, networking and storage in a hyper-converged infrastructure is from a single screen. The design of hyper-converged infrastructure is with scalability in mind, focusing once more on benefits for remote working teams rather than an in-office presence.

The core benefit of hyper-converged infrastructure is simplicity. As the administrative team uses only one screen, teaching new users and administrators their way around the system is simpler than operating an entire server cluster within a traditional infrastructure. The very nature of hyper-converged infrastructure limits functionality and adaptability, with limits on settings and configuration.

The benefits of effective IT infrastructure

There is a wide range of benefits to using effective IT infrastructure. After all, with almost all documentation now reliant on the stability of servers and computer systems, an effective IT infrastructure is something all companies strive towards. Read on for some of the key advantages of building effective IT infrastructure and what it means for organisations:

Reliability

Good IT infrastructure centres on good working practices and long-term reliability. After all, without reliable access to a file store, documentation systems fall apart and day-to-day processes fail. Effective IT infrastructure has thorough backups for the event of a failure and failure is less likely in any case thanks to the quality of the parts and the design in question. Having the best performing IT infrastructure on Earth is fine, but that benefit is pointless when your network collapses under a significant amount of strain.

Speed

Depending on the parts in your IT infrastructure, well-designed and built infrastructures accelerate your processes and day-to-day working habits. Old and overflowing drives struggle and stutter with basic copying and pasting tasks, whereas implementing SSDs with high-capacity means that you have plenty of space for moving and using files. This speeds the network up, thus removing delays in the production and processing phases of the workday. For marginal competitive advantages, IT infrastructure adjustments are an excellent start.

Increased scalability

Poor infrastructure focuses on providing the services and products necessary at that time in that particular place. This means minimal scalability, as companies possess exactly what they need, rather than what they may need. Well-designed and built IT infrastructure gets around this issue by integrating scalable aspects into the process. Focusing on increased server space and user capacity makes growth simpler and introduces business flexibility.

Related: What is strategic management and why is it important?

Flexible work

In the case of previous traditional infrastructure networks, companies focus on working around the infrastructure as there are restrictions on working habits and goals for the company. On the other hand, cloud-based and hyper-converged infrastructure typically permits greater flexibility. This does not exclusively refer to the business itself, but to the employees of the business. Working from home is feasible and companies respond and react to evolving situations in more agile manners, gaining a competitive advantage over any rivals.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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