In modern businesses, there’s a pressing conversation happening, one that management accountants are at the heart of: the state of IT infrastructure. In an age of cyber threats, data breaches, and rapid technological evolution, staying ahead of the curve isn’t just about tech-savviness—it’s a business imperative.


Imagine the heartbeat of an organization—its data, communications, and essential processes—being constantly funneled through its IT infrastructure. Now, consider the impact when this heartbeat faces interruptions because the infrastructure isn’t in its prime.


The Tangible and Intangible Costs


The reality is, operating on an outdated IT system often means wrestling with frequent breakdowns and compatibility issues, which, yes, translate to added costs. But there’s more than just immediate financial repercussions. The productivity lags with outdated systems can severely bottleneck operations. Employees find themselves contending with slower systems, more errors, and a lingering sense of frustration.


Moreover, security, that all-important fortress against cyber threats, becomes jeopardized. A lapse here isn’t merely about temporary setbacks; it’s about the trust a company has built over years, if not decades, being shattered in moments. Imagine the blowback from stakeholders and clients when they perceive a company as technologically lagging—hardly an image any organization wants.


The Business Case for Updated IT Infrastructure


Investing in an updated IT infrastructure is crucial for any business aiming to stay competitive and secure in today’s market. Here are some key reasons why this investment is essential:

  • Cost-efficiency: An obsolete IT system often means more frequent breakdowns and compatibility issues, leading to increased maintenance costs. Regular updates can offset these costs in the long run, offering more predictable budgeting.
  • Improved productivity: Outdated systems are slower and prone to errors, affecting employee efficiency. Updated systems offer streamlined operations, thereby contributing positively to the bottom line.
  • Security: One of the gravest risks of failing to update IT infrastructure is security vulnerabilities. Older systems are often more susceptible to cyberattacks. A data breach can cost a company dearly, both in terms of financial penalties and damage to its reputation.
  • Reputational impact: In the eyes of clients, partners, and stakeholders, a company using outdated technology may appear neglectful or out of touch. This perception can have dire effects on trust and business relations.

Deciphering the Infrastructure Debate


Understanding the nuances of the infrastructure debate is essential for businesses looking to make informed decisions about their IT strategies. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences:

  • On-premise infrastructure: This refers to the physical servers, storage, and networks that a company owns and operates within its premises. All software updates, maintenance, and security measures are the responsibility of the organization.
  • Cloud infrastructure and platforms-as-a-service: Cloud-based infrastructure means your data and applications are stored in a data center operated by a third-party provider. Depending on the level of service, the cloud provider is responsible for the maintenance, the updates, and often the security of the system.

The world seems divided into two camps when it comes to infrastructure preferences. On one hand, we have the traditionalists who vouch for on-premise solutions. This approach is all about owning your servers and storage solutions, housed within your company’s walls. The appeal here lies in control, having your data right where you can see it.


Conversely, the cloud brigade sings praises of a system where data and applications are stored in data centers operated by third-party providers. It’s akin to renting a high-security apartment for your data, where the landlord ensures the maintenance and often the security. The cloud can be more adaptable to business needs, scaling up or down with relative ease.


Yet, the tug-of-war between the two isn’t a mere tech feud. It’s about weighing the financial implications and risk factors, and predicting future needs. Both approaches have their merits, but their relevance varies based on an organization’s specific needs.

  • Scalability: Cloud infrastructure offers more flexibility to scale up or down based on demand, while on-premise infrastructure might require significant up-front investments for future needs.
  • Cost: On-premise solutions often come with higher initial costs for hardware and setup. In contrast, cloud solutions usually operate on a pay-as-you-go model, potentially making it more cost-effective in the short term—or creating more costs due to long-term ongoing workloads.
  • Maintenance: Cloud providers handle most of the maintenance and updates, lifting the burden off the organization. On-premise solutions require in-house teams to manage, update, and secure the systems; however, a fully in-house managed system is more transparent and easier to test, whereas a fully managed cloud solution may require “black-box” testing.
  • Security: While cloud providers invest heavily in security, some organizations feel more in control with on-premise solutions, as they can implement their security protocols. However, this also means they shoulder the entire responsibility of security.

The Cost of Staying Behind


While the merits of updated IT infrastructure ring loud, some companies, perplexingly, opt for the status quo. Financial apprehensions and the potential for operational disruptions are often front and center in their concerns. After all, change isn’t always comfortable. And sometimes, there’s just a fundamental underestimation of risks—an “it won’t happen to us” mindset.


Take Southwest Airlines as a case study. Back in 2016, a massive system outage caused by a mere network router failure grounded its operations. The aftermath? Thousands of flights canceled, a financial loss to the tune of $82 million, and a blemish on the company’s reputation. This incident wasn’t just about a faulty router; it was a testament to the vulnerabilities of an outdated IT system.


Navigating the IT infrastructure terrain isn’t merely a tech executive’s role. Management accountants, with their keen eye on financial health and risk, are integral players here. As businesses advance in the Digital Age, the choices made regarding IT infrastructure aren’t just about the present, but about fortifying the future. And in this journey, staying updated isn’t just good advice—it’s a business imperative.

About the Authors