Spreadsheets Are Not a Real Capacity Planning Tool

    November 23, 2015

    By Per Bauer

    Despite the clear availability of better technology on the market, half of all businesses still rely on spreadsheets to support their capacity planning — and suffer expensive capacity-related outages as a result.

    Not having a serious capacity planning strategy is like running your IT operations blindfolded: you can’t see what’s coming or what’s behind you, making it incredibly difficult to arrive at informed decisions. Without a strong capacity planning strategy, businesses risk running into avoidable catastrophes that cost time, resources, and money to resolve. And any strong strategy requires the tools to execute the lofty goals it sets.

    Most Capacity Planning Is Inadequate

    According to Data Center Dynamics, a recent UK study found that just over half of businesses surveyed had specialized capacity management software, while 45% still only use spreadsheet software to observe trends in data. While spreadsheets used to be common practice, the invention of modern analytic software has long since rendered them obsolete. Spreadsheets simply aren’t up to the task of supporting the complex work of modern capacity management.

    For one thing, spreadsheets lack a strong data storage component, and it’s difficult to keep more than a few months’ worth of data in one place. In capacity planning, it’s important to look at both short- and long-term trends. Moreover, tracking long-term trends with the proper metrics is key to the accurate forecasting of what will happen within your IT infrastructure in both the near and distant future.

    For example, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, capacity planners should be looking at what exactly the spike in traffic will look like on some of the busiest shopping days of the year. For an accurate prediction of what kind of extra support or preparation will be required, you have to look at several years of Black Friday data. Spreadsheets simply aren’t equipped to support that level of data storage.

    Spreadsheets Don’t Support Advanced Analysis

    Sophisticated capacity management software will also aggregate and analyze your data for you. Typically, the software will collect a data point every minute and store it for a month or two. Then, it’ll summarize those data points and store that value for six months, making the data more reliable and easier to manage. Spreadsheets don’t have the ability to automatically do this kind of sophisticated storage work for you.

    In terms of prediction, a spreadsheet can help you make a trend line, but that’s about it. It doesn’t have the capacity to do any more advanced prediction -- such as forecasts that take networking queuing theory into account. The truth is that performance doesn’t scale linearly, and with a linear trending tool, you’ll be extremely limited in your ability to predict trends moving forward.

    Make Capacity Planning Part of Your Strategy

    According to Computer Weekly, 85% of surveyed businesses had experienced outages in the past month, and 30% of those outages were attributed to capacity issues. And yet, only half of the businesses surveyed thought capacity planning would prove important to their operations in the coming year. 40% said they lacked the skilled personnel and 36% said they had a gap in their planning capability that prevented them from implementing a capacity strategy.

    When asked if they were limited more by lack of personnel or by technical resources, the responses were that a mix of both would be needed. However, advanced software allows you to automate the “grunt” work of capacity planning, freeing up your staff and resources to do other, more important things.

    Capacity Planning Made Easy

    If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of developing a capacity planning strategy from scratch, TeamQuest is here to make your life easier. Our IT Optimization Maturity Assessment will help you determine how your company’s capacity planning ranks and what you need to do to improve it. And our Predictor can help find optimal configurations to save you time and resources.

    No business should settle for using an outmoded, insufficient tool to support a core piece of their  IT. Go for a capacity planning tool that’s automated, accurate, and smart enough to manage the storage and analysis of data on its own.

    Category: capacity-planning