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What is Infrastructure?

Infrastructure refers to structures, systems, and facilities serving the economy of a business, industry, country, city, town, or area, including the services and facilities necessary for its economy to function. Infrastructure is the basic physical systems of a business or nation; transportation, communication, sewage, water and electric systems are all examples of infrastructure. Infrastructure thus consists of improvements with significant cost to develop or install that return an important value over time. These systems tend to be high-cost investments; however, they are vital to a country's economic development and prosperity. Projects related to infrastructure improvements may be funded publicly, privately or through public-private partnerships.

arrow Breaking Down 'Infrastructure':

Applicable to large- and small-scale organizational frameworks, infrastructure can include a variety of systems and structures as long as there are physical components required. For example, the electrical grid across a city, state or country is an infrastructure based on the equipment involved and the intent to provide a service to the areas it supports. Infrastructure may be centered within a data center, with connections to users in different environments using intelligent or dumb access devices. Similarly, the physical cabling and components making up the data network of a company operating within a specific location are also infrastructure for the business in question, as they are necessary to support business operations.

arrow IT Infrastructure:

Many technical systems are often referred to as infrastructure, such as networking equipment and servers, due to the critical function they provide within certain business environments. Some vendors provide pre-engineered blocks of computing, storage and network equipment (converged infrastructure) that optimize the IT hardware and virtualization platform into a single system that can be easily interconnected with other systems. Without the information technology (IT) infrastructure, many businesses struggle to share and move data in a way that promotes efficiency within the workplace. If IT infrastructure fails, many business functions cannot be performed. The infrastructure must provide a suitable platform for all the necessary IT applications and functions for an organization or individual. Viewing IT infrastructure as a single entity makes for more effectiveness and efficiencies.

arrow Infrastructure Categories:

Along with the aforementioned sectors, infrastructure includes waste disposal services, such as garbage pickup and local dumps. Certain administrative functions, often covered through various government agencies, are also considered part of the infrastructure. Educational and health care facilities may also be included, along with certain research and development functions and necessary training facilities. The meaning of infrastructure is expanding all the time. The Internet of Things means that more devices are connected to the main infrastructure. On the whole, it is better to regard monitoring and measurement devices and other point-specific items as being outside of the IT infrastructure proper.

arrow Private Investment in Public Infrastructure:

Sometimes private companies choose to invest in a country's infrastructure development as part of a business expansion effort. For example, an energy company might build pipelines and railways in a country where it wants to refine petroleum. This investment can benefit both the company and the country. Individuals may also choose to fund improvements to certain pieces of public infrastructure. For example, an individual may fund improvements to hospitals, schools or local law enforcement efforts.