Looking for ways to save money in IT without sacrificing productivity or functionality? Here are 8 proven ways to help:
1. Standardize your systems
Every piece of software and hardware you add to your computer network will have its own issues, both in terms of its own operation and in terms of interoperability with other systems. Say no to things like introducing several versions of Microsoft Office into your network. The more you standardize your systems, the fewer problems you will have.
2. Use proven, broadly deployed technology
Unless you have specialized needs, standardize on hardware and software from the biggest technology vendors. They’re the biggest kids on the playground, so everyone wants to play nice with them. Choosing their products makes it more likely that your new purchases will be compatible with what you already own.
For computers, go with Dell, HP, or IBM — not lower-quality brands — and consider support contracts that include quick part replacements.
For software, stick to standard vendor-supported packages like Netsuite and Microsoft Dynamics 365.
For other hardware, invest in equipment that suits job requirements. This is especially true for printers, where economizing up front is likely to cost you more in repairs and replacements later.
3. Strategically adopt Software as a Service (SaaS) and cloud services
If you’re still using software that has to be installed and updated on every computer, server, and database, switching from the traditional client-server software model to SaaS will reduce your costs almost immediately. Cloud-based software like Salesforce and Microsoft Office 365 are easy to update across geographies and entire companies, rolling out new features to every user at once with a single update to the central cloud platform.
For variable server loads, like the holiday rush or the need to scale up or down quickly for testing, use Amazon or Microsoft cloud services. Although it may seem to cost less to buy hardware, buying computing power by the second ends up being more cost-effective than maintaining servers you don’t fully utilize.
However, there are two times when it makes more sense to use a traditional infrastructure. One is for a steady workload. The other is for applications that have not been optimized for cloud computing. For these non-SaaS applications, you can achieve a reliable, cost-effective platform using virtualization technology and a small amount of hardware in a data center.
4. Monitor your computer network
If you do use a traditional infrastructure, you’ll need to monitor it to detect and correct potential problems before they turn into downtime. To protect productivity and morale and avoid emergency repairs, watch out for avoidable issues like full disk drives and outdated virus definitions.
5. Review your telecommunications contracts
Voice and data costs are lower than ever, and they keep dropping. Vendors that want to keep you will review your existing contracts for free — and these reviews commonly lead to savings of 50%.
6. Safeguard yourself against social engineering
Social engineering attacks designed to fool users into installing ransomware or executing a fraudulent wire transfer are on the rise. The single most cost-effective way to defend against these attacks is to educate your users on how to spot and avoid the criminal’s trap — for example, by sending them periodic messages that look suspicious, but won’t actually cause problems if one of your employees responds. These tests keep your employees on your toes while making it easier to identify anyone who was fooled and therefore needs remedial training.
7. Avoid custom software development
We see a lot of small businesses that have developed their own software or customized implementations of common SaaS offerings like Sharepoint or Salesforce. They almost always regret it. From gathering requirements and managing development to implementation, user training, and version management, software development is a highly specialized skill set. When the person who developed an in-house solution moves on, their replacements will have to spend a lot of valuable paid time figuring out your software’s undocumented idiosyncrasies. Save yourself the time, trouble, and expense. If nothing off the shelf meets your needs, outsource your software development to a company that develops and maintains software for multiple customers to make sure you always have access to appropriate expertise and thorough documentation.
8. Invest in training
Spend one day every year training your people in how to use your systems, including the Microsoft Office Suite and any unique time saving features of your line of business software. One-time training pays off in a lifetime of more efficient use. In addition, train people in conventions for naming documents and storing information in your file system. Having discipline in how you store information saves huge amounts of time in data retrieval.