In today's rocky economic climate, enterprises are constantly looking for ways to cut business expenses. While departments across the board are tightening their belts, IT professionals can cut costs by making smart choices with their technology. By using technologies such as software as a service, virtualization, web conferencing and voice over IP, companies can cut costs now and keep them low.
I have compiled seven ways that technology can help businesses cut expenses. They may not apply to every situation, but you should at least consider them for your company.
- Go Virtual
- Freeware Is Not Always Free
- Use VOIP (Voice over IP)
- Choose SaaS (Software as a Service)
- Use Web Conferencing
- Or Don't Use Web Conferencing
- Ignore Obsolescence
1. Go Virtual
Do you still need to manage some in-house applications? Then look at virtualization. Audit your racks of equipment for utilization and combine under-utilized servers onto a single machine with virtualization. An alternative take on this is to simply launch new services on Virtualized Private Servers (VPS). If they are successful and demand soars, turn up the VPS or bring it in-house. Either way you win, since you control your costs from the get-go.
2. Freeware Is Not Always Free
It's tempting, and it seems counterintuitive not to take advantage of any free services that are available -especially when we all know we should be counting our pennies-but beware. Remember the old adage "there is no such thing as free." The issues with free services are that you have no practical legal control or redress if something goes wrong, and "free-to-you" usually means "advertising-supported-to-them." For example, Google Apps analyze your content to target their advertisements. That means losing all privacy-and that could cost you the company.
3. Use VOIP (Voice over IP)
Use VOIP instead of the telephone, if you can. Although it does require high bandwidth, for most companies there is little reason not to use VOIP for internal calls at least. This is especially important for international calls. Another alternative is Skype. If you're not familiar with Skype, ask your kids for a demo, but Skype is a software application that allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet. Quality varies from call to call, but it is free.
4. Choose SaaS (Software as a Service)
Don't spend time and money developing your own applications or purchasing an on-premise system, unless you absolutely have to. Salesforce.com is the poster child for SaaS success, but today almost every application area has SaaS options available. The benefits are numerous: no capital outlay, immediate implementation and minimal internal support requirements to name a few.
What is less appreciated, but equally as important, is that SaaS systems are accessible from anywhere, allowing remote or home working to an extent not possible with on-premise systems that require a separate, expensive and sometimes unreliable VPN to be used remotely. This can cut down on unnecessary travel and additional expenses.
5. Use Web Conferencing
Less than five years ago, Web conferencing was touch and go. Loading up the software took forever. And, if or when it is loaded, it often couldn't get through the corporate firewall, resulting in a user experience that was similar to finding a parking spot in New York City. Not anymore. Today's Web conferencing works well. With high bandwidth the norm, participating in a Web conference is as interactive as being physically present, at a mere fraction of the cost of air travel; and no layovers or lost luggage.
6. Or Don't Use Web Conferencing
One of my executives used to conduct analyst updates by e-mailing the presentation in advance and then going through it over the phone ("Now go to the next slide, you should now be on slide 5," etc.). This works surprisingly well. Realistically, almost everybody in business has PowerPoint and if not, you can convert to PDF. This approach is for those who are truly strapped, because the cost is so low and the productivity benefit so tangible.
7. Ignore Obsolescence
Just because technology is old doesn't mean it's useless. I remember once being struck that Fry's-a famous electronics store here in Silicon Valley-had running for its stock control system an old, character-based DOS application running on an equally-decrepit early '90s vintage PC. It looked incongruous next to all the shiny new PCs and Macs.
But if all you want is to answer the customer question "Do you have a XXX-3452 in stock?", then this computer works just fine. The collective cold shoulder that business has given to Microsoft's Vista is a good example of this happening today, but you can take it further. Too many technology investments are made on emotional rather than financial grounds. Be especially wary of true but irrelevant statements such as "But it's now more than 15 years old."
So am I, but everything still works just fine.