Trimming out costs is a priority for most businesses right now; and IT shouldn’t be exempt from good business practice. Here’s our top ten list of ways to shave real pounds, shillings and pence off your technology spending, in plain English for busy business owners!
- Check your licenses, and only pay for what you need. The larger your business, the more likely it is that you’re over-licensed. Many companies cut back on staff but forget to review their software provision. Or they change tactics, implement a different strategic direction, and are left with boxes of software lying dormant. Even one-man-bands should spend an hour or two each year reassessing their software requirements – and that goes for cloud computing services, too. If you have five or more staff, check out Software Asset Management software, which manages your licenses for you.
- Have you got more than one server? If so, investigate server virtualisation, which separates the hardware of your server from the software. Most servers rarely run at above 20% capacity; and having multiple servers is rather like having two swimming pools for two people: a huge expense given that they are hardly likely to bump into each other. Today’s virtualisation tools are versatile, easy to deploy, and will save on energy bills as well as hardware.
- Dig out your broadband contract. Internet connectivity is rapidly becoming as complicated as finding a gas or electricity supplier for your home. The tariffs and suppliers on offer are mind-boggling. But there are plenty of good deals on offer, and you should investigate prices annually. Incidentally, do go cheap, but don’t skimp on emergency cover: install a backup line, ideally from a different supplier, in case your main service goes down.
- We say this almost every month, but it bears repeating: install your patches and software updates religiously, and get antivirus cover. Let’s put some numbers on it: Antivirus ranges from completely free (Microsoft Security Essentials) to around £30 per machine for equally best-of-breed third party suppliers. Cleaning a PC or laptop costs around £200; restoring a corrupt hard drive up to £600 and with no guarantees of success.
You won’t get any warning of the expense, and we’re not even including the cost of lost time or business. You may not be a geek, you may not want to get your hands dirty with computers, but if you fail to protect your business from viral attack, you’re being a bad manager, not a bad techie. After all, you don’t leave your home unprotected just because “you don’t know anything about burglar “alarms”. Rant over.
- Switch stuff off. There used to be a rumour that computers worked better if they were left on all the time. This is unmitigated cobblers. A computer in ‘sleep mode’ still uses up to 25% or so of its waking power consumption, and there’s nothing to lose in switching desktop kit off at night.
- Let your staff bring their own kit to work. It’s called ‘BYOD’ (Bring Your Own Device), and, particularly for smaller businesses, there’s little to be lost in allowing it; so long as your staff observe good security practice (for which we advise clear policies and some training). In exchange, you get a lower bill for IT, and remarkable gains in productivity and motivation. This works the other way too: if you have provided staff with e.g. laptops or phones, let them take their devices home. It improves morale and productivity greatly.
- Now, a short discourse on buying tech. All businesses have to negotiate this minefield, and one motto should be stitched into the briefcase lining of every managing director before they brave the jungle that is the internet or the local retail park. When purchasing IT, you must think of the business, not the shiny lights, big screens or brushed metal. You must buy what you need, not what you want. You cannot allow yourself to be seduced by functions or features which are surplus to requirements; or be baffled by the stream of stats. Remember this: technology is almost unique among capital purchases in that it depreciates in value to zero in two years;
often even just one. The business moves fast, to the extent that by the time a product reaches the market, you can guarantee that it is effectively redundant stock. There will never be an investment value in business technology purchases, so, even though it feels counterintuitive, don’t buy for the long term: keep your eye exclusively on what you need to do a job right now.
- Give some thought to your data storage. Businesses are creating ever more data; and this lives on a wide variety of hard drives, network storage devices and online repositories. It’s easy to end up buying drives necessarily. Similarly, as most cloud services require you to pay incrementally more for supersized storage, it’s easy to slip into high-use tariffs. Rationalise those old records or unwanted ages-old backups,
and you can make surprising savings; chances are you don’t need as much as you think.
- Turn time into money with automation. If there’s one thing computers do well, it’s repetitive tasks. When you come across a job which seems to take ages, doing the same thing again and again, get into the habit of reminding yourself that someone has had this problem before, and there is probably a cheap, shareware or free software solution. A quick search online for tasks like sizing pictures, converting audio and video formats, and a range of other niggly jobs invariably throws up solutions which will save hours of work, and therefore money.
- Finally, another holy grail of IT buying; following on from point 7 above. IT specialists rightly advise their clients to buy strategically, not tactically. That means thinking about technology in a planned fashion, rather than firefighting individual problems on a day-to-day basis. Just as flights or train journeys are much more expensive at the last minute, so IT is much pricier when bought in a piecemeal or emergency-purchase fashion. Put some time aside every three to six months for a comprehensive and focused review of your technology needs in the coming months. Ruthlessly remove unneeded IT commitments, and marshal resources where they’re needed most for a clear roadmap forward.
We, at Microsoft, are happy to announce ‘Talking Business’ to help entrepreneurs and business owners’ succeed. We believe in your ability to innovate and in the ability of technology to help, so to support ‘Talking Business’ we have many resources available for businesses like you. We have an informative newsletter, blog posts by people in the industry, and a community looking to help small business succeed.
Follow us on twitter – @MicrosoftSB, or use the hashtag #TalkingBusiness to find out more information.