Information technology (IT) is an indispensable part of doing business in the 21st century. Every operation needs experts in the IT field to make the most of any competitive advantage.
But good IT techs are expensive and computer technology isn’t cheap. How can the little guy turn the IT factor into a competitive advantage?
Look Around In-House
It’s possible to maintain quality IT services without going broke. It can make sense to “in-source” IT expertize by maintaining education and training for someone who’s already on staff.
Do you already have someone who’s the “go-to” person when computers need troubleshooting? Do you have anyone who could receive a lateral promotion to a part-time position for IT?
If there’s already a tech-savvy staff member who enjoys the challenge, it could be worth the price of a few courses at a local community college to create a permanent IT expert.
When the computers need attention, this individual could sign in to a higher hourly rate during the troubleshooting or maintenance period, then sign back out to work the usual job for the rest of the day.
Invest in Quality Infrastructure and Know What You can Repurpose
Both your equipment and your team should be able to perform under pressure. Of the two expenses, people are more important.
A well-qualified IT technologist can make a ten-year-old equipment sing and dance. Someone without training and experience might not capitalize on any advantages gained by new hardware.
The average small business spends nearly 42 percent of its IT budget on hardware.
Qualified personnel can minimize that amount and make sure it’s properly spent. Ideally, you need the best techs you can get, with equipment that’s as modern as you can afford.
This is the only way to understand when to replace equipment, when to bring in IT pros and when the problem can be handled by the staff.
By the time a particular software package is fully mature, a new computer will be obsolete. It makes little sense to update hardware if the full capabilities of your existing system aren’t utilized.
Don’t forget used equipment or closeout deals on hardware like last year’s computer, printer and laptop models. The time to buy a computer, printer or other hardware is when you need it.
Upgrades like more memory, faster processors and bigger storage can save huge amounts compared to complete new systems.
Repurposing is another way to maximize older machinery. An obsolete tower computer can be equipped cheaply with several hard drives and used only for saving files in a central location. The same computer could also double as a print server.
Optimize your company’s use of IT services. Buy energy-efficient equipment and manage its power usage. Saving power is saving money. Shut off any equipment that’s not being used or when closing for the night.
- Software, internet accounts, phones and computer equipment that aren’t being used cost money for no good reason.
- Eliminate any software licenses that aren’t used frequently.
- If your internet account data allowance is larger than your actual monthly usage, negotiate a new, cheaper plan with your provider.
- If the bulk of your phone usage is voice calls and not much data, then adjust your phone plan to reflect its actual usage.
- If your office has unused equipment and there’s no way to repurpose it into an asset, sell it or donate it to charity for tax credits.
Streamline equipment usage by rearranging the actual location of the equipment to minimize movement and wasted steps by taking advantage of existing traffic flow. Wasted staff time is wasted money.
Consider Using Open Source Software
Software licensing is one of the largest components accounting for the cost of IT services. There are ways to mitigate these costs.
Over 90 percent of IT managers mention unused software in surveys. Open Source Software is the term for software solutions that are developed and regularly updated and free to use by anyone.
The software developer doesn’t hold the copyright and gives users free reign over the software. They can use it, change it and distribute it any way they want
For example, Open Office is a free Windows office suite with most of the features of Microsoft Office. The package can also open, edit and save files saved by Microsoft Office.
Open Office includes a spreadsheet, a word processor, database, publishing and presentation programs, all compatible with their Microsoft counterparts.
For Linux machines, it’s Libre Office.
How much money can you save by using Open Office internally for 9 seats and running only one Microsoft Office license for external use with other companies and clients who are using only Microsoft?
A single seat license compared to a 10-seat license could cause astronomical savings when you apply this idea across the entire selection of software used in an office.
You just cannot replace some commercial packages this way, but every seat you can replace with free or substantially less expensive software is a seat that’s cutting the bottom line on IT costs.
Reduce Demand For IT Staff
One of the major ways to reduce IT costs is to reduce the number of reasons that require a call to IT personnel. You could train the office staff in many of the more mundane maintenance and troubleshooting tasks.
That would leave IT personnel to tackle higher-priority or more technical tasks and make more efficient use of such valuable skills.
Automate Your Help Desk
Automating help desk services is another area where Open Source software can contribute strongly. The vast majority of calls to help desk operators by office workers are for tasks such as recovering lost passwords and finding files.
Self-service help desks can handle such tasks and many others just. You can run the self-service on a website on the company’s internal network.
Small Business, Big IT Support
Small business owners can also have good IT support. The approach will be a bit different. Training the office end users and reducing the need to outsource IT staff can pay big dividends.
The more your internal staff can troubleshoot on their own, the less they will need to burn up valuable IT resources.
Lisa Michaels is a freelance writer, editor and a striving content marketing consultant from Portland. Being self-employed, she does her best to stay on top of the current trends in business and tech. Feel free to connect with her on Twitter @LisaBMichaels.