Budgets continue to shrink, so IT departments have to do everything they can to save money. Many are looking at the all-too-obvious cuts and neglecting a helpful chunk of less obvious ways to pinch those pennies. I want to offer a combination of the two, which I think can go a long way toward saving your department precious budget dollars (and quite possibly, your job).
1: Drop Microsoft Office for Google Apps or LibreOffice
I know most businesses hold onto Microsoft Office as if their work-lives depended upon it. The truth is, it doesn't. Google Apps and LibreOffice have both evolved into business-class productivity suites that can easily replace the de facto standard, Microsoft Office. This move will especially help small businesses that don't benefit from bulk-purchase prices from Microsoft. And since most users tap into only about 10 to 15 percent of the features and power of their office suite, why not save nearly one hundred percent of the cost of the proprietary solution? Besides, a tool like Google Apps makes collaboration between teams even easier.
2: Migrate your terminal server to a Linux box
The Microsoft Terminal Server is a powerful tool -- and it comes with a powerful price tag. The more users you need, the more costly that option will be. Replace that box with a Linux machine and you can have the same kind of power at a small fraction of the cost. And adding more users won't wind up costing you the entire budget. So long as your hardware can handle it, you can add as many users as you like -- at no cost.
3: In-house your CRM/ERP/HRM solutions
If you go to SourceForge and search for CRM, ERP, or HRM, you'll be astounded at the hits you get. Not only are these solutions plentiful, they are powerful. With the likes of Drupal, Joomla!, OrangeHRM, and countless other tools, you will have your business-to-customer-to-vendor-relationship in perfect harmony. And since these are mostly Web-based tools, you'll be able to work that magic from anywhere that can reach the server housing the tool.
4: Migrate to networked or cloud-based storage
The benefits of this might not be immediately apparent. But migrating your users' storage from their machines to a centralized location can help save your budget by reducing strain on the client machine (less writing to drives and more over the network). This will also help save costs because you can more easily back up all end-user data from a single location.
5: Move some desktops to Linux
This one will have the most people shaking their heads, but hear me out. There are always certain desktops in a company that have a limited usage. And because much of business has migrated to Web-based tools, a Linux box makes perfect sense. With those machines, you won't have to worry about virus infections, corrupt registry entries, or users installing malware-infested applications. Some machines will need Windows (such as those that use proprietary software or software with no Linux port, like QuickBooks). And there will be users who refuse change. For those instances, simply stick with what works best. But for the machines and/or users that can make use of Linux, make the switch and you'll save.
6: Keep good backups of everything
It's inevitable: Hardware is going to break. That means every machine in your company, at some point, is going to give up the ghost. When that happens, so much time can be lost recovering data -- be it user-level or company-level data. One of the most critical tasks you can have as an IT pro is making sure backups run and run consistently. With a solid backup plan, you will save quite a lot of money in the end, even if only in time.
Here are a few resources that can tackle the backup challenge:
- Five reliable Windows Server backup solutions
- Five friendly apps for backup-shy users
- Five tips for saving your neck with backups
- DIY: A flexible network file/directory backup solution
7: Implement strict antivirus and anti-malware policies
A big issue with end user machines is the "accidental installation" of malware or the infection of viruses. One of the best ways to help yourself out is to use an antivirus solution (such as Symantec Endpoint Protection) that can be managed from a centralized location. Regardless of what you use, it is crucial to make sure that all antivirus and anti-malware software is up to date (both the application and the definitions). It might also behoove you to make sure that end users aren't installing extra "features" for their browsers -- such as coupon finders.
8: Encourage creative thinking (solutions for unique problems)
This is more for your IT staff. Encourage the use of creative thinking to solve issues with client computers and servers. Most every computer issue has multiple paths that can arrive at a solution. Sometimes the creative solution is the one that can help save money in the end. Not all administrators can think along these routes, so don't press them if they aren't capable. But encourage those who can think creatively and on their toes.
9: Document, document, document
You want to save time? Document your hardware, your network topology, and your software. Document your users, your users' PCs, your backups -- anything you can possibly think of that will help you save time and make transitions from one software/hardware/administrator to another as smooth as possible. This documentation will also go a long way toward helping you see how everything on your network is used and what can be used more efficiently.
10: Implement a help desk solution
Many smaller businesses don't employ a help desk solution because they assume you can keep track of all the issues on your own. That is a big mistake. The ability to track progress on issues and to review previous issues (and how they were fixed) can really save you time and money. And enabling end users to submit tickets will help ensure that issues are better managed and resolved more quickly. Plenty of open source solutions are available for this. (My favorite is OS Ticket.)
Other cost savings?
The savings to be had here can protect your IT budget, but it can also help to protect your job and your employees' jobs. And although no "system" or solution is perfect, any of the above should be able to help you find a fairly immediate savings. Give one or more of them a try for your small business and see how well they serve you.
Have you found some other strategies that have helped you reduce spending? Share your suggestions with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for Techrepublic and Linux.com. As an avid promoter/user of the Linux OS, Jack tries to convert as many users to open source as possible. His current favorite flavor of Linux is Bodhi Linux (a melding of Ubuntu and Enlightenment). When Jack isn't writing about Linux he is hard at work on his other writing career -- writing about zombies, various killers, super heroes, and just about everything else he can manipulate between the folds of reality. You can find Jack's books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. Outnumbered in his house one male to two females and three humans to six felines, Jack maintains his sanity by riding his mountain bike and working on his next books. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website Get Jack'd.