Your IT budget looms over you, arms crossed, like a specter poised to make or break your year. If you've planned carefully enough, that daunting spirit will recede into the shadows. If not, you're in for a rough fourth quarter... and beyond.
To avoid the budgetary specter, you must plan and plan well. It's not really that challenging. It just takes time and experience—and sometimes a little bit of luck. And you can make life easier by ensuring that you make room for a few key items in your IT budget. "What items?" You ask. Here are 10 possibilities that could be considered must-haves for many IT departments around the globe.
1: Extra licensing fees
This is inevitable. New staff will be hired and you don't want to get caught with your software pants down. When those new members of the company come through the doors, you need to be ready with all the necessary tools for them to get the job done. That means you must have the budget for extra licensing fees. This should cover productivity software, antivirus/malware (if you run a Windows platform), Exchange licenses (again, if you run a Windows platform), and any other piece of software necessary to handle the day-to-day of your business.
2: Emergency hardware replacement
No matter how careful you are, no matter how well you've evaluated, deployed, and administered that hardware, it will eventually fail and you will have to replace it. Sometimes that replacement can be quite costly. If you don't have an emergency fund wrapped into your budget, you will be sorry. Without an emergency fund, a dead server could mean the difference between being able to hire more staff or (in absolute worst cases) losing staff. Don't let this happen to you. Earmark a portion of your budget for dead hardware.
3: Mobile technology
With every passing year, mobile technology becomes more and more important. You need to begin moving a portion of your budget to cover mobile, if you haven't already done so. This might be in the form of covering the cost of devices or data plans. Either way, this is becoming a necessity. I would venture to say, in fact, that the need to cover mobile tech in your budget will increase dramatically over the next few years. Be prepared.
Software and hardware both need to be constantly upgraded. If you're running outdated versions of your productivity software, you're missing out on a great deal. If you're running outdated hardware, you're playing a game of chance that you will eventually lose. On top of that, the old hardware spec game played between hardware and software is always upping the ante. Don't lose this game. Make sure your IT budget is prepared to upgrade software and hardware when necessary.
5: Staffing needs
Here's hoping your business grows so much that you have to expand your IT staff. It's a good problem to have, but one you must be prepared for. IT staff can be costly, so you need to make room in your budget to accommodate an expanding department. This particular entry in your budget could also be supplemented by other budgets (such as HR). But you still need to be prepared to make the case for hiring new hands.
6: Cloud services
At this point in the evolution of business IT, it's almost impossible to get away without cloud services in some form or another. It could be in the form of a third-party solution or an onsite cloud solution. Either way, you're going to need the cloud and you will need room in your budget to not only deploy it, but to expand it.
Beyond purchasing updates for existing software, at some point you're going to need to purchase new software or SaaS (software-as-a-service). In many cases, this new software will help your staff become more productive. But if you don't have it in your budget to purchase the new software, that extra productivity is nothing but a pipe dream. Tag some budget for new software purchases.
At some point, you're going to have to pay for training. Why? Because technology is constantly evolving and you can't live and die by tech standards from five or 10 years ago. Keeping your staff up to date can mean the difference between your data remaining secure and getting released into the wild. On top of that, much of the new technology is far more efficient than its predecessors. It may be considered nonessential by some, but training is, quite possibly, one of the single most important budgetary items you can add.
9: Data pipe
Who pays for your connection to the internet? Who pays for the failover connection? Who is inevitably responsible for the cost when you decide your current connection simply isn't fast enough? Chances are, the answer to all those questions is "Your budget." If your business depends upon an internet connection (as most do), you can't afford not to have a backup (even if it's significantly slower). If this budgetary item falls under the auspices of the IT budget, be sure to earmark the necessary funds.
10: Backup solution
If you're not backing up your data (to multiple locations), you're going to regret that misstep one day. You need to have a solid, reliable backup solution deployed so that, should disaster strike, you can do a bare-metal recovery. This generally means paying for a solution, as well as its upkeep. Even if you happen to roll your own backup, you will still need to ensure that the backup hardware you use is always in perfect working order and that there is a secure location to house the rotating drives.
Your IT budget is susceptible to many twists and turns that do little for your sanity. But if you take the time to build in at least some of the items on this list, it will help your IT department support the business as the year marches on.
How is your IT budget shaping up for 2016? What items will you have to forgo—and which will you fight to keep? Share your experiences and opinions with fellow TechRepublic members.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.