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10 ways to shrink your IT budget without killing progress

If you're looking for ideas on how to reduce IT spending without halting forward progress, these tips will come in handy.

Image: Jack Wallen

You've been warned from the powers that be. You must cut your budget or risk losing staff--or even your own job. This happens quite often... sometimes unexpectedly. But how do you shave down the numbers without killing progress? That is the rub.

When the hammer falls, you've got to perform magic that even Merlin would have trouble pulling off. You must take your budget back a few years while keeping the company moving forward. It's a time paradox that few can grasp without a bit of help. Fortunately, help is on the way. Let's take a look at 10 things you can do to shrink your budget without sending your department back to the 90s.

1: Deploy open source

You can save a great deal of money when you're not having to shell out precious dollars for licensing fees to Microsoft and other third parties. But don't think that employing open source will move you backward. Enterprise companies are adopting open source in wholesale fashion because it is the tech of the future, and it's reliable, scalable, secure, and ready to serve nearly every need you have.

2: Virtualize your servers

Instead of constantly repairing and replacing those aging servers, why not go virtual? You'll save cost on hardware, your backups will be much easier, and failover will be a no-brainer. Add to this the fact that maintenance on your virtual server farm will be vastly streamlined, and you'll come to the same conclusion as many IT pros over the last five years: Virtualization is a win-win.

3: Repurpose resources

For many, the world is all about convenience. This causes a lot of businesses to consume at rates that are killing their budgets (and the planet). Instead of trashing aging technology, repurpose it. Those old desktops could be used together to create a much more powerful whole (in the form of a Linux cluster). Networking cables with wonky terminations can be repaired. If you've updated everyone's desktop, you can always wipe the old machines and sell them on eBay or donate them to a worthy cause (and a tax write-off). You could even shift employees around from department to department instead of bringing in new hires to fill holes.

SEE: Tech budgets 2017: A CXO's Guide

4: Prioritize spending

Prioritizing is especially important for fixed spending--those things you can't do without. In fact, this should be one of the first things you do when faced with shrinking a budget. Go through it line by line and prioritize the items you can't do without. Then take them off the table and move on to what you can do without. While you're prioritizing, make sure the spending on your priority items is spot on. If item A is a priority, make sure the budget you have earmarked for item A is accurate. If you think you need more or less for that, adjust.

5: Outsource to data centers

If you've been spending a lot of money on licenses for, say, Microsoft Exchange, and that Exchange server is costing you a higher percentage of your budget than you deem necessary, migrate from a local server to a hosted server. Plenty of those services are available, and in many cases they will save you money. You can also migrate away from that costly local backup solution and move it to the cloud (which most data centers offer as well).

6: Individualize your budget items

When most people look at a budget, they break it down into smaller chunks. If you really need to shave away cautiously, you should break it down further... into individual items. Line. By. Line. To really make this process more intelligent (and more likely to succeed) assign an item to a member of the department who has an intimate understanding of that particular piece. With a bit more working knowledge, that individual might be able to look at the budget line in a way you might not see.

7: Go green

There are tax credits for going green. However, going green isn't just about the taxes. You can save money by making use of greener technology. Yes, the money would be saved from other departments (electricity use is a big one), but when you make the powers-that-be aware of those cost savings, they could very pass those savings down to you.

8: Go Google

There are numerous small options to help you save money. Although the cost savings aren't extensive (pennies on the user), these savings can come to fruition in other ways. For example, when using Google as your collaboration tool, you can deploy the cheaper Chromebook to users. This also removes the need for local storage, backup, antivirus licenses, etc.

SEE: Year-round IT budget template (Tech Pro Research)

9: Examine your mobile purchasing policy

A lot of companies pay certain employee's mobile bills. They feel that since some of their staff members wind up on call, the company should foot the bill. Unless you've worked out a nice deal with your carrier, this can get costly. I'm certainly not saying you should strip your staff of this perk. But if you can stop footing the mobile bill for certain staff members (those who aren't essentially on call), maybe it's time you did.

10: Purchase used equipment

I know, I know... this is a risky endeavor. First, you run the risk of purchasing something that doesn't work or fails a few months later (and there's no warranty or support). However, when you have a pressing need and don't have the budget to buy new, you might find yourself in a do-or-die situation. Besides, purchasing used is one way to be a more responsible consumer. Buying used routers, cables, switches, and access points is often a safe bet, as they tend to have a lengthy shelf life. Once you have the budget replaced, you can go back and purchase new and use the second-hand equipment as a backup.

Magic

The dark waters of budgets are tricky to navigate. You might find very little science and more mysterious magic necessary to get it just right. But with these easy-to-follow tips, you may be able to reduce your budget without sending your department back to dawn of the computer age.

Other tips?

What budget-tightening magic have you conjured for your organization? Share your advice with fellow TechRepublic members.

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