After personnel, equipment is probably the second largest expense for an IT department. Saving money on hardware can have a significant impact on the bottom line, even for small and midsize organizations. As part of TechRepublic’s Doing More with Less series, here are 10 real-life examples of how our contributors and members are making the most of their hardware budgets.

Administrative and purchasing procedures
1. Have a written hardware policy. Before you do anything else, your IT department should have a written hardware policy. This document doesn’t have to be the Magna Carta, but it should outline all aspects of hardware standardization, purchasing, support, and acceptable use. A carefully planned and skillfully implemented policy should improve your IT department’s efficiency, cutting down on unnecessary purchases.

2. Standardize equipment. While not every user or department has the same needs, you should still standardize your equipment as much as possible. For example, TechRepublic employees have a choice of two laptops. Both are from the same manufacturer and have many interchangeable components: batteries, power supplies, hard drives, and docking stations. This practice increases troubleshooting efficiency and allows the IT department to purchase equipment in bulk and from a single vendor. This tip goes hand-in-hand with tips three and four.

3. Buy in bulk. Avoid purchasing single components or systems whenever possible. Manufacturers and retailers often offer discounts for large purchases. This may take more advanced planning, but the savings are worth it. TechRepublic contributor David Williams has found this technique to work especially well for blank media (CD-Rs, diskettes, etc.).

4. Use a single vendor. This suggestion relates closely to tip three. Using a single vendor helps develop bulk purchases, allowing you to exploit bulk-purchase discounts. Try to find a single vendor for all your server, workstation, and laptop needs. This will streamline equipment purchases, aid in standardization, and allow your organization to develop a long-term vendor relationship. I can say from personal experience that vendors treat long-standing clients better than the occasional buyer.

Upgrade options
5. Use refurbished equipment. Ted Laun, a technical analyst at TechRepublic, suggests using refurbished monitors if possible. Why pay full price for a new monitor when a refurbished one will work just as well? Training rooms, computer labs, community centers, and other locations where systems aren’t used every day are perfect places for refurbished equipment.

  Doing More with Less
    Do you need creative solutions for stretching your IT dollars and making wise purchasing decisions?

Check out our collection of articles for advice on outsourcing, planning projects, working with vendors, and increasing efficiency.


    Do you need creative solutions for stretching your IT dollars and making wise purchasing decisions?

Check out our collection of articles for advice on outsourcing, planning projects, working with vendors, and increasing efficiency.


6. Make sure the user needs it. Before buying that 19-inch monitor or 1-GHz system, make sure the user actually needs the equipment. While your CAD designers may need the latest technology, clerical personnel do not. Be critical of every request that comes across your desk. Unless the user can show a legitimate business reason for having a piece of equipment, don’t buy it.

7. Limit laptop usage. A laptop and docking station (with external monitor, keyboard, and mouse) is nearly twice the purchase price of a regular desktop. Only provide laptops to employees who regularly work away from the office.

Consider the work environment
8. Choose peripherals carefully. Contributor Michelle Hutchinson reminds us to use equipment appropriate for its work environment. Several of Michelle’s users are in very dusty plants. Because of this, Michelle was constantly replacing mice. They finally switched to optical mice, which solved the problem. “I know it’s on the lower end of money-saving ideas,” Michelle said, “but it does add up.”

9. Use alternative hardware solutions. Michelle also suggests considering options other than standard PC systems. The same users mentioned in tip eight switched to a thin client system on their assembly line because of the environment. “Upgrading every PC on the line was getting expensive,” Michelle said. “By using thin clients connected to one server, we now upgrade one PC rather than 20.”

10. Cut back on pagers. Jeff Davis, a TechRepublic columnist who works for an application services provider, said his organization’s office manager recently saved their company almost $900 a month by eliminating unnecessary pagers. Jeff’s company provided pagers for many IT and non-IT employees. The office manager simply asked everyone with a company pager if they really needed it. Because most employees were also carrying personal or company-provided mobile phones, they discontinued service on nearly 40 percent of their pagers.
We want to know if you have a proven technique for stretching an IT budget. Post a comment or send us a note and share your knowledge.