It's almost year's end, and you have money remaining in your IT budget. We all know this dance can be a bit tricky. You don't want to spend wastefully, but if you leave a surplus, the powers-that-be could slash next year's budget, assuming you don't need as much.
Yes, it would ideal if that budget was perfectly planned down to the last penny, leaving you with a glorious $0.00 in your ledger at the end of the year.
Rarely does that happen.
So how can you spend the last dregs of IT budget, and do so with good conscience? I have a few suggestions.
1: Go mobile
There are many reasons why your staff should have the best possible mobile devices that remaining budget can buy. With those tablets and smartphones, they can more easily manage their workload while on the go. But supplying your staff with tablets offers more than productivity — it goes a long way toward rewarding them for their best efforts. (Just don't assume a tablet is reward enough for the heroes of your department.)
2: Renew licenses
This is a never-ending battle that doesn't always land on year's end. And renewing a license that isn't quite about to expire might not make sense. But here's the thing: If you have the money left over, you can do something that would be a massive help in keeping track of those licenses. I'm talking about renewing them all at the end of the year. When you do that, you will always know when those licenses are set to expire. Once glance at the calendar and you know it's time to renew.
3: Raise your cloud's roof
Every company will eventually have to go to the cloud. If you already are —and you're using a third-party cloud service — now is the perfect time to increase the amount of storage you have on that cloud. This could mean simply purchasing more space or bandwidth. You can also purchase more cloud services, extending the functionality and reach of your current cloud.
There's no escaping the eventuality of the cloud. Spending that year-end surplus here will help your department/company in ways you might not immediately see. One good example of this would be adding on features to your existing Zoho account (Assist, Books, Creator, and more).
4: Go open source
It might sound counterintuitive to spend money on open source. However, this might be the perfect time to begin migrating some of your servers from proprietary solutions to powerful, flexible replacements from SUSE or Red Hat. This makes sense because in the long run, the cost benefit of switching to these platforms can be tremendous. More uptime, more reliability, and easier/better security. IT has reached the point where open source is no longer a toy or nuisance from geeked-out fanboys. It's a major player in enterprise business. Use that leftover budget wisely and you could find yourself with a much more robust and reliable backend.
This really applies only to small consulting shops (especially those "army of one" consultancies). But even if you are your only employee, you still must keep track of a budget. Your government and your accountant will appreciate the extra effort. And if you wind up with a bit of extra budget at the end of the year, do yourself a favor and spend it on marketing. Usually, marketing is the last thing small shops consider. However, if people don't know about you, the likelihood they will hire you is zero. Use that bit of windfall to spread the word.
6: Look into standing desks
I've been using a standing desk now for more than a year. The benefits have been truly amazing. I'm no longer tired by the end of the day. I've lost weight. In general, I just feel tremendously better. You probably have a lot of staff members who sit around all day. Do them a favor and purchase standing desks for those who want to give it a go. Not only will you make the staff happy, you'll wind up with healthier employees who can work more efficiently (and not nod off by the end of day).
7: Invest in new cabling solutions
Take a look at your server room. Is it a wash of spaghetti strewn about the floor? Do you find cable housing that's dried and cracked? If you answered "yes" to either question, it's time to invest in some new cabling solutions. Buy brand new patch cables (a failing cable can be a thorn in a LOT of sides) and start replacing. Purchase items to help tidy up the cabling in your office or hire a professional come in and reroute that mess. A little money will go a long way here.
8: Purchase new drives
One thing you can never have enough of is drives. They fail. Period. And now would be a great time to start making the migration to solid state drives. The performance boost gained from SSDs far outweighs the cost. Even if you have no plans to migrate right away, purchase the drives now. Having extra drives on hand is never a bad idea. Be sure to purchase drives to fit all of your hardware (especially RAID drives — you'll need those when your RAID array starts to fail).
9: Upgrade your backup solution
If you don't currently have a backup solution, what are you doing in IT in the first place? If you do have a backup solution, it may not be enough. Expand that backup so you know, without a doubt, that you have enough space and bandwidth. Make sure you have both a local solution and an online solution (both are non-negotiable) and that they have plenty of room to grow. You should also invest in a local backup device that is fireproof (such as a solution from IOSafe).
10: Replace those aging uniforms
If your staff wears company shirts, this is a great time to fill their closets with fresh apparel. I've been involved with companies that require their agents to wear logo'ed tees, oxfords, or polos but that never go the extra mile to make sure the staff has enough to get through the week. As a result, employees visit clients with ratty, stained, or generally unappealing attire. Spend some of that surplus to spruce up your staff.
Money well spent
There are many ways to use up that remaining budget. If you spend it wisely, you can look at this end-of-year spree as investment, not just jettisoning a chunk of change so you don't lose out next year. Give this list some thought and see if it doesn't help you out of that year-end jam.
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How do you use up the last bits of your tech budget? Share your advice 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.