10 things you can do right now to save money on your enterprise systems

The burden of supporting enterprise IT infrastructure can be significant. Here are several things to consider as you look at ways to reduce the cost.

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Supporting enterprise infrastructure and applications can take a big chunk of your IT budget. Here are 10 ways to save money on enterprise systems in the near term.

1: Go "zombie" hunting

It sounds obvious to suggest shutting down unused systems, but most companies have an application or server that is happily humming along but hasn't been used in a meaningful way in months or more. Paradoxically, virtualization in the data center has allowed many more of these zombie systems, since it seems "free" to virtualize them first and ask questions later. But even virtualized infrastructure requires monitoring and maintenance. Find the zombies and retire them.

2: Outsource maintenance

Outsourcing has become a bit of a bad word in some IT circles, but with thin budgets and overworked staff, it often makes sense to outsource the maintenance of commodity portions of your IT infrastructure. Having your best IT staff performing rote tasks like applying patches and creating new users is probably not the best (or most cost effective) use of their time.

3: Put them in the cloud

Cloud effectively allows you to outsource whole slices of infrastructure, applications, and maintenance. While cloud deployments can be complex and a longer-term initiatives, in many cases your existing systems and applications may be available for cloud delivery and can be quickly migrated for cost savings.

4: Investigate your licensing

Pricing for software licensing routinely fluctuates, and with everything from software-as-a-service pricing to dozens of software startups, in many areas software has become a buyer's market. Check for vendor discounts or options to switch to a subscription model to reduce license costs on what you already own in the short term. In the longer term, look for alternative vendors or other options to reduce license counts.

5: Check out open source

A decade ago, open source was right up there with politics and religion as a topic you simply couldn't discuss without inflaming passions on all sides of the debate. Thankfully, open source has matured, and you no longer need to be for or against open source software to reap its benefits. Investigate where open source makes sense for your environment but be sure to consider the full costs of its use if your primary aim is to save money. Open source software may be "free," but support and maintenance still have a cost.

6: "Right- size" disaster recovery and security

Disaster recovery and security are both areas where there's a sweet spot between mitigating risk and overspending on risk avoidance. See where you fall on the spectrum. If you have 38 redundant data centers around the world, there may be some quick cost savings available by eliminating the excess -- and if you find yourself underprepared, an investment now could have massive payoffs later.

7: Enlist the business

I'm not an advocate of overly detailed TCO (total cost of ownership) calculations or convoluted chargeback schemes, but there's nothing wrong with letting your business counterparts know the cost of the systems they "own" and asking for their help in identifying ways to reduce those costs. Even if you don't have detailed numbers, identifying the "greatest hits" and asking whether a system is still used or could be consolidated is a great start.

8: Reduce support where appropriate

Suggesting that IT should provide less support might be anathema to customer service-oriented IT leaders. But in the absence of service levels and defined support requirements, many IT organizations will default to over-supporting an application. If you're staffing 24x7 help desks to support production systems when no one is working, or deploying expensive monitoring and recovery tools for noncritical applications, that's money that could be spent elsewhere without negatively affecting the business units you're supporting.

9: Trim your consulting staff

As someone who has spent the majority of his career in consulting, I've seen the good and bad of the industry. In many cases, consultants provide advice and fill skill gaps that save money. But in many other cases, they fill cubes for weeks and months on end, providing little value but billing at 2-5X what a full-time staffer would charge. If you're celebrating a consultant's third year with the company, or you're surrounded by dozens of people sporting Visitor badges and have no idea what they're doing, take the time to determine whether they're an appropriate expense.

10: Clip some coupons

For IT, the equivalent of coupon-clipping might be anything from "preferred supplier" agreements with vendors to waiting for quarter- and year-end to get the best possible deal from a vendor. Ruthlessly extracting every penny from a vendor may create an adversarial relationship in the long run. But if there are logical areas where you can combine multiple services or purchases from a single vendor or ask for preferential terms during key times of year, everyone wins. Something as simple as calling your top two or three vendors and asking them to identify some ways for you to generate savings could free some cash with little more effort than a phone call.

Also read...

The rebirth of enterprise software (ZDNet special feature page)

Executive's guide to the future of enterprise apps

10 reasons why legacy apps are doomed

By Patrick Gray

Patrick Gray works for a leading global professional services firm, where he helps companies rapidly invent and launch new businesses. He is the author of Breakthrough IT: Supercharging Organizational Value through Technology as well as the companio...