Cut computing costs for tough times

With talk of a downturn in the air, it’s a good time to review your IT spending and how well technology is serving your business. PAUL WALLBANK

Paul Wallbank Tech Talk blog

By Paul Wallbank

With talk of a downturn in the air, it’s a good time to review your IT spending and how well technology is serving your business.

When customers stop calling and margins are falling its tempting to simply cut costs. One of the most common areas to cut costs is in information technology.

By thinking smart and getting your technology working efficiently now, not only does your business have a better chance of meeting the challenges of a downturn but it is also a leaner, more competitive organisation if the economy holds up.

So what should the tech savvy manager or business owner do? The first thing is to identify what’s important to the business. Which bells and whistles are appropriate to your operations, and which aren’t.

Discover the bottlenecks

Talk to your staff and find where the technology isn’t working. Look at how you can improve existing systems. Tweaking the weak points on your current systems can deliver big benefits for little costs.

Be careful though about scrapping existing systems. Introducing a new customer relationship management program is an expensive and disruptive process. The whole point of this exercise is to reduce costs over the next 12 months, not increase them.

Retiring old systems

If there’s a provable return on investment and a real business case for introducing new systems, then go for it. Just be careful that the costs haven’t been underestimated and the benefits exaggerated.

One area where the return may be justified is in getting new computers. Staff struggling with antiquated systems is often one of the biggest bottlenecks in a business. Remember that labour is expensive while computers are cheap.

Extend the life of existing equipment

If we assume a downturn is going to last 18 months, then extending the life of a desktop computer by two years may see your business through the downturn. A clean up or memory upgrade can easily extend a three or four year old computer’s life through that period.

If you are just using a computer for email and typing basic letters even older computers may be suitable. Just keep an eye on the support costs. Like cars, the older the computer is the more expensive it is to keep on the road.

Review suppliers costs

One thing that always surprises me is how many businesses have a pile of phone lines they haven’t used for years. One office I visited was paying bills on 20 phone lines but using only five. Rationalising phone lines is a very quick saving.

Similarly a lot of businesses have too big a mobile plan. They are paying $150 a month for a phone plan where a $99 plan is adequate.

Prices have dropped dramatically with internet services, and many businesses haven’t reviewed their plans in this time. Give your ISP and webhosting partners a call and see what they can do for you.

Review the services you are getting from your IT support partners. If you have managed services look at the details of the plans and consider if you are paying for features you don’t use.

Is your service plan too big for your business? It may be that you can cut the number of pre-paid hours or response time down. You may be paying a hundred dollars or more each time you need to change a password. These sort of tasks can be done in house.

Go green

Being more conscious of your consumption is another way of cutting costs. The amount of paper, toner and electricity that offices use can be phenomenal.

Encourage your staff not to print documents but to send and review them electronically. Discourage the use of paper as much as possible. Set up your fax machine to distribute faxes across your network.

Reduce power bills by setting computers to go to sleep after 10 minutes of being idle and hibernation after 30 minutes. Turn equipment off when leaving the office.

It’s important though to focus on what works for your business. Having your enterprise running efficiently gives you a much better chance of surviving the challenges of a downturn and taking advantage of the opportunities when the recovery arrives.

Above all though, blindly cutting IT spending as a knee jerk reaction to bad news is not a good idea. In tough times you need to be using all your resources effectively. Technology helps the smart companies do that.


Paul Wallbank is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on technology issues. He founded national support organisation PC Rescue in 1995 and has spent over 14 years helping businesses get the most from their IT investment. His PC Rescue and IT Queries websites provide free advice to business computer users and his monthly newsletter has over 3000 subscribers.

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