Top 5 Ways To Reduce IT Costs in 2010

#1: Managed IT Services
#2: Internal Staff vs. Outsourcing Evaluation
#3: Cloud Hosting Technologies
#4: Virtualization
#5: Backup & Disaster Recovery

The top question on everyone's mind starting the New Year is how to reduce their overall IT costs.  2009 was a tough year for many businesses.  Budgets were slashed, projects were put on hold, and companies had to evaluate what projects and technologies were crucial to keep their businesses afloat. Even those organizations that were thriving were keenly aware of their IT expenditures and looking for ways maximize their ROI.

With the economy slowly climbing out of our recession, we still have a long ways to go before budgets are back to where they used to be. Here's a helpful list of the top 5 ways you can help your organize control and reduce costs for 2010 while giving your employees the support they need to stay productive and keep your business running smoothly.

#1: Managed IT Services
If you use an outside firm to help you with your daily IT support needs, make sure that you can answer 'yes' to all of the following questions.  If you can't, it's time to re-evaluate your service contract and your IT firm. Look for a Managed IT Service Provider that can provide you the proactive maintenance, strategic planning and budget control that you need for 2010.

  • Do you receive unlimited IT/network support for a flat monthly cost?
  • Do you have a method for accurately predicting your IT expenditures as you grow for each employee that you add?
  • Do you have you have the ability to get help 24x7 if you need it?
  • Are you provided with device monitoring tools that can alert you about potential problems which could affect your systems/network (ie. virus, disk space usage, etc.)
  • Do you have a formal SLA contract in-place that guarantees trouble-ticket response times?
  • Are all of your systems up to date with the latest security patches and virus definitions?
  • Do you have anti-virus protection software installed on each system in your network?
  • Do you have clear and easy methods for contacting your IT support staff?
  • Do you have a way of tracking all work that was done for your users and your network each day/week/month?
  • Do you have a contact that reviews with you on a regular basis your IT goals, project plans and ongoing technology recommendations?

#2: Internal Staff vs. Outsourcing Evaluation
Depending on the size of your organization, it comes time to evaluate which IT strategy is the most beneficial and cost efficient: Should I hire an internal person/staff or outsource my IT needs?

What's the best choice? It depends.  For small businesses, it's usually always more cost efficient to hire an outside firm to support your IT needs.  The cost of an annual contract compared to the salary of a quality engineer is often an easy choice.  Many midsize and enterprise organizations have one person on staff who manages the daily operations of the business, including an outsourced IT staff.  While others understand that's it's difficult to staff an entire team to fill the gaps of your entire realm of IT needs - from helpdesk technicians up to CIO.

It's important for the business owner, head of finance, or head of operations to sit down with a trusted IT partner and evaluate the following:

  • How many IT resources/personnel do I need to employ to fully support our organization?  
  • Can I ensure that the employee/staff will be able to successfully manage all of our network needs?
  • If I hire an employee/staff, will I still need to bring in high-level consultants for larger projects?
  • Can the employee/staff handle all day-to-day issues that come up as well as provide the strategic planning/guidance to implement new technologies?
  • Have I factored in the cost of bonuses, salary increases, hardware and employee training costs in my cost-benefit analysis?
  • Is it important for me to have someone physically in the office every day to support my users?
  • Do I have a resource for purchasing the right hardware at the best possible price?

#3: Cloud Hosting Technologies
Do you have one or multiple servers that you manage in-house?  Do they reside at your office location or do you pay for data center space?  Take a look at your central business technologies and evaluate whether it is more cost and time efficient to move them up to the cloud.  Make sure to do a full ROI comparison and a cost-benefit analysis to determine what's best for your organization in terms of budget, management time, and in-house expertise.

For example, an organization managing a full Windows infrastructure might be running Exchange Server, SharePoint, and an ERP system.  Take two huge pieces out of that puzzle and move your e-mail and document collaboration utilities up to the cloud.  Microsoft released their new Online Services which bundles Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communications and Live Meeting all for only $10/user (and only $5/user if you're just dealing with Exchange).  You can take advantage of an immediate ROI by eliminating the costs of licensing, hardware, software, backup utilities, storage devices, data center space, an engineer to manage your environment, and more.  Just the peace of mind is enough that two of your most crucial business technologies are taken care of and backed by a fully secure, redundant, high-powered Microsoft infrastructure (all for pennies on the dollar of what you would have to spend to build a comparable environment).

#4: Virtualization
Thanks to some of the newest technology updates in 2009, organizations can take advantage of proven virtualization technologies that can reduce costs, save on excess hardware, and maximize performance.  Take a look at the following technologies that can surely help you move towards both an eco-friendly and cost efficient infrastructure:

  • Compellent: Compellent delivers an industry-leading network storage solution by removing the limits of physical drives and aggregating them into logical virtual volumes. Their virtualization technologies significantly lower storage infrastructure costs, reduce energy expenditures and recover any size volume to any server in less than 10 seconds.
  • Citrix Xen Server: Consolidate your servers and reduce your data center costs by deploying Citrix's powerful and proven server virtualization technologies.  By providing features like live migration, shared storage support, and centralized multi-server management, XenServer enables any organization, no matter the size or budget, to immediately benefit from the power of virtualization for server consolidation and business continuity.
  • Microsoft Essential Business Server: For midsize organizations who have hit the limit of Small Business Server (SBS), take a look at Essential Business Server- an affordable yet powerful multi-server solution that supports up to 300 users.  EBS 2008 consolidates core infrastructure to three server roles, and also supports multiple virtualization options, helping to reduce your hardware footprint and lower power consumption to save time and money.

#5: Backup & Disaster Recovery
Have you ever sat down and analyzed how much it would cost your organization if you lost all of your data?  What if your laptop dies and you have no access to your crucial documents?  What if your server crashes and unexpectedly leaves you without any options of recovering your data?  What if you relied on manually swapping out server tapes every night, only to find out that you're only able to recover 25% of the data you thought was being backed up? 

Start evaluating solutions now, while everything is running smoothly, and get  the peace of mind that your data is protected in the case of a disaster. 

Look for a managed business disaster recovery solution that provides virtual restore capabilities so that you can keep working while you replace your hardware.

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