Small businesses never seem to have enough money to do everything they want, and are always looking for ways to do more with less. Unfortunately, technology budgets tend to be among the first sections cut; and as we all know, that tends to have an adverse effect on the operations of the business – costing more in the end!
Thankfully, if done correctly, technology can help a great deal. Big businesses can afford to pay outside professionals to help them save money but small businesses can also save money by using these tips. It’s only fair that small businesses have access to the same information!
This two-part series is just an outline of some cost saving tips you can use to save money but we’ll go into greater depth on some of these topics in future articles. That being said, let’s dive in.
We’ve all heard about cloud services and chances are, you’ve been using some cloud services without even knowing it! If you have ever used Gmail or Yahoo, then you qualify as a bona fide cloud services user. Simply stated, cloud services can remove almost all costs associated with a service/solution, by offering you remote access to your copy of that service/solution on their systems for a nominal monthly fee.
Although on the surface this sounds like a dream come true, it does not work for all services/solutions – yet! There are security concerns, data transfer speed issues and the list goes on. But, the industry is going the Cloud way and as time goes on it will become cheaper and better.
One of the areas that probably is a slam dunk reason to leverage cloud-based services is backup! Cloud based backup solutions have become fairly mature and there are many vendors, like Replica, that offer backup solutions.
Let us look at how this can cut down your costs? Using a cloud-based backup solution as an example of how you can save money let’s assume a typical 5-user network backup solution costs (at a minimum) around $1,200 to implement, including hardware, software and labor. That’s not even taking into account the cost of maintenance throughout the year, electricity costs and the costs (and headaches) of rotating backup sets off-site for disaster recovery reasons. If you truly account for all your hard/soft costs, then you’re well over $2,000 for the initial year.
Depending on the amount of data you’re trying to backup, a robust “business class” cloud-based backup solution would cost, on average, $50/month for about 50GBs of data!
So a cloud-based backup solution will cost you about $600 (spread across 12 months) verses $2,000 for an in-house solution. Which would you choose?
Cloud services may not be right for everything but there are other ways to lower operational costs.
For example, a typical small business, on a well setup infrastructure, is typically looking at a handful of services/solutions deployed within the company as individual servers. For example, you might have email servers, backup servers, file servers, accounting servers, database servers and so on. Some businesses may even have duplicate servers for redundancy and failover!
What’s often is ignored, are the [soft] costs of powering, cooling and maintaining all those different servers. Although there is great wisdom in spreading the load across multiple servers, the truth is, none of those servers are taking advantage of their full potential.
Virtualization allows your networking professionals to stack multiple server roles on one piece of hardware, thereby reducing the soft costs of maintaining multiple separate servers! Let’s say (in our non-virtualized world) each server has a soft cost of $10/month, and you have 10 servers. That translates to $100/month. If you were to provision them correctly, you could use two servers, each performing five different roles.
Now, you have a monthly cost of $20/month.
We need not stop at virtualization; there are other areas in which we can consolidate services. The best example of consolidation is in the area of Cyber Security! It used to be that businesses had to deploy multiple solutions to get 360’ protection against different threat vectors; today we have specialized devices (Next Generation FireWalls) that allow us to consolidate multiple solutions into a single solution.
NGFWs allow easy licensing, bring down the total cost of ownership, reduce management costs by having to only manage a single appliance and give you a higher level of control and integration than multiple solutions from different vendors.
These same advantages can be recognized in other key areas of technology. Consolidation of servers, storage solutions, printing services and databases are just a handful of examples.
Inventory Current Usage Often
You know that gym membership that most people get but never use? Most small businesses tend to pay for more services and features than they actually use. Or they keep paying for and maintaining services/solutions they’re not really using.
A better solution is to carefully track which services or solutions you use (whether they come in the form of hardware or software) and drop the ones you aren’t using. For those assets you do use on a regular basis you can save money by getting rid of outdated devices chewing up your electrical bill and replace them with more energy efficient counterparts. You should also upgrade slow assets eating up your staff’s time.
These are just a handful of ideas to get you started. Be sure to check out part two (here) where I’ll give you even more ways to cut IT costs without cutting value.