In this new era of fiscal responsibility and uncertain economic times, all businesses are looking for ways they can save money and be more productive. Information technology (IT) enables companies to be more efficient and effective; it can help them save money. Leveraging the right technologies by adopting recent advances in IT allows companies to enhance value and gain a competitive advantage.
Here are six key recommendations on how IT solutions can help save your business money:
1. Internet-Based Software Solutions – It is well established that the right investment in enterprise (meaning organization-wide) software can help your business boost employee productivity and therefore help the bottom line. As a consequence, there exist countless off-the-shelf enterprise software applications that help to automate common business practices ranging from accounting to membership management to sales force automation. Unfortunately, finding the ideal business application to match your particular business is often not as easy as one might think.
The traditional answer for finding the perfect software fit has often included three intimidating and expensive words: “custom software development.” That is because hiring a software development firm to build your business’ “killer app” can be time consuming, costly and risky.
Enter Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). These Internet based software solutions can provide your business with the best of both worlds – the ability to limit development time and deployment costs while still offering the flexibility to craft a custom solution.
SaaS solutions are based on the idea that sharing resources provided by experts is more cost-effective and yields better results. You basically “rent” the expensive software infrastructure including web, database and the hardware needed to run it from a provider and pay them an affordable monthly fee. Generally with SaaS, the application is highly customizable to fit a business’ needs. Best of all, to run a SaaS solution, all that is needed is a PC with a reliable Internet connection. Users can connect to your SaaS business application from virtually anywhere.
Most SaaS providers such as Inuit’s popular QuickBase application or SalesForce.com’s CRM system come ready to run with previously created templates and designs that are straightforward and easy to manipulate.
When licensing SaaS software solutions consider purchasing single-seat licenses for current users rather than an enterprise-wide license. Then scale up with more licenses only as needed. Regardless of your task or budget, there is probably a SaaS software solution that can help your workforce become more productive.
2. Managed Services – Managed services offer affordable, increased levels of support and network availability for improved effective and efficient technical IT operations. Similar to SaaS software solutions, managed services provide a “toolkit” of back-end support systems which provide customers access to leading support technologies without having to pay for the hardware infrastructure.
Instead of hosting and maintaining many commonly-used technologies in-house, companies can have these managed remotely, saving valuable time and financial resources. More importantly, when combined with traditional IT support (such as on-site maintenance and remote help desk support), managed services bring a truly robust “IT department” solution to a growing business. And like SaaS solutions, managed services are generally offered for an affordable monthly price, saving your business money with no up-front investment.
Featured services provided by managed service providers typically include:
1. Remote network monitoring
2. Desktop and security monitoring
3. Patch management
4. Remote data backup
5. IP Telephony
6. Messaging and Call Center
7. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs)
8. Technical Assistance
3. Virtualization – Virtualization technologies minimize hardware costs by moving from physical to virtual (i.e. software-based) servers. This radical shift from traditional “big iron” hardware solutions to virtualized “cloud” based systems allow users to operate one piece of hardware to support multiple systems. A user can run several virtual machines on a single real computer system and the virtualization software will provide memory, processor and other hardware resources to each virtual machine.
There are numerous benefits to virtualization. Virtualization reduces capital and operational expenses and provides immediate, tangible and quantifiable cost savings. It also minimizes potential lost revenue associated with possible downtime, outages and failures.
In addition, virtualization also contributes to green initiatives, as less hardware is used, resulting in less energy wasted. Before you purchase a new server (or servers), ask how virtualization can save your firm money; many virtualization projects quickly pay for themselves.
4. Teleconferencing – Teleconferencing and web-based meetings create live, face-to-face experiences over the network, enabling interaction and collaboration with prospects, clients and co-workers online. With high-speed Internet capabilities and improved teleconferencing technologies, businesses can choose from a wide-range of teleconferencing solutions to reduce or replace business travel expenses.
One such example is GoToMeeting, an easy and cost-effective Web conferencing tool that allows businesses to organize meetings and meet online rather than in a conference room.
These flexible, easy-to-use resources allow businesses to conduct last minute or scheduled presentations in real-time. They will help to improve productivity, generate additional revenue, replace business travel costs and support green initiatives by reducing a firm’s carbon footprint. They also help employees keep a healthy work/life balance by allowing them to spend more time with their families and less time on the road.
5. Phone Systems – Consider a Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP)-based phone system. IP based phone systems allow you to extend consistent communication services to employees in all workspaces. Often, IP phones can be run directly over existing Internet connections. Whether employees are working on a main campus, branch offices, or remotely, IP phone systems provide an open, strategic platform for extending customer-care beyond simple phone transactions to content-rich, customer-centric experiences. Additionally, they can be cheaper to operate than conventional telecom systems.
6. Donations – Support PC recycling programs such as Rockville, Maryland’s Project Reboot, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization by donating old/unneeded computer equipment. Your old computers will be given a new life (as they will be wiped clean, repaired and upgraded) and then provided to families, senior centers, religious organizations and other local charities that really need them. Donations may be tax-deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.
Make the most of your IT investment by using technology to create competitive advantages. Your firm may increase sales and employee productivity, maintain data integrity, gain another point of differentiation from the competition and more effectively serve its customers.
David Eisner is the president and CEO of Dataprise, Inc., a Rockville, Maryland-based leading information technology services provider, systems integrator and managed IT services firm for small- and medium-sized businesses throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Visit http://www.dataprise.com for more information.