In times of scarcity, businesses of all kinds need to watch the pennies.
Yet IT is the powerhouse of most businesses, so any technical cost reduction needs to be handled very carefully so as not to negatively impact crucial productivity and processes.
So, let’s explore 10 ways you can reduce your organisation’s IT costs without hampering your day-to-day operations.
Monitor & Reduce Energy Consumption
Monitoring energy usage can be a difficult one for SME’s, especially if you only have your energy meters and bills to go by. But given the current energy crisis, there’s no time like the present to think of ways to save energy.
Use whatever means you have to establish an awareness of how much energy you use in a week or even a day. Remember that IT is much more than PCs and servers plugged into the mains; for example, if you have a server room, think about how much it costs to keep it cool, or if you use electronic displays in meeting rooms and entrance ways that are always switched on, consider their running costs and whether they really need to be on at all times.
Similarly, are there any IT functions that can be rationalised? For example, do you really need an on-premises server room when you can invest in a cloud solution that does the same job? Do you really need multiple servers when you can use a single partitioned server that does the work of many? If any of your team use laptops, can you ask them to work from battery power wherever possible?
Embarking on an energy-reduction drive can also be a good opportunity to explore automating monotonous manual tasks. If it takes an office junior 5 minutes to do a task that could be mostly or totally automated, then that’s 5 minutes’ worth of energy spent running their PC effectively wasted (not to mention a waste of 5 minutes of their productivity!).
Consider Using Laptops – And Flexible Working
Though laptops aren’t appropriate for some specialist tasks, they can be far more energy efficient than standard PCs. In fact, the French Environment Agency, ADEME, estimated that laptops are at least 50% more energy efficient than desktops – a figure that can even reach 85% in certain circumstances.
Your average, low-to-mid range laptop can handle most administrative tasks in its stride. Laptops also benefit from their battery – they’re not always tethered to the mains, potentially providing further relief to your energy usage.
Moving your teams across to laptops also comes with an additional perk – it immediately makes flexible, hybrid working easier. Not only do workers generally prefer some level of hybrid working practices, experimenting with remote working can ease the company’s energy consumption.
Just think how much energy could you save if your office staff worked from home every Friday? You’d need the right IT, security, and telephony in place to do so of course, but you would likely make savings on electricity, heating, cooling, and on boiling the kettle!
New Tech Can Be Cheaper Than Old Tech
Running old PCs can be a costly game. As devices get older, they generally start to slow down. As software updates build and new, more demanding tech developments arise, older hardware has to work harder in order to keep up. The result is a slow machine that gets in the way of productivity and has to draw more energy to do the same tasks as a newer device.
Things don’t get much easier if you simply upgrade older devices. Intel discovered that upgrading older PCs (older than 4 years old) can cost 1.6 times more than upgrading a “younger” PC. So, it may be cheaper to replace older devices rather than upgrading them – newer devices are generally more energy efficient and future-proof too.
Slow tech also presents productivity, personnel, and even morale costs too. Let’s say you have a team member that works Monday to Friday and experiences 15 minutes of tech-induced unproductivity a day. That’s an hour and a quarter of unproductivity they experience every week through no fault of their own – time you are paying them for. Additionally, slow IT causes a great deal of irritation, and therefore can wither morale and job satisfaction.
Investigate Your Tech Contracts & SLAs
Take a look at the contracts you have in place for services like IT support, broadband, maintenance contracts, leased devices, software licences, and cloud software subscriptions. Can you see anywhere where you are paying for extras you don’t need, or anywhere you’re overpaying compared with your actual use of the service?
For example, are you paying to being able to run 100 user accounts on your cloud productivity software when you’re a pretty stable team of 15? Are you leasing or paying maintenance for devices that are currently in the store room, gathering dust?
When it comes to service contracts like broadband or telephony, investigate your options. If your contract has come to an end and is operating on a “rolling” basis, costs can sometimes creep up and up. Approach your provider with an accurate picture of what you need (with an additional “buffer” allowance, just in case) and renegotiate the best possible contract you can. Locking yourself into a contract with set costs is often more cost effective than letting a rolling agreement run.
Yet reviewing your contracts with a fine-tooth comb doesn’t always need to be an exercise in cutting and reducing. Is there a way that one software subscription could do the same job as two or more? Could you automate any business-critical processes? Are you paying a premium for a certain kind of functionality where there may be a perfectly good free and open-source solution that can do the same task?
Monitor Your Network Infrastructure
We’ve talked a lot about PCs and endpoints in this article, but they aren’t the only place where savings can emerge. Investigating the inner workings of your network – and indeed the cybersecurity measures you use – can also help you save money.
If you currently invest in some level of network monitoring, your IT department or provider may be able to identify places where you can streamline your network setup, potentially freeing up hardware and making things run more smoothly. This would also be a good opportunity to probe your network’s incoming and outgoing traffic to make sure that you are appropriately covered by security measures like firewalling and sandboxing throughput.
Exercises like these can also be a good way to clamp down on costly shadow IT, uncover tech that may have been forgotten over the years, and to keep your network as efficient as possible. It’s also an excellent opportunity to begin (or update) any IT asset management efforts.
Outsource IT Support & Security
Though “adding another cost” may seem like an odd spot of advice for reining in expenses, we need to remember the potential losses that are at stake. Not only is productivity loss from poor IT a slow and silent killer, but falling victim to a cyber attack can be downright devastating to a small business.
The reported costs of falling victim to data crime tend to vary wildly. At the higher end, in their Cost of a Data Breach 2022 report, IBM and Ponemon found that the average total cost of a data breach between 2021 and 2022 was USD 4.35 million! At the more conservative end of the spectrum, the average total cost of breaches in DCMS’s 2022 Cyber Breach Report are a lot less scary – £3,080 to £19,400 depending on business size. Either way, it’s money that many of us simply don’t have lying around.
On the surface, large organisations with deep pockets may seem like a more optimal target for cybercriminals. However, big businesses are far more likely to have tightened their cyber-defences, especially given the cybersecurity threats circling during/following the pandemic.
Cybercriminals are increasingly seeing that smaller, less-well-defended organisations are much more of a soft touch in terms of security preparedness.
When you outsource support, security, and IT consultancy, you’ll get someone on the other end of the phone when things go wrong, someone maintaining a 24/7 watch on your IT security, and someone to help you make sound IT decisions respectively – all potentially for an agreed SLA fee per month.
Do it Once, Do it Well
This is good advice regardless of the type of savings you’re trying to make. Aim to carry out your cost-cutting exercise effectively enough that you only need to do it once for the time being. If you end up constantly running on a treadmill of cost-cutting, you’ll eventually start to experience diminishing returns: your cuts will get smaller and less impactful; your team will start to tire of the constant, increasingly nit-picky change; and your own efforts start to be desperately needed elsewhere.
The most effective way to see cost savings is to focus on changes that will be felt within the following quarter at the very most. Focusing on changes that will be felt years down the line may end up being too little too late.
Consider Tangential IT Costs
Let’s take a look at costs that sit on the fringes of IT – costs that can all erode your company’s bottom line.
The first is printing. Do you leave your printers on overnight? Are you using the most energy efficient printers available? Are there any times of the day when you can reliably switch printers off? Are your team actively printing in ways that eliminate unnecessary pages – or even reduce pages through duplex printing or printing multiple pages to a sheet? Indeed – how viable is a totally paperless system within your organisation?
We’ve mentioned automation a few times here, but when you automate something, you save human energy, power consumption, make time savings, eradicate the potential for human error, and potentially boost morale. If it takes someone 5 minutes to do an automatable task, and they have to do that just 6 times a day, that’s a whole half-hour of their day – 2.5 hours a week – dedicated to this activity.
If you are using laptops, consider their power settings. Some laptops don’t fully “switch off” by default, merely sitting in a low-power state to give the impression of a fast boot-up. When your colleagues aren’t using a device, make sure it turns itself off properly – low-power states aren’t a huge drain, but it is still wasted energy that has to be paid for.
We’ve touched on on-premise servers above too, but having a dedicated, well-maintained, air-conditioned server room can be a massive draw on power. If, instead of a roomful of dedicated servers, you can use a partitioned cloud server, then it may be worth comparing those costs.
Get Everyone Involved!
It’s likely that all of your team uses IT to some degree, so therefore your whole team needs to do their bit in your cost-cutting exercise.
Firstly, let them know how they can help you with energy costs. Give your team clear guidance and suggestions like unplugging laptops when batteries are full, not over-charging portable devices, not leaving PCs on overnight, switching off printers overnight, and favouring switching PCs and laptops off fully rather than relying on low-power “sleep” states.
Secondly, nobody knows your systems better than those who use them every day. They may know, or eventually uncover, ways that you may be over-spending on your software stack or other such tools. Provide them with a team-wide method (like a Slack or Teams channel) of flagging and discussing changes like these so they can be properly considered and acted on.
Monitor Your Adjustments
There’s no point in making changes unless you follow through and make sure those changes are making an impact.
Thankfully many of the changes we’ve discussed today can be easy to track. Simply establish your tech and energy spend for the 3-6 months before implementing your changes and monitor them going forward to make sure everything is trending downwards.
If costs aren’t going down after weeks or months, it may be time to go back to the drawing board. But if you’ve done all that you can do in terms of tech expenditure, it may be time to consider similar cost-cutting exercises elsewhere.
Good luck and happy saving!
When times ahead seem uncertain, you need the right people in your corner. If you’re looking for assistance with IT support, managed IT services, or simply a knowledgeable critical friend to talk you through your tech cost-saving options, the team here at Just Technology Group are here to assist.