Nearly 40 percent of all business owners struggle to contain technology costs, according to the 2014 SMB Group’s Route to Market Study. Smaller companies feel this burden more than their larger competitors since they spend a greater percentage of their revenues on IT. Alinean Inc., a consulting firm based in Winter Park, Florida, reports that small firms spend 6.9 percent of revenue on technology, while midsized firms spend 4.1 percent, and large firms shell out just 3.2 percent. Of course, spending more money on tech in no way guarantees greater performance. The true measure of return on technology expenditures is whether they, in fact, help you to run your business better and more efficiently. Here are some strategies to keep IT costs down while boosting performance:
Virtualized servers: If you manage a significant amount of data, from client records to inventory control, you’re using a server. For years, the best practice has been for companies to maintain their own server in-house, but this is very expensive. Switching to a secure cloud-based server eliminates many of the associated costs of server ownership while still enabling a business to accomplish needed tasks. Bonus: Because virtual servers are off site they’re less vulnerable to location- based security risks, including natural disasters.
Try before you buy: Many cloud-based business services offer extended free trial periods. Take advantage of these free trials and thoroughly test the program to be sure it works for you. Involve key team members in this evaluation process. This way you won’t spend money on tech that doesn’t meet your needs and you get the buy-in from your team. This approach can sometimes show that the functionality available at the lower tier or free levels may be all you really need right now.
Upgrade conservatively: New tech becomes available every single year, but don’t feel obligated to supply your team with every new device that comes to market. Base your decision to upgrade around current hardware performance and customer requests. If your tech is struggling to keep up with ever-changing Internet, mobile, and client demands, it’s time to upgrade. You can do this strategically by opting to upgrade the tech of the employees in roles most impacted first, or start with tools that directly impact customer service relationships.
Prioritize security: Data breeches are extremely expensive, both financially and in terms of damage done to your customer relationships. Investing in security tools, such as remote wipe capabilities that allow IT managers to remove sensitive data from a lost or stolen mobile device may seem like an added expense, but it’s actually a strategic purchase that can save significant money and stress in the long term.
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