As a consultant to small and medium sized business, I have specialized in helping them get a handle on their I/T expenses and help them make well informed decisions to maximize those dollars and reduce those expenses. While we employ all sorts of I/T expense analysis tools, most businesses can save something by implementing action plans in these four basic areas.
Better Manage your consumables.
It often times astounds me when I see how much money is spent on technology related consumables. The sad fact is that some companies, which I will allow to remain nameless, will put low costs on their printers and multi-function machines, and make their profits mainly on ink and toner.
There are ways to avoid this trap that are simple and effective. First, as a rule of thumb, if your office is using a color inkjet printer as a primary office printer, you are probably spending too much money. In many cases, the first way to save is to retire that consumable hungry expensive all-in-one ink jet with a more economical black & white laser model. If you do, you can often times save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of the year.
If you still require a color printer, you should research the costs associated with the one that you will use and determine the most productive use and placement for that asset.
Analyze lost productivity
In the effort to minimize expenses, small business will often times overlook the fact that what they save by extending the lifecycle of computers and equipment can lead to a loss of productivity that costs them money every pay period.
I recall an example of a small printing company that was hell bent on keeping expenses down. This company had a very talented individual, whose job it was to receive print files from customers and prepare them for proofing and production. This guy would often times struggle with workarounds and slow downs, because his computer equipment was out of date and slowing him down. I understood that the company was reluctant to spend nearly $4000 on new equipment and another $2000 on software upgrades, but together, we determined that they were losing nearly 10 hour per week of productivity and at this employees rate of pay, it was obvious that the investment should be made. In the end, the production increased and overtime was reduced significantly enough to justify the $6000 expense within four months.
Not every business has this extreme and example of loss of productivity, but I assure you that if you look deep enough, most businesses have at least one area of lost productivity and down time that can be addressed.
Maximize the life of your investments
Although I am not suggesting that you hold onto computers and equipment that has become truly obsolete, there are often times ways to maximize the lifespan and even ways to re-purpose older computers and improve efficiencies in other areas.
I will often employ a trickle-down strategy as it applies to computer equipment within business. For example, when it is time to upgrade the office manager’s computer, it may be time to look down the chain to see if that computer may be useful somewhere else. Perhaps the computer would be well suited for the shipping clerk and increase productivity in that department.
Another method of maximize the life of your investments is through routine maintenance. Although software can be employed to protect from virus’, malware and even perform scheduled tasks, environmental factors such as dust and debris, that can shorten the life of your equipment are often times overlooked. A computer relies on fans to keep critical components cool and functioning properly. Those fans by nature will act like a vacuum cleaner and trap dust and debris into the computer. This will cause the computer to run hot and put added stress on components, reducing life span. The simple solution to this is to simply vacuum or blow the dust out every few months or as needed, depending on your situation and environment.
Protect Your Data
Data protection is too often overlooked and data loss can have a devastating effect on business. Simply put, the idea here is that if you can’t afford to lose it, you need to protect it.
Data protection and back-up can be confusing and there are many solutions to data protection, so here is where I recommend to consult a professional. Each business has unique needs and simply recommending a single solution for all of them would be irresponsible at least, so I will simply outline the basic solution options and hold back on any blanket recommendations.
Fixed Onsite Storage is a solution of creating volumes or dedicated storage areas for workgroups. This will often times be a shared network drive that will contain data accessible to many. This solution allows for a single storehouse of data to be backed-up.
Offsite Storage or “Cloud Storage” as it is also known is a solution of copying data to an external source. There are many providers for this type of data backup and differing methods of storing and maintaining the data.
Removable Storage is a solution that can take the form of an external hard drive, USB Flash Drive, Tape or Disc copies. These methods can be effective for copying transporting and even archiving individual files or groups of files. It can have risks however, as discs can be scratched, external drives dropped and damaged and USB Flash Drives can fail.
Hot Swap RAID Arrays are fancy devices that contain multiple hard drives. Data written to these hard drives is written across two or more drives and in effect duplicated. In the case that a single hard drive should fail, the data is stored on another. The “Hot Swap” refers to the fact that hard drives can be removed and replaced on the go and the data will write itself across the new drive as well. This solution ensures that data is instantaneously copied to multiple drives, but can also copy corrupt data from one drive to the rest of the array. Many Hot Swap RAID Arrays are very restrictive and require identical drives and can be limiting on size upgrades.
SAN’s Solutions, put simply are server attached storage arrays that appear as a locally mounted server drive and can be fully managed by the server protocols and permissions. These solutions are primarily employed in enterprise solutions and allow for a single point of data back-up on the server level.
NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices are more commonly used in small business and SOHO environments. In the most basic form, they are storage devices that attach to the computer network and are accessible throughout the network. Traditionally, these devices attach via an Ethernet port and may or may not use RAID Technology to create redundancy and protect from disk hardware failure.
Hard Drive Cloning is a process in which the contents of a Hard Drive are copied bit for bit onto another hard drive, creating a “Clone” or identical backup drive that can be restored on identical hardware.
Technology Consultants like SCK Unlimited can and will work with you to determine your needs and implement one or more of these solutions to create the Data Backup plan that is best suited for your needs. Again, as each situation is unique, so too is the appropriate solution.