Aug 17 2009

Innovative Efforts

Photo: Matthew Gilson

To succeed in today’s economic climate, businesses need not only the determination to outwork their competitors, but also the vision to see beyond their business-as-usual practices to find new efficiencies and innovative ways to stretch their IT dollars.

At Horizon Chillicothe Telephone, an Ohio telecommunications provider, being successful means being mobile. That’s why Bob Newman, Horizon’s manager of information technology, matches the company’s employees with the devices they need. Managers are issued both notebooks and smartphones because constant access is critical. If servers go down at 3 a.m., for example, the company’s IT management software alerts Newman and other supervisors through text messages on their smartphones, so they can quickly resolve the problem. Netbooks are a perfect fit for the technicians and a good addition to the many mobile computing choices available today, Newman says.

“I wouldn’t want to work all day long on a netbook on my desk, but if I’m traveling, it fills the void between a smartphone and a full-fledged notebook,” he says. “Netbooks are a niche that a lot of people are looking for.”

For more about how Horizon Chillicothe Telephone and other businesses have successfully implemented mobile devices, see "On the Move."

In the Cloud

For some firms, cloud computing is providing flexibility and scalability with minimal investment. IDC analyst Ray Boggs sees cloud computing strategies gaining traction in small- and medium-sized businesses, but says that a hybrid approach (in which companies contract some software services and run some applications in their own data centers) will predominate in the near future.

“For now, cloud computing is part of the basic arsenal,” Boggs says. “There are still levels of performance that people are going to look for in their own data centers. Cloud computing is a relatively effortless way to get relief for IT pain. In these times, anything that’s incremental and easy to update at minimal cost has to be an option to consider.”

Douglas Menefee’s vision of the future of cloud computing is more expansive: The approach will eventually become the norm for businesses of all sizes, says the CIO of Schumacher Group, a staffing firm in Lafayette, La. “Small businesses will become midsize businesses, and they’re not going to say at that point, ‘Let’s go and build out a data center now at a big expense,’” he says.

To learn more about how companies are benefiting from being in the cloud, read "A Cloudy Forecast."

One for All

Yogurtini Self-Serve, a fast-growing frozen yogurt company in Tempe, Ariz., that expects to have 200 franchise locations within a year, recently moved to in-house multifunction printing as a way to save money.

Before investing in an all-in-one printer with Wi-Fi, owner Natasha Nelson spent a lot of time and money at the local print shop, producing promotional materials, nutritional information for various flavors, coupons and the daily list of flavors and toppings.

“With one store, it wasn’t as much of an issue, but now that we’re looking at managing 200 or more stores, every penny will count,” she says. “Once we got this machine, the stress just evaporated. I know we’ve cut our printing costs at least in half.”

For more about technologies that businesses are utilizing to make the most of their budgets, see "The Art of ROI."

Ryan Petersen
Managing Editor