Oct 26 2011

5 Ways to Stretch Your IT Dollars

Here are five technologies that can help businesses get more for their money.

In this tough economy, most companies are hard-pressed to make the most of their operating dollars. But with a little creativity, this doesn't have to be a daunting task. Here are five ways your IT department can use technology to boost your company’s bottom line.

1. Consider Network-Enabled Copy Machines

While it's no secret that many popular copy machines can receive print jobs from networked clients, many also support scan functions, virtually eliminating the need for both desktop printers and desktop scanners. Given the cost of consumables for inkjet printers and the lifecycle of scanners, this is an easy win for the company.

2. Equip Teleworkers with KVM Switches

When setting up employees for telework, start by auditing what peripherals they use at home on their personal computers. If they are agreeable to the idea, share these peripherals between their existing computer and their company notebook by providing a keyboard/video/mouse (KVM) switch. These low-cost devices enable two or more computers to share a set of peripherals. With costs starting less than $50, this purchase is easily justified: The IT department is spared the cost of a monitor, keyboard and mouse; and users can save space and use their own peripherals for both their home and work machines.

3. Deploy Virtual Servers Wherever Possible

Companies that haven't yet made the jump to virtual servers should consider doing so as part of their next refresh cycle. While it’s a sizable initial investment, the case for virtualization cannot be ignored. Not only does virtualization give an IT department the flexibility to add servers on the fly, but unused resources can be allocated to a pool when a server isn't in use, giving a performance boost to remaining servers.

Additionally, blade servers reduce both cooling and energy costs, resulting in a dramatically lower total cost of ownership for blades than for their stand-alone counterparts.

4. Replace Docking Stations with USB Hubs

While it may seem perfectly natural to buy an expensive docking station with every notebook computer, few users actually need all the functionality such devices offer. Ten years ago, the docking station was more or less required: It gave users a way to quickly connect and disconnect their portable devices while using the wasted space beneath old CRT monitors.

These days, however, most notebooks primarily use USB connectivity, and there’s less need for extra space thanks to the smaller footprint of LCD monitors. Consider skipping the dock altogether and just purchasing a USB hub. Aside from a single USB connection, most notebooks require only a power cord, a video cord and possibly an Ethernet cable to be connected when the user “docks.” This takes very little time in exchange for a cost savings of up to $200 per workstation.

5. Forgo a Bandwidth Upgrade for Packet-Shaping Technology

It may be tempting to pay a little more to increase your company's bandwidth to accommodate times when demand is at its highest (we're looking at you, Monday morning!), but a more cost-effective approach is to employ packet shapers. A packet shaper works with a gateway device to prioritize network traffic so that less critical traffic comes through at a slower rate than mission-critical data.

This can be set as a static policy or adjusted in real time according to what is taxing the company's network. The result is consistent performance devoid of the officewide slowdowns typically experienced first thing in the morning or at lunchtime.