In small businesses, technology can be a major source of competitive advantage, but cost control is vital. Here are ten straightforward and sensible techniques for cutting your technology spend.
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1. Get rid of your outdated equipment
Simple truth: if you're running IT gear that's ten years old because "I don't have time to learn a new system", you're deluded. The time you'll waste on using older systems (and the increasing hassle of keeping those in a maintained state) isn't worth it.
2. Consider moving to the cloud
Cloud-based services have four major advantages: you're no longer responsible for maintaining large items of hardware; your data is automatically backed up off-site; you receive software updates automatically; and you shift from large capex items to predictable (and deductible) opex spend.
3. Standardise on platforms
Running a mixture of platforms -- whether that's a combination of Windows and Macs, or just varying flavours of Windows -- means that you have different day-to-day workflows and maintenance processes to contend with. Consistency leads to less hassles and bigger savings.
4. Document processes
Many small business senior managers also end up maintaining IT because no-one else has been told how to perform common tasks. While it may seem like a hassle to write down those details, it will pay off in the long run. Better one night of documentation than a lifetime of running backup processes.
5. Use the same finance software as your accountant
A simple tip, but one that can save loads of hassle. Why mess around converting files and rekeying data if you don't have to?
6. Digitise all documents
Store physical copies of documents requires costly storage space and makes the documents harder to retrieve. Working electronically as much as possible, and scanning unavoidable paper documents, is a sensible strategy -- and the documents have the same legal status.
7. Don't pay for licences you don't use
If your business changes structure, you may well be paying for software you don't actually use. Check your actual IT usage annually, and eliminate stuff you're not actually using.
8. Check that your phone plans make sense
Pricing for phone services -- both mobile and landline -- have fallen consistently over the last decade, but many businesses remain locked into contracts that don't offer good value. Check what you're using, and if you're being charged a premium for "business-grade" services, make sure those options actually deliver extra features.
9. Look into letting staff work from home
Setting up flexible work environments might seem like a technology expense initially. However, if staff can perform some or all of their work from home, you'll reduce turnover and increase job satisfaction.
10. Find an expert partner
If your business isn't big enough to sustain a full-time IT manager (or you can't find one in your area), finding a good partner, in the form of a reseller or integrator, makes life much easier. IT exists to serve your business, not the other way around.