The IT industry’s rapid evolution tends to leave a lot of question marks on the balance sheet. Last year’s necessary and large expenses are this year’s budgeting landmines, as progress continues to increase options and reduce costs.
From time to time, it’s important to take a step back and examine your current infrastructure, weighing it against recent industry breakthroughs, which can lower costs as well as simplify development and administration. In particular, these specific areas have the ability to stretch tight budgets while improving results.
Reduce Software Expenses
Some older software that requires periodic renewal or client access licenses may be irrelevant by today’s standards. In many cases, free and open source solutions have materialized to replace older proprietary software while learning curves have diminished.
For example, that once solid line in the sand between Microsoft and Linux has become a blur as Microsoft now supports Linux within virtual machines and Azure instances. SQL Server 2016 runs on Linux or even Docker containers. It’s worth investigating these new configurations as a method to reduce our intangible asset expenses, as the cost of bringing admins and techs up to speed can be insignificant compared to the long-term savings.
Ditch Systems That Hinder Productivity
Systems that are functionally obsolete cost more to administer and maintain than newer solutions. The obvious losers here are legacy tape backup and offsite storage systems, which can usually be replaced with cloud-based backups such as Amazon Glacier for a fraction of the cost. In addition, some newer equipment can benefit from increased automation, requiring fewer administrative resources.
Be sure not to overlook possible tax deductions when retiring equipment. Older but functional equipment can often be donated to organizations to be repurposed for educational needs.
Take Advantage of Low-Cost Development Environments
Vendors are realizing the advantages of providing affordable development resources to companies who may become customers for the long haul. In many cases, it’s no longer necessary to shell out any cash until it’s actually time to deploy.
VMware and Microsoft Virtual Labs offer free dev environments for many scenarios. Even complex equipment can be modeled with VMware virtual appliances. Or eliminate on-site expenditures entirely using low-cost cloud instances, which can be up and running in seconds with the latest solutions pre-installed and ready for testing.
Commoditize the Network
The case for expensive networking equipment grows weaker by the year as ultra-cheap commodity switches can do the job better and simpler using software-defined networking. While it might not make sense to toss that $12,000 legacy router, it does mean that future networking purchases can be handled more efficiently due to advances in technology. This doesn’t necessarily require a vendor change, as even Cisco is integrating the OpenFlow SDN protocol into their administrative offerings with OpFlex.
Build Scalable Capacity for Growth
Gone are the days of expensive over-procurement in order to prepare for rapid growth or occasional burst capacity. Today, cloud resources can be rapidly deployed or upgraded during times of peak usage. For most businesses, a hybrid cloud/on-site topology provides the lowest operating costs while still allowing for growth without hiccups. With the proper implementation, capacity can be expanded with just a few clicks within Ansible, the AWS Console, or Azure Portal.
Improve Department Efficiency
Business processes have come under scrutiny in recent years as companies look for ways to improve project outcomes. As a result, traditional waterfall processes have given way to newer methods such as Agile and DevOps. When implemented within an IT department, these processes can dramatically improve operating efficiency, allowing projects to be completed faster with fewer resources.
As revolutionary as some of these processes may sound, they don’t require a complete revamp to implement. For example, by simply designating and training one member of the team as a ScrumMaster, an entire department can implement complex projects more cohesively. Many businesses have also found a huge benefit to coordinating development and operations efforts with DevOps strategies.
Keep Your Admins Current
As part of this evolution toward more affordable IT, it’s critical that you hire professionals with the most up-to-date certifications, and provide them with opportunities to advance their skills as new tech emerges. This is often overlooked as a cost-saving strategy, but there is a clear history that IT pros with the latest skills actually improve the bottom line. For example:
- Database admins should be knowledgeable or even certified on up-and-coming NoDB solutions.
- Network administrators should have the latest SDN implementation skills, as well as expertise with analysis and optimization tools such as Wireshark.
- Today’s server admins need cloud expertise and experience with administration tools that tame complex environments such as Ansible, Puppet, and PowerShell.
In the world of IT, new doesn’t always equate to more expensive. By taking stock of areas where procurement and staffing improvements can be made, and by keeping our employees on top of cost-cutting industry developments, we can stretch a challenging cash flow environment while delivering innovation to the bottom line.