For small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), maintaining control over IT costs is crucial for financial sustainability and operational efficiency. Here are some tailored strategies to help SMBs in Manchester keep control of their IT costs:
1. Strategic Planning and Budgeting:
• Develop a comprehensive IT strategy aligned with business goals – as a very simple example, if you’re planning to increase staff headcount then include the costs of additional computers and software licences in your calculations!
• Create a realistic IT budget that considers both short-term and long-term needs – remember that computers are machines and have a finite lifespan; just like motor vehicles they need replacing at some point and it’s far better to be aware of this than wait until everything crashes.
• Prioritise IT initiatives based on business impact and urgency – don’t fall into the trap of implementing the ‘latest and greatest’ unless you can see a tangible business return and benefit.
2. Outsourcing IT Services:
• Consider outsourcing specific IT functions to reputable service providers.
• Outsourcing can provide cost savings compared to hiring and maintaining an in-house IT team.
• Ensure that the chosen providers understand the unique needs of your business.
For tips on how to choose the right IT provider for your business check out this handy article.
3. Cloud Computing:
• Embracing cloud solutions can deliver scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness, but remember that ‘cloud computing’ is far from a panacea for all IT challenges.
• Although the concept of paying only for the services and resources you use, when you use it is very attractive, for many SMEs the sums don’t quite stack up; a good IT service provider will be able to help you evaluate options.
4. Regular IT Audits:
• Conduct regular IT audits to identify inefficiencies and areas for cost optimisation – have you got some printers that are rarely used, but are powered up 24/7?
• Assess the usage and performance of software, hardware, and services – if you’re not using hardware or features, either switch it off or check if a less comprehensive package may be more suitable.
• Check that users are still active and that licenses are required. Offboarding remains a persistent challenge observed across numerous companies, and while we usually know when a new staff member joins (requiring a new user license, email address and so on) we are rarely informed when one leaves or a PC is scrapped! In addition to the cost implication, this presents a security risk as access passwords and logins are still active, even if dormant.
• Ensure compliance with licensing agreements to avoid unnecessary penalties.
5. Open-Source Software:
As a rule of thumb, Open-Source Software can generally be freely deployed and used without requiring paid-for licences; this may seem to be almost a no-brainer, but there are a couple of important caveats:
a) Deployment and Support assistance is often extremely limited (or non-existent) and there is no recourse to compensation etc. if an organisation suffers financial loss because of using the software.
b) Don’t underestimate the time that it takes to set up Open-Source software and systems, especially if there is little documentation – and it might not even work at the end of the day!
As the adage goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch – factor in the time taken to deploy, plus a healthy contingency for risk, and it may work out more cost-effective to use a proven, supported and maintained commercial product.
6. Utilise MS365 tools you already have within your license:
How you checked out all the functionality included in your Microsoft/Office 365 licences? You may be surprised at the sheer volume of features and services that are bundled into your subscriptions.There’s lots more on this here
7. Energy Efficiency:
Energy costs aren’t showing much sign of dropping any time soon, so implementing energy-efficient IT infrastructure to reduce operational costs makes absolute sense. This could be as simple as making sure monitors are switched off overnight. It’s also worth investing in computer physical cleans to remove internal fluff/lint build-up and improve efficiency. You might like to read more here about why you need to keep your IT equipment clean.
8. Employee Training:
Invest in training programs to enhance employee IT skills.
Well-trained employees can troubleshoot minor software issues, reducing the need for external support, but beware of ‘scope creep’.
Individuals who are ‘IT enthusiasts’, but lack training, may inadvertently increase costs by tinkering with settings which then require specialist input to rectify errors, adding to the overall expense.
9. Vendor Negotiations:
Negotiate effectively with IT vendors for better pricing and contract terms – a local vendor may offer much more personalised services and consolidating vendor relationships may both improve the overall commercial deal and reduce administrative costs.
10. Security Measures:
Prioritise cybersecurity to avoid the horrific costs associated with data breaches – robust security measures to protect sensitive information are often not particularly expensive, whilst the risk of loss most certainly is.
Educate employees on security best practices to prevent cyber threats.
11. Regular Technology Refresh:
Plan for regular updates and replacements of outdated hardware and software – remember that all IT contains moving parts which will wear out. Proactively addressing end-of-life issues will help prevent unexpected costs.
Consider buying refurbished equipment or possibly looking at financing options to spread out the costs of technology upgrades. For help on buying tech equipment for your business we’ve got some guidance here
12. Flexible Work Policies:
Flexible work policies, including remote work options, could reduce the need for extensive office IT infrastructure.
Ensuring that technology supports the needs of remote or hybrid work setups is a smart move, even if many businesses are proving the benefits of face-to-face physical collaboration.
13. Collaboration and Communication Tools:
Invest in cost-effective collaboration tools for efficient communication – as noted above, you may already have access to them in existing software packages, so why not use them?
14. Monitoring and Analytics:
Most IT service providers will have monitoring tools in place to track IT infrastructure performance – so are well-placed to advise if there are bottlenecks or underperforming hardware that, if replaced, will deliver worthwhile benefits. As always, proactively addressing issues before they escalate inevitably reduces downtime and associated costs.
By implementing these tailored strategies, small to medium-sized businesses in Manchester can effectively control their IT costs while ensuring that technology aligns with their business objectives. Regularly review and adjust these strategies to adapt to evolving business needs and technological advancements.
Our Managed IT Service is designed specifically to meet the needs of small businesses in the region, allowing them to focus on what they do best. If you are a North West business considering outsourcing your IT is managed in 2024 or if you would like to discuss the strategies for keeping control of your costs in more detail then please get in touch to arrange a no obligation discussion