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How to Squeeze More Money From Your IT

Written By: Blake York

No matter what your budget looks like, it always pays to save. When facing a difficult economy, making the most of your IT dollar is key. However, some strategies that may look like money-saving tactics on the front end aren’t always what they appear to be. When evaluating your tech options, it’s important to consider future ramifications of what might seem like a quick or cheap fix for today. If you don’t examine all the angles, today’s choices could haunt you sooner than you might think.

Invest in a cheap battery to save energy—and possibly your computer.
Stretch the life of your computer by investing in an inexpensive battery. Keeping your computer system hooked up to a battery lets it receive a steady flow of power instead of the surging ebb and flow of electricity. This is true of all electronic devices—televisions, stereos, etc. An inexpensive UPS (uninterrupted power supply) battery will extend your machine’s life span.

Batteries also protect computers from natural occurrences such as ice storms. Power outages cause by ice storms or other storms, whether they last a few minutes or a few hours, can kill your computer and never let it boot up again. Buying an inexpensive battery could save you from having to buy a whole new computer.

Keep subscriptions current.
Don’t let your software subscriptions run out. Each year, make sure your subscriptions to programs like Antivirus, spam programs, and others are current. If they aren’t, renew them. Updates end when your subscription ends, which means you can get a virus. If you opt not to pay for renewals, you are going to end up paying a lot more to repurchase the programs and have to clean up the viral mess.

Stretch your energy dollar.
Most computers are more energy efficient than ever before, so it’s okay to leave it on. It’s actually better to leave your computer on if you use it daily. There are settings under your machine’s power options that let you tweak usage and power saving features for each user. If you will be away for more than 24 hours, go ahead and power down.

Know where your users are surfing.
It’s important to know where computer users are spending time online. Gaming and kid-friendly sites can crash your computer, so make sure you know in advance what sites users are visiting. Many sites that can download material should be avoided; for example, adult sites, illegal software sites, etc. Smart surfing will keep your computer safe from attacks.

Clean and reorganize (by clicking a few buttons).
In your spring cleaning, don’t forget to keep your hard drive in good order. Defragging may sound complicated, but anyone can do it. If defragging sounds too complicated, this site offers a great explanation as well as instructions on how to defrag: http://www.aarp.org/learntech/computers/howto/a2004-06-16-defrag.html. It’s easy, only takes a few minutes, and will help your computer run better and faster.

Stop ignoring balloons.
When those little popup balloons come up and ask you to update your computer, don’t ignore them. Say yes! These balloons can contain important information and updates. However, just because something pops up doesn’t mean it’s safe and that you should accept. Always read popups first to make sure they come from a trusted source such as your computer’s manufacturer or Microsoft.

Save on telephone bills by getting rid of your telephone line.
Cut the telephone line and switch to VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, a service that converts your voice into a digital signal that travels across the Internet. VoIP can allow you to make a call directly from a computer, a special VoIP phone, or a traditional phone connected to an adapter.

Using VoIP means that power outages are few and far between. A battery backup will keep your phone system up and running even if you have to break out the candles for other tasks.

Wireless isn’t always the best option.
Gadgets can be fun, but sometimes it’s best (and most frugal) to go back to basics. Wireless devices such as keyboards and mouses are notorious for rapidly draining batteries, whereas sticking with wired options will save energy.

Don’t go back in time.
If you can afford it, buy at the “beginning” of a lifecycle. However, this doesn’t mean you have to be the first person on the block with the fanciest new technology. Just invest in the best you can afford. Beware of fire-sales and “good” deals—they often cost you more in the long run because they require add-ons and expensive upgrades. Just keeping an old jalopy up to speed could drain your budget.

Remember: When prices drop, there is usually a reason. Think, research and compare. Don’t let yourself buy on impulse. An old machine will have a much shorter (or already defunct) life cycle, and the technology for it may not even be sold any longer. You don’t want a computer that will only last a year or two instead of several years.

You don’t have to jump at every upgrade.
You don’t always have to have the latest versions of every program to be productive and up to speed. Some upgrades are only required every two years, so hold on to your money until then.

It slices, it dices, it… Can cost more than you have to spend.
Beware the “all in one” solution. If you need a fax machine, then buy a fax machine. You don’t necessarily need a fax machine that scans, prints, photocopies and makes a cappuccino. Just get what you need.

No matter what the economic climate is, it’s always a good idea to examine your technology solutions and make sure you’re using the best options available. With just a little savvy, some good planning, and implementing some small solutions to fix potentially big financial drainers, plenty of tech pennies can be saved.

Blake York is the President of Dallas-based eLink Systems a technology solutions company that provides expertise on hardware sales and installation; network consulting, analysis, and implementation; network security; Web design and hosting; data backup and recovery; and VoIP, T1 and communications services. 

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