Small Business IT Cost Cutting…Is It Worth It?

As a small business owner, you are trying to stretch your financial resources as far as possible. In today’s economy, this is a bigger challenge than ever before. IT and the “computer stuff” tend to receive a small (if any) portion of the budget. This lack of resources provides challenges for small business and their staff.

When skimping on your IT needs you may end up spending additional resources (time, money or staff) to do the same job or work may have to be skipped altogether. Trail versions should not replace the full functioning program.  Typically trail versions are limited by time or functionality. The “home” or “lite” version of anything is usually not suitable for businesses, unless you know you can work within the limits of the software or operating system. Reusing or re-purposing older equipment is a great idea as long as the equipment can meet the current demands of the application.

Below are some examples of typical cost cutting scenarios which may cost you more in the end:

  • Choosing the Home version of the Windows™ Operating system for an office computer. The Home version is approximately $100 less than the Pro version. A client I had opted for the Home version, but he was then unable to back up to a network device as this version does not support this functionality. Additional resources had to be used to perform the backup. Please be aware of the limitations between Windows 7 Home Premium™ and Windows 7 Pro™. A comparison chart is available at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows7/products/compare.
  • Choosing the “Lite” or “Home” version of Internet service from your ISP. This service may provide less bandwidth than may be required by your office. In one case, this cost cutting prevented several users from using Skype (free video calling and/or chat) at the same time. Online application tutorials were also unusable due to choppy and lagging video.
  • Using a desktop computer as a file server and workstation at the same time. Imagine a user trying to work on this same system, can you feel their frustration when the system slows to a crawl as everyone in the office is trying to access the shared files on this same computer?
  • Purchasing a “bare-bones” or “bottom of the line” laptop or computer for office use. I know how tempting this can be. Before you make this type of acquisition, ensure all your required software will run on the system now and in the future. The typical result of purchasing a “bare-bones” or “bottom on the line” system is a computer on which applications run slowly or a limited number of applications can be open at once. Spend a little more money for a better quality and faster system that exceeds your current needs. In most cases, there is no reason to buy the latest and greatest for your everyday business requirements.

There are many ways you can stretch your IT dollar. You can reuse older computers for storage devices.  Open source software is free and can be a viable alternative for the expensive commercial program. You can find open source software that can substitute commercial current programs. For example, Open Office is an excellent replacement for Microsoft Office™. Gimp can replace Photoshop. For a list of Open Source business alternatives, go to http://mashable.com/2010/06/17/foss-for-small-businesses/.

When it comes to saving money on your IT needs, be critical of your current and future needs. I am not suggesting you purchase the top of the line hardware, but the bare bones system may not be the most economical choice either. You may find the “bare bones” system will not run your required software or additional hardware may have to be added to meet your needs. Any “home” or “lite” versions should be researched to ensure it meets your needs today, and foreseeable future. Talk to your IT Specialist to determine where you can save money on your IT needs.