Four Ways to Cut Your Technology Costs Without Sacrifice | Business Technology

As a consultant to small and medium sized business, I have specialized in helping them get a handle on their I/T expenses and help them make well informed decisions to maximize those dollars and reduce those expenses. While we employ all sorts of I/T expense analysis tools, most businesses can save something by implementing action plans in these four basic areas.Better Manage your consumables.It often times astounds me when I see how much money is spent on technology related consumables. The sad fact is that some companies, which I will allow to remain nameless, will put low costs on their printers and multi-function machines, and make their profits mainly on ink and toner.There are ways to avoid this trap that are simple and effective. First, as a rule of thumb, if your office is using a color inkjet printer as a primary office printer, you are probably spending too much money. In many cases, the first way to save is to retire that consumable hungry expensive all-in-one ink jet with a more economical black & white laser model. If you do, you can often times save hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the course of the year.If you still require a color printer, you should research the costs associated with the one that you will use and determine the most productive use and placement for that asset.Analyze lost productivity
In the effort to minimize expenses, small business will often times overlook the fact that what they save by extending the lifecycle of computers and equipment can lead to a loss of productivity that costs them money every pay period.I recall an example of a small printing company that was hell bent on keeping expenses down. This company had a very talented individual, whose job it was to receive print files from customers and prepare them for proofing and production. This guy would often times struggle with workarounds and slow downs, because his computer equipment was out of date and slowing him down. I understood that the company was reluctant to spend nearly $4000 on new equipment and another $2000 on software upgrades, but together, we determined that they were losing nearly 10 hour per week of productivity and at this employees rate of pay, it was obvious that the investment should be made. In the end, the production increased and overtime was reduced significantly enough to justify the $6000 expense within four months.
Not every business has this extreme and example of loss of productivity, but I assure you that if you look deep enough, most businesses have at least one area of lost productivity and down time that can be addressed.

Maximize the life of your investments
Although I am not suggesting that you hold onto computers and equipment that has become truly obsolete, there are often times ways to maximize the lifespan and even ways to re-purpose older computers and improve efficiencies in other areas.I will often employ a trickle-down strategy as it applies to computer equipment within business. For example, when it is time to upgrade the office manager’s computer, it may be time to look down the chain to see if that computer may be useful somewhere else. Perhaps the computer would be well suited for the shipping clerk and increase productivity in that department.Another method of maximize the life of your investments is through routine maintenance. Although software can be employed to protect from virus’, malware and even perform scheduled tasks, environmental factors such as dust and debris, that can shorten the life of your equipment are often times overlooked. A computer relies on fans to keep critical components cool and functioning properly. Those fans by nature will act like a vacuum cleaner and trap dust and debris into the computer. This will cause the computer to run hot and put added stress on components, reducing life span. The simple solution to this is to simply vacuum or blow the dust out every few months or as needed, depending on your situation and environment.
Protect Your Data
Data protection is too often overlooked and data loss can have a devastating effect on business. Simply put, the idea here is that if you can’t afford to lose it, you need to protect it.Data protection and back-up can be confusing and there are many solutions to data protection, so here is where I recommend to consult a professional. Each business has unique needs and simply recommending a single solution for all of them would be irresponsible at least, so I will simply outline the basic solution options and hold back on any blanket recommendations.Fixed Onsite Storage is a solution of creating volumes or dedicated storage areas for workgroups. This will often times be a shared network drive that will contain data accessible to many. This solution allows for a single storehouse of data to be backed-up.Offsite Storage or “Cloud Storage” as it is also known is a solution of copying data to an external source. There are many providers for this type of data backup and differing methods of storing and maintaining the data.Removable Storage is a solution that can take the form of an external hard drive, USB Flash Drive, Tape or Disc copies. These methods can be effective for copying transporting and even archiving individual files or groups of files. It can have risks however, as discs can be scratched, external drives dropped and damaged and USB Flash Drives can fail.Hot Swap RAID Arrays are fancy devices that contain multiple hard drives. Data written to these hard drives is written across two or more drives and in effect duplicated. In the case that a single hard drive should fail, the data is stored on another. The “Hot Swap” refers to the fact that hard drives can be removed and replaced on the go and the data will write itself across the new drive as well. This solution ensures that data is instantaneously copied to multiple drives, but can also copy corrupt data from one drive to the rest of the array. Many Hot Swap RAID Arrays are very restrictive and require identical drives and can be limiting on size upgrades.

SAN’s Solutions, put simply are server attached storage arrays that appear as a locally mounted server drive and can be fully managed by the server protocols and permissions. These solutions are primarily employed in enterprise solutions and allow for a single point of data back-up on the server level.NAS (Network Attached Storage) devices are more commonly used in small business and SOHO environments. In the most basic form, they are storage devices that attach to the computer network and are accessible throughout the network. Traditionally, these devices attach via an Ethernet port and may or may not use RAID Technology to create redundancy and protect from disk hardware failure.Hard Drive Cloning is a process in which the contents of a Hard Drive are copied bit for bit onto another hard drive, creating a “Clone” or identical backup drive that can be restored on identical hardware.Technology Consultants like SCK Unlimited can and will work with you to determine your needs and implement one or more of these solutions to create the Data Backup plan that is best suited for your needs. Again, as each situation is unique, so too is the appropriate solution.

Modern Business Technology For a Restaurant

For any restaurant, point of sale technology is important. And POS restaurant software has become an important part for many restaurants. It takes a lot of time to take orders manually and then pass it on to the kitchen. With this software, however, everything becomes as easy as the click of a button.

Touch screen menus, remote ordering, staff supervision, automated billing, and organization of customer accounts are all possible with the restaurant point of sale software. It becomes quite easy and simple to manage everything with this easy to use system. You can use point of sale systems in the kitchen, back office, and the front office. Managing and running the restaurant becomes much smoother and easier with this software. It allows you to keep track of the number of customers. Better customer services and better order management is what becomes possible with this system.

An administration software is present in the system and it includes electronic menu screens and monitors for easy order processing. A minute by minute record of the daily activity can be kept. Inventory management, stock management, security, and timekeeping are only a few of the activities that this software can indeed simplify.

The restaurant POS includes an input and output device. Touch screens and keyboards act as input devices. Electronic cash registers with printers and monitors attached to them work as input and output devices. They are located in various locations and are also connected to the main server that is located at the back office.

The POS systems control various activities in the restaurant. It is necessary to manage them very efficiently and properly. Even small retail stores and fast food joints have now installed these systems for efficient management of the point of sale. This has made it possible for them to compete with big organizations also.

Over the years, POS systems haave become cheaper. And this is why many small restaurants have also got it installed. Easy to run, simple to operate and easy to update makes them a popular option.

The POS applications are designed in such a way that you can easily install basic systems without much expertise. So there is no excuse to either start systemizing your restaurant or catering business today.

Is Your Business Technology-Strategic or Technology-Dependent?

Security in the IT arena is not a new topic, but corporate awareness of its presence (or lack thereof) is at an all-time high. Not a day goes by without seeing a headline somewhere relating to stolen data, hacked company computers or leaked private information. When Sony’s Playstation┬« Network got hacked, there were estimates reported around $24 billion in losses. Then there were security breaches at Citigroup or Lockheed Martin. They were both juggernauts of industry with hardened defenses and yet were victims of stolen sensitive information. It appears no one is safe, but does obscurity or anonymity still qualify as protection for your small organization?

A few weeks ago I was sitting in a board room discussion with a couple of partners at a smaller private CPA firm and the topic of their network security came up. Mind you, these two gentlemen had a basic understanding of technology as most business owners do, but could not wrap their heads around why it was so important to purchase and install a firewall. A firewall! The most basic of network security devices and here I was trying to justify such a basic, yet mandatory, investment to any business, much less a financial firm.

It was a confirmation of a truth that is common no matter the size of the company. That truth is simple – most business owners have a difficult time appreciating or valuing technology unless they have experienced some type of pain relating to technology. That pain may be lost data, bad support, frustrating software… etc. Whenever I meet with prospective clients, one of the questions I ask in the beginning is “Are you ‘technology dependent’ or ‘technology strategic’?” This sets the tone for what direction we recommend.

Technology Dependent – This is most common among small, private firms. Your business may rely on your computers and networks, yet your decisions regarding technology are typically reactive and cost is commonly the biggest factor on whether or not you proceed. The inherent problem with technology-dependent firms is the unseen lack of efficiency and super high risk factors. Time and productivity are commonly overlooked as assets to the company. Here are some factors common in technology dependent firms:

a. Computers are older (4+ years old) and sometimes are even beige or off-white (a sign of age).

b. Few important proactive tasks are being performed, such as testing backups, patches and risk assessments.

c. There is no guidance on how to leverage technology to contribute to profits or increased productivity.

d. The company is still paying someone to fix things when they break on an hourly basis.

e. There is little to no network security.

Technology Strategic – A business that has seen the true purpose of technology and has enabled itself to do more is strategic. “More of what?” you may ask. It can be more productivity, more efficiency, more revenue and/or more contented staff. Firms that I work with that are “technology strategic” appreciate what technology can do for them and are not resistant to change. Here are some factors that make up a technology strategic firm:

a. Computers are maintained (optimized, clean and typically under 3 years old).

b. Network operations and security is being actively monitored.

c. Security policies are in place both in hardware and software.

d. An IT budget exists and is fixed.

e. The IT solution is a regular topic in your business planning meetings.

If you want to have growth in your firm, confidence in your IT security, and the best return on investment, you need to find ways to start moving to the strategic side of the spectrum. It will not happen overnight but the process needs to occur or risk falling behind your competition.

Where do you start? You need a trusted technology resource whether it’s a friend, your nephew, your executive assistant, or an established IT firm. Much like your clients rely on you for the best in professional financial advice and guidance, you should expect the same in terms of technology advice from a trusted technology partner. That said, have a look at this technology grocery list. If you don’t have these 10 items in place, you should seriously consider implementing them:

- Documented and tested backup process both local and off-site. You should be getting regular reports of these backups.
- Network security policy (passwords, data access, acceptable usage policy are examples).
- Basic alerts when there is a failure on your critical systems, such as a server or email.
- A firewall
- Antivirus and Antimalware software
- Anti-spam for email
- Data and email encryption
- Regular computer and network maintenance
- Secured wireless access
- Internet filtering

Implementation of the technology solutions above can get your company on the road to reaping the benefits of becoming “technology strategic”. An IT firm with certified engineers can develop a strategic and tactical plan to ensure you are getting the most from your technology.