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IT on a Shoestring for Small Businesses

Although we are optimistic that the economic climate may begin to get a little warmer soon, we’d love share some of our best tips on how to save small businesses money on their IT infrastructure and budget.  We’ve found that many small businesses do not fully understand their technical and IT infrastructure needs and often make technology decisions that may not always be the “best fit” or most cost effective solution for their size of business or computing and data needs. There are interesting ways to save on IT budgets that many may not have considered.

The first option is to look very closely at your internet bandwidth needs.  Small businesses may be paying far more for bandwidth then they actually use or need.  It is very important to look at the upload and download speeds provided by your internet service provider (ISP), what you pay for those speeds, and what other options are out there. In laymen’s terms, you can think of bandwidth as a car traveling from point a to point be under a certain speed limit. What bandwidth means, in layman’s terms, is the speed and amount of data that you are able to transmit across the internet “pipeline”.  What you write your check to your ISP for is the amount of bandwidth, or “speed limit” they allow for your computers (AKA the amount of data that you can upload and share with the world or download and bring back from the world) as well as speeds of those uploads and downloads. A small business owner should determine what their actual upload and download usages are and fit a service provider and

package to that need.  There are many options for internet service providers, and just as many packages.  Review your current package and determine if you are able to save on a lower speed or bandwidth package.

Another option for saving on your IT budget is by purchasing next- to-new or refurbished hardware and electronics. Many businesses are now choosing to purchase refurbished or lightly used office furniture for many reasons, not only to save money but also to follow the green revolutions principles of recycling and saving resources. Well the same strategy can be applied for computer hardware and business electronics as well.

Although this isn’t always the best option since most technologies tend to get cheaper over time, there are some circumstances where the benefits of buying used can outweigh the benefits of buying new. Many businesses don’t realize that there are many options for buying used computer equipment or other business machines rather then paying top dollar for “new”. There are businesses both locally and online that offer refurbished or lightly used electronic equipment at a fraction of the cost of buying the same item new.  Items include, computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, scanners, and more, all of which can often be found at prices 50-90% off what you’d pay if new.

Two Capital Region companies that offer refurbished equipment are Elot Electronics Recycling, Inc. in Troy and Repeat Business Systems in Albany.  Elot has everything from chip boards to computers, monitors, and printers.  Repeat Business Systems, sellers of both used and new equipment, offer printers, scanners, copiers etc.

Next option:  If you have a website for your business, pay very close attention to the amount of money your firm is paying for website hosting. A small business with a small entry level web presence should be very careful about what they are paying for their hosting fees. We have seen instances where small businesses are paying close to ten times what they could be paying for a comparable service.

The most common places where business can get into trouble would be paying for more storage space on the hosting server then is actually needed or having additional services such as advanced database options that are not needed. A small business with a 5 to 10 page marketing website without database functionality should only be paying for storage space that is needed to store your site’s files. You can always grow into more space as your business and website grows, so why spend the extra money if you don’t need to?

Our last option is for people that are using search engine pay- per-click advertising. Although pay- per-click advertising can be a very useful and effective marketing strategies for certain types of businesses, it is important to understand exactly what kinds of “clicks” you are paying for.  Be sure to carefully select your target “keywords” to describe your business.  The more specific the keywords, and the more relevant the keywords to you site’s actual content, the better you will help a search engine find you, and rank higher in their lists. Be sure that your keywords will be effective in bringing individuals or businesses to your site who will actually be interested in your product or service. If you do not carefully select your keywords you may end up paying for “clicks” to your site that will not bring you new clients or new business.  This is one of the many utilized strategies in effective Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns.

How have you saved on your IT?

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