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3 Small Business Tools To Reduce IT Costs

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Does your IT department directly generate revenue? Probably not. Like any other business unit supporting sales, you probably hear this instruction a lot: “Do it cheaper.” Rest assured, sales gets it too, but it can be frustrating to cut costs when the latest technology demands considerable investment.

The place to start is getting the best use of what you already have; then you can move on to eliminating what’s unnecessary. These tools will help you figure out some of both.

License Calculators

Most enterprise software licenses are sold on something like an honor system, where you download one copy of the installer and pay for licenses as you need them. This is convenient because you don’t have to worry about hassles like activation or managing keys, but it can tend to lead to overestimating. While audits by Microsoft, Adobe and other software giants are rare, it’s every IT manager’s nightmare to be caught up in one and be found lacking enough licenses.

Microsoft offers its own calculator for Software Assurance, and Adobe has the AVL 5 Discount Level Calculator. Neither take all the mysteries out of software licensing, but they definitely make the math easier. Other enterprise software vendors may provide their own calculators as well.

Hardware & Software Inventory

One challenge IT personnel face persistently is knowing exactly what they have. Asset tags and inventory databases, even when completely accurate only tell half the story: what exists. What about what’s being used? If there’s hardware and software just sitting around, it can be repurposed or reassigned.

The simplest way to get started with automated inventory is probably Spiceworks, a Web-based tool for scanning your network. All you need is access to the administrator account on each machine – preferably the domain admin account, but machine-level admin accounts with the same password and profile will work too. It’ll tell you serial numbers, installed software, and a wealth of other information about every Windows machine that’s powered on within your network, and give you basic stats on other devices.

Deduplication

The obvious benefit of data deduplication – that is, removing redundant copies of data stored on servers and clients – is a gain in storage space. Since hard drives are relatively cheap, this might not seem like an effort with a big bang for the buck, but it has ripple effects. Less data storage means faster backups, which in turn means lower energy usage, fewer tapes, and less IT staff time spent managing them. It’s also good for productivity: instead of updating multiple data repositories or searching through them to find the most recent, most authoritative copy, employees just grab the data they need.

Deduplication is often sold as a service or software subscription from the majors, like IBM, HP, and Dell. You can also try an open source program called OpenDedup, which implements deduplication at the filesystem level.

Trim down on extra resources and your IT department can hum along with budget to spare.

John Andrews is a technology writer for Infragistics, a leader in user interface tools for application developers.

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