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April 30, 2015  11:02 PM

Three (More) Quick and Easy Ways to Cut Your IT Budget

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
cloud, cost, IT

A few weeks ago we asked a group of SMB managers and IT consultants to share the fastest and easiest things they’ve done to cut their (or their clients’) IT budgets. We got a whole bunch of interesting responses, and ran the first three last week. This week we have three more:
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April 21, 2015  10:35 PM

Three Quick and Easy Ways You Can Cut Your IT Budget

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
budget, cloud, Hardware, IT, MONITOR, Network

We asked a group of SMB managers and IT consultants what they considered the fastest and easiest things they’ve done to cut their (or their clients’) IT budgets. We got a whole bunch of interesting responses. Here are the first three:

  • Bob Shirilla of Keepsakes Etc., a 15-employee eCommerce company that runs simply-bags.com and Keepsakes-etc.com, says, “Over a two year period we transitioned 95% of our IT functionality to the cloud. Migrating to the Cloud is one of the best things a small business can do.”

    Since the cloud migration, Bob says, “Our current overall IT spend is much less and some future expenditures were totally eliminated. However, the greatest savings was internal employee time spent for maintenance and support.”

    But this was not a willy-nilly rush to the cloud, Bob points out: “We took a hybrid approach to migration and selected different vendors and solutions for each business function. This allowed us to evaluate each solution based on the specific value it provides to our business. For example, we selected an order management system that was
    already PCI compliant.”

In other words, Bob and his people took things slow and easy, and took a careful look at all software and suppliers before putting their faith in them. This is, of course, good advice for any change in your company’s IT provisioning — or anything else, for that matter.

J. Colin Petersen, President & CEO of J – I.T. Outsource, says:

  • “Fire your IT guy. If you’ve got 10 to 50 employees using computers and you have a full-time, in-house I.T. person, you are paying far too much for I.T. and help desk. Outsource to a managed services I.T. provider. You’ll get 24/7 monitoring, on-demand help desk and probably nicer treatment for far less than that employee is costing you.”

“Well, duh!” you might say. “This guy runs an IT support firm. Of *course* he’s going to say you should patronize his business (or another one like it). That’s his bread and butter.”

The only thing is, for companies that have 50 or fewer computer-using employees and run nothing but COTS software, having a full-time, in-house IT person is probably not as cost-effective as hiring a reputable outside IT service company. Even for a company that has in-house programmers creating custom software who have the chops to maintain the company’s network and hardware, it’s probably a good idea to have an outside vendor they can turn to if needed. This isn’t because your people aren’t smart, but because the IT service company sees many companies’ problems, so something that might be new to your people is old hat to them.

So even though he’s saying you should hire his firm (or one like it), we give a qualified (but hearty) “Amen” to Mr. Petersen’s money-saving tip.

Melissa Minchala, CEO of DataVelocity, says it’s important to both maintain and upgrade your software and hardware, because “network and computer systems are not ‘set it and forget it’ types of things. If proper maintenance and upgrades are not performed, then their performance will inevitably degrade and cause frustration in your employees, leaving them not only unable to do their jobs properly, but completely unmotivated to do so at all.

  • “Imagine if you never once took your car in for a tune up, how long before you’d be walking everywhere? If you never purchase another car, would you ever leave your house again? Your computers and network need to be tuned up, and systems will need to be replaced in order to keep your business humming and going places.

    “The cost of proper maintenance and upgrades is significantly less impactful, and likely less in total, than the capital expenditure of making rushed purchases to replace and repair old machines that have corrupted data.”

These are wise words. The employee morale factor is one (too) many managers forget when laying out their IT budgets. We’ve all dealt with businesses where the person trying to help us was frustrated by an unresponsive network or glitchy software. Do you want your employees (and customers) to be in that situation? Of course not. So take care of your hardware and software, same as (we hope) you take care of your car.

Software engineer Trevor Ewen says:

  • “Buy what’s needed for the job. Don’t under or over-buy equipment. Startups often have an issue with spending loads on hardware for largely nontechnical employees who use their computers primarily for email. Conversely, no business should suffer the loss in productivity that comes from poor hardware and software for engineers and technical employees.”

10-4, Trevor! About 15 years ago I was a newly-hired editor for a web publishing startup. I worked remotely, and flew into the main office once or twice a month for meetings. At one of those meetings, I noticed a stack of 21″ Sony monitors in boxes. Back then, those were about as big as monitors got, and since I often had a dozen or more windows open on my desktop, I wanted one of the Sonys. Badly.

So I asked my boss, the CTO, for a new monitor. “Let’s ship one to your house right away before anyone notices,” he said. And we did. The marketing VP had ordered the big monitors for his salespeople, who rarely ran more than a single browser window, an email program, and perhaps a word processor at the same time. These were exactly the people who didn’t need a lot of monitor real estate — but they wanted to have it to show the world how computer-studly they were.

So my boss and I stole monitors for me, our few other staff editorial people, and our developers, and we all made great use of them and increased our productivity as much as you’d expect. We were already computer studs (or — is this a word? – ‘studettes’). We just wanted good working tools.

See how it works? And how many times have you seen a CEO with three monitors on his desk and only one of them running? Getting the appropriate hardware (and software) to the right people, and *not wasting hardware (and software) they don’t need on people whose jobs don’t require it*, can be a productivity booster and money saver at the same time.

NOTE: We got an amazing response to our “What are three quick and easy ways businesses can cut their IT budgets?” question. Look for more SMB IT-savings tips here on Cheap Computing in weeks and months to come.


April 9, 2015  6:01 PM

Adventures in Vacation Internet Connectivity: Instructive but no Fun

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
Internet, Wireless

Vacations are wonderful. I’m typing this in a deluxe one-bedroom suite at the Westgate Vacation Villas in Kissimmee, Florida. It may seem silly to vacation in central Florida when we live near the beach in Bradenton, FL year-round, but we have relatives in Baltimore who have a time-share in Kissimmee (the heart of the Disney vortex), so this is an annual family get-together for us. You may now ask, “Why does Robin need an Internet connection in a vacation villa?” I reply: To maintain this blog, for one thing. To keep up with my Slashdot video obligation, for another. And a third reason for keeping up with my work during a so-called vacation is to give me an excuse to escape now and then from the 11 (yes, 11!) assorted descendants ranging in age from two to 40(ish) whose company we are enjoying this week. And I will tell you: Despite the veneer of luxury that hangs over this fairly decent resort, the internet connection caused more trouble than our two-year old grands when we made them wait half an hour after eating before we’d let them get in the pool.
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April 1, 2015  1:27 AM

4K Ultra HDTV and cellphone external battery prices drop

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
battery, HTC, price, tv, Uncategorized

There isn’t a lot of programming out there yet for TVs that have screens 4,000 pixels wide instead of the HDTV standard of 1920 pixels. And ultra HD TVs have been $1000 or more until recently. But I just spotted a 49″ (‘class’) UHDTV for $419. That’s tempting!
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March 27, 2015  12:00 AM

Four Email Newsletters That Will Save You Money

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
Email, Save

I subscribe to a number of “daily deal” email newsletters partly because of this blog and partly because I am just plain cheap. Today I’m going to share my four favorites with you. I use them myself, and they help me save hundreds of dollars every year. They are:
TechDealDigger,
TechBargains,
Tech Hunter,
and Daily Steals.
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March 18, 2015  10:10 PM

Protecting Your Android Phone

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
'Virus`, Android, find, free, malware, privacy, Security, smartphone

I drop my phone at least a few times every week, usually from desktop height. And finally something bad happened from a higher than usual drop: a big crack in the screen, and the phone’s protective case had a bashed-in corner. But all was not lost, In fact, due to the protective gear I had on my phone, hardly anything was really lost!
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March 9, 2015  7:13 PM

Low-Cost IT Security Measures Every Small Business Should Take (Video)

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
IT, Security

Bryan Conklin is the founder and CEO of Zylo, an IT service and consulting firm in W. Palm Beach, Florida. This was essentially a one-question interview. The question: “What are the most effective and lowest-cost security measures a small business can and should take?”


March 1, 2015  2:36 AM

Choosing Tax Software

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
IRS, online, Software

I have been a loyal TurboTax user for more than 10 years. Specifically, I’ve used TurboTax online so I could use any of the computers in my house to work on my taxes. But this year? I decided it was time to shop around instead of blindly shoveling $79.99 toward Intuit, the company that owns TurboTax. I limited my shopping to the “big three” tax prep providers: TurboTax, H&R Block, and TaxACT. Why? Because taxes are serious business, and a lot of people, including me, feel more comfortable using tax prep software that has been used by millions of people and, therefore, is likely to have few or no bugs.
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February 27, 2015  12:18 AM

Low Cost PR for Small Businesses

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
IT

You own a small(ish) business. Or maybe you don’t, but you work for one. At the very least, you almost certainly have friends who own or manage small businesses. And all of you should know the basics of PR, but probably don’t. Not many small businesses know how to do effective PR. In fact, not all that many *big* businesses or PR agencies are good at it. This is silly, because PR doesn’t need to be expensive or complicated to be effective.
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February 23, 2015  5:40 PM

IT Consultant Lee Drake Has Money-Saving Advice for Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (video)

Robin Robin "Roblimo" Miller Profile: Robin "Roblimo" Miller
Uncategorized

Lee Drake specializes in Microsoft technology, including their cloud products. He’s honest enough to refer clients who don’t want to use Microsoft to people he knows who can serve them better than his company, OS-Cubed, can. This is a major “plus” mark if/when you’re choosing an IT consultant or vendor: the admission that no one person or company knows everything about everything.


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