Cut your network budget with five surefire tips

The global economic situation is still tenuous, and network budgets are tight. There are many opportunities to save money, so that more precious shillings go toward important initiatives. Here are some projects that offer realistically achievable savings for the networking team.

The global economic situation is still tenuous, and network budgets are tight. There are many opportunities to save money, so that more precious shillings go toward important initiatives. Here are some projects that offer realistically achievable savings for the networking team.

Communications

In smaller companies, many employees already use mobile phones extensively. Why not save on call charges by making the mobile the main phone for work, eliminating desk phones and the PBX, suggested Dave Smith, managing director of consultancy Solutrean. “Renegotiate the mobile deal with the mobile operator to include voice-VPN functionality, to get free or at least cheaper rates on your business mobiles,” said Smith. Companies like RingCentral offer virtual PBX functions also, so you can subscribe mobile phones to an online PBX.

You may want to try Skype for free long-distance calling. Hosted voice is another option, with providers that will offer opex-only service for less than £10 per station per month for IP PBX functions.

Other free communications tools, such as a firewalled instant messaging systems, can allow employees to communicate quickly over long distances without the need for phone or video calls.

Audit and standardise equipment

In quieter periods, such as holidays and snow days, you may want to do an audit and make decisions to standardise your technology as much as possible, from desktops to networking equipment. It may mean initial equipment purchases, but you make a massive long term savings on management, support and training. Use cheap commodity switches in the LAN and WAN wherever possible, reserving intelligence for switching at the core of the network. Go for the bog standard installation too, without customising it too much, advised Smith.

Audit every user’s PC for software usage and eliminate shelfware. If employees are not using software, redistribute the licences elsewhere or eliminate. Although you may not save on licensing costs already paid for unused software, by eliminating unused packages you can still save on support costs and contracts, upgrades and tracking software licences.

WAN optimisation

Virtualisation can save money, but cloud services, desktop and server virtualisation are long term projects involving a host of uncertainties.  You may have to invest in the short term before you realize efficiency savings, and one of those places is in bandwidth. Here, WAN optimisation can be a significant cost cutter. Lantmännen, one of Scandinavia’s largest food, energy and agricultural groups, reported it cut $6.5 million from its overall IT infrastructure costs in one year after using WAN optimisation to get more out of its existing bandwidth.

If bandwidth is plentiful, thin client is a workable option that can save money. A 2010 thin client study by a team of researchers at Lancaster University, commissioned by vendor Thinspace, compared five typical small business IT environments and thin client’s costs in each case. According to the study, using thin clients lowered IT maintenance costs by 71%, hardware and capex by 61% and energy consumption by 51%, when compared to traditional desktop PCs.

Save power

One of the biggest wastes of resources is the electricity squandered by a UPS, because the conversion of power from one form to the next is so inefficient. Upgrading to a more efficient power management system can pay for itself. Chloride claims that its UPSs will save enough electricity to pay for themselves in a year and that some UK customers have saved £10,000 on power bills through UPS upgrades. You can also offset the cost through the Enhanced Capital Allowances Scheme, although the government is reconsidering the program.

Companies like D-Link and Cisco also encourage saving electricity with green switches that automatically power down any part of a network that isn’t in use. This may lower your bills a fraction, but overall savings compared to equipment costs are questionable.

Befriend your vendor

When buying equipment or software, agree to become a case study or customer reference. You’ll likely get the equipment cheaper, and the vendor company will be keen to keep you onside. LiveBookings did this when working with telecoms startup Iovox on integrating phone reservations with their online booking system. Iovox ended up spending more on the project than they charged the client, but it was worth it for them to have a happy and willing customer reference.

-- Nick Booth is an independent industry analyst. He started working in IT, networking and telecoms in the days when even the visionaries couldn’t see the Year 2000 coming.

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