Technology brings the dual promise of new business efficiencies, and the ability to cut costs. Although some technologies require a significant investment in infrastructure, there are many that can be introduced to the business quickly and relatively easily, with the returns coming swiftly, and continuing over the long-term.
Cost savings through cloud-based applications
Firstly, you might be aware of terms such as cloud computing, software as a service, or IT managed services. These all describe technology that's available over a network. Using these services is a major way of saving money, and all sorts of software applications and IT services are now available over the web. The benefit is that other people have the responsibility of looking after the hardware and software, operating it, backing it all up, and fixing it when necessary.
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You can now get office productivity software over the web, sales force automation tools, customer relationship management (CRM), accounting and finance software, storage services, helpdesk and IT management, and communication and collaboration tools - all available over the Internet and with all the applications and data in the cloud.
For the business user, the primary cost saving comes from not having to invest in the IT hardware and software and skills to manage and operate it.
Only pay for what you use
The second cost saving comes from having a set monthly fee based on your usage level, or the number of employees using the software. The benefits here are that this figure is predictable, there are no upfront costs, and with cloud (web-based) computing, the cost of the service is generally low because there will be other customers using the same IT infrastructure, and sharing computing resources.
By using cloud-based applications you can also save money by removing or slimming down departments, such as accounts, human resources, or even the IT department itself. Leaving you more to spend on doing what you do best.
Cost-savings through reduced travel
Another cost-saving technology is video conferencing. Many businesses, large and small, have significantly reduced their travel budgets by deploying it.
For companies that frequently have a lot of meetings, bringing personnel from different parts of the country or world together, video conferencing can be a cost efficient way of saving on the travel and venue costs of these meetings.
It can also be a low-cost way of meeting your business partners and customers, and can help sales people and executives to use their time more efficiently by fitting more meetings into their day, providing cost savings over the long term.
Video conferencing is available across the range of price points, from cheap or free like Skype and ooVoo to more expensive systems like Cisco Webex and up if you want a state-of-the-art system with high-resolution images and high-quality sound.
Reducing your costs through Unified Communications
Still on the subject of communications, Unified Communications (UC) can add new cost-saving options to the progressive business. UC is a technology platform that combines different types of communication onto one system, including desk phones and smart mobiles, instant messaging, video conferencing, faxes and e-mails, and web-based collaboration. It gives employee a universal inbox in which to receive and store all of their different types of communication.
UC offers cost savings on phones calls because it uses the Internet to route calls and data, which means businesses can benefit from lower call charges. This is known as Voice over IP (VoIP), with IP being the Internet-based technology over which the data is rooted. Secondly, it can save on the number of phone calls that employees make to each other because they have the option of using instant messaging or web-based collaboration instead. Additionally all calls within the business, no matter how far those parts of the business are geographically, are free
UC also helps businesses to consolidate their vendors, with IT/telephony service providers delivering the UC software, and the telephony and data network, as well as the 'IP-phones', to the office, and this means having fewer contracts with different people.
Moving from licensed software to open source
Businesses have also found they can lower their IT costs in the short and long term by using free or low-cost open source software instead of applications from more expensive software suppliers. These days, you can get office productivity suites like OpenOffice, Web Content management systems like Wordpress and Drupal, databases like MySQL, web design tools like WebMatrix , business applications like Sugar CRM, and in fact whole operating systems, for free.
Companies often make big cost savings on the server-side, by installing open source server operating systems based on UNIX or Linux. These tend to require knowledge and expertise in running and operating them, but compared with the high licenses associated with other server operating systems and tools, they can yield significant cost savings.
Finally, companies can make huge savings on their electricity bills by using power management technologies for cooling their systems; putting them to sleep when not used; and investing in more energy-efficient hardware.
From using open source and web-based software, to introducing new communications tools and ways of working, technology can provide a whole range of cost saving options.