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Where Can You Save in Tech
12 Mar

Where Can You Save in Tech

There is a lot going on in tech right now. The introduction of cloud was a game changer a few years ago, but it's not the only option available to you. Some of the options listed below will also have their cloud option, so they are not mutually exclusive, but price is a factor.

Telephony

10 years ago, I introduced IP telephony in the company I worked for then. It was quite a leap at the time. I wanted to have some freedom to be flexible and operate as many lines as I needed, deploy them quickly wherever I needed them. I did not look back. It was such a great technology, even if it was in its infancy as it wasn't as widespread as it is now. And it saved us loads of headaches, and money. 

That option was a bit nuclear at the time, as we were implementing quite new technology and to add to it, we were doing so in an open source platform, but the ability to deploy to a new site quickly (we were opening new locations nearly every month at the time, and sometimes more than one a month) meant that negotiating the rigid procedures from BT was not a good option for us. 

On the licensing front, as the organisation was growing quite dramatically at the time, this meant getting new direct lines for everybody at head office, several per week, and our Mitel server was ridiculously expensive to expand as every new device meant additional server licenses, additional (and expensive) proprietary phones, and additional licenses for the phones themselves to connect to the server.

On the technical front if you are interested (or skip the paragraph if not), we were using BT ISDN30 circuits with a Mitel phone server. We replaced them by an open source (more on this later) Asterisk server with SIP trunks connected directly to Gamma to bypass the internet connectivity at our data centre. Years later, we virtualised the server, adding further savings. 

Embracing that technology at the time did sound crazy to some, as we could have kept ourselves in the standard kit we had, as who would object to that, right? I think not. The role of a technology leader is to look at the market and see what innovations can be applied to your business to help it do things faster, quicker, cheaper, more efficiently.

If you are still paying for old circuits and technology on telephony, this is probably somewhere where you can make big savings.

Outsourcing

Done properly, and with the right people, it can provide you with some savings. You must be careful though, as done badly, it can cause the opposite effect.

You could say that outsourcing is a type of cloud, and there was a point a few years ago where a lot of traditional outsourcers just put the word

"cloud" next to their business names. It took a while for this to fizzle out, and you will still see it here and there.

You could make big savings by outsourcing elements of your business that require specialist knowledge, but that you don't necessarily need to keep that knowledge permanently in house. and tech is a perfect candidate for this in general. 

It is important to keep in mind that an outsourcing organisation has their own profits in mind when they sell their services, not yours, so it is sad to see organisations that outsource the whole of tech but don't leave anybody in the organisation that is on their side, with the ability to control outsourcers and understand what the company is paying for, as those costs if left unchecked could escalate very quickly. 

I worked with a client that had a group of companies with centralised services at the head office for IT, Legal, HR, Accounts, etc.  One of the group companies wanted to outsource all departments as a way to take control out of the head office, but in doing so, they left themselves totally open to abuse by the outsourcers as they had nobody in house controlling what the outsourcers did, and the bill very quickly went up.

CIO on Demand UK can help you with this, as our retained service operates as a CIO on your side of the counter. 

Virtualise servers

This option has lost it's flair a bit at the back of the emergence of cloud, but it is still a very valid option to consider.

Physical servers tend to operate under a very light load, sometimes as low as 2% of capacity, but usually between 5 and 10%. By virtualising, you effectively use that spare capacity to run more than one server on top of that physical machine, and in doing so, you save at least the cost of any new server you would need on top of the one you already have.

You don't need a huge physical machine to start with virtualisation. If your existing server is already operating in the low threshold of load, then you could use it for virtualisation. The biggest players on this market are currently VMware and Microsoft's HyperV. 

If your server is still fairly new, this option will potentially still give you a good ROI compared with cloud, but you need to do your numbers before making a decision. 

Cloud

Cloud

The default option today is to operate within a cloud environment. If you are a new business, it makes absolutely no sense to work in any other way, unless you work with very heavy files (think video for instance) which make the cloud option less attractive due to additional lag when working with those files or bandwidth costs.

There are obvious candidates for services to shift immediately to cloud, email is a perfect example. Why would you want to run your email server in house if that is not what your company does for a living, when you could have a corporate Gmail account or Office365? Email is email no matter who provides it, and you'll get one company or another to offer their services, but you are talking about different flavours of the exact same service. 

There are a myriad of options in cloud, financial accounts is another example with good options in Xero or Sage online, but there's no point in listing them all as it would be impossible. 

You have to keep in mind that cloud companies are not looking after your own bottom line, but theirs. It is very easy to claim huge savings in moving certain services to the cloud, and in most cases it is true that you will achieve savings, but one size does not fit all in all cases. 

I wrote an piece in LinkedIn nearly 3 years ago called "The True Cost of Cloud" that I think is still relevant when it comes to costs, and I will still maintain you need to do your own numbers. It's great to pay a small amount to Amazon to run servers there instead of providing the infrastructure to run them in house, but costs can escalate very quickly, especially bandwidth and CPU, so don't just believe their TCO numbers, do your own, and in most cases you'll end up in the cloud, but in some you might not.

There is no point in moving a service to the cloud either if you still have modern equipment that you haven't even finished depreciating. Use it, and take that time to plan your move if that is what you want to do. You can virtualise in the meantime and still save.

Bring Your Own Device

BYOD

BYOD stands for "Bring your own device". It is a trend that has been going on for a few years now, as people prefer to work on the machine they chose themselves, and use their own phone that has all their own apps, etc.

I am a huge fan of this, and you would save a fair amount if everybody brought their own equipment and you didn't have to invest in hardware, but there are a few considerations to have, as the fact you don't own the equipment means you have no control over it.

The data people need to do their work belongs to the organisation, and you will need to make sure the data is always protected, especially when it comes to personal data, which might mean you'll need to invest additional funds in ring-fencing corporate data in these devices, and make sure those machines are protected when it comes to antivirus and malware to avoid infecting your network should they get affected.

You'll need to have a BYOD policy that makes it perfectly clear what responsibility you take on their equipment, if any, by letting them use their own device, and what responsibility they must accept if they want the benefit of using their own device. 

One of my clients, forced staff in the early days of BYOD to have a pin to unlock the phone, and staff could not remove that pin until they left the organisation and deleted the corporate data from their phones. It is a crude way to protect the data, but at least it's a start. 

Does this mean you shouldn't do it? It depends on the risk your organisation can, or is willing to accept. 

Open Source

Open Source

Open source is software developed by and for use of the community. Linux is probably the biggest example of this. 

Open source software is usually free, but has no corporate support as standard, which is an issue for organisations that rely on it, so there are players on the market that will release a version of their own and offer support on top. There are quite a few Linux vendors that do this, such as RedHat, SuSE and even Oracle has their own version, but it's not just operating systems, as mentioned in the telephony section above, I used a SIP server based on Asterisk that is a telephony open source package. 

You'll find open source software for pretty much anything you want, even several Office replacement packages such as LibreOffice, Google Docs (not technically open office, but there is a free version of the suite), Open Office, FreeOffice, etc. 

As with everything, you have to be mindful of licensing issues, even if you use open source software, you need to make sure you always remain compliant, as the open source software you use might connect to devices that use software for which you must pay a license on (ie: Microsoft servers).

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