Managing Technology on a small business budget
Whether you just need a computer to use for typing up business reports and letters or you are in need of a major network that’s tied in to other equipment, technology is an inescapable part of modern life. It’s reached a point that even most restaurants use computers to relay orders and to calculate checks for diners (while simultaneously tracking product usage and calculating inventory costs.) If you’re operating a small business, though, it may seem quite difficult to keep up with the cost of technology since you only have a limited income to work from. All is not lost, however; there are a number of strategies that you can use to help control technology costs while still keeping your business up to speed with the items that it needs.
Of course, before you begin searching for ways to cut your technology costs you should first take a moment to see exactly what sort of technological needs your business has. If you’re a small business that relies mostly on support staff and only use a small amount of technology, then you’re going to have a much easier time controlling costs than if your entire business relies on you having cutting-edge technology available. Regardless of whether you use a little or a lot of technology, though, there’s always room to cut costs and in turn make a larger profit for your small business.
Anticipate Technology Needs
One of the adages from Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard Almanac is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is especially true when it comes to technology, as discovering that your components need upgrade or repair early can help keep you from having to purchase new equipment that can cost thousands of dollars. Regular maintenance and upgrades may have their own costs attached to them, but these costs will be significantly lower than having to replace an entire machine (or an entire network) in one fell swoop.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and eventually some of those old machines will have to be retired. The best way to save money on these sorts of replacements is to begin looking for new equipment well in advance of when you actually plan on making the purchase. You can get current prices for the latest equipment and see if there are any ways to get what you need at a reduced cost, all while setting aside extra money in the budget to cover those new equipment costs without having to shortchange any other parts of the budget. A year or more might pass before the replacement that you’ve been anticipating becomes completely necessary; by this time it’s likely that you’ve managed to establish a budget for the replacement with funds that had been saved from other parts of your overall budget over time.
Shop Around for Deals
Even if you’re not shopping around in anticipation of replacing specific pieces of equipment, it doesn’t mean that you can’t save money by looking for the best deal when it comes time to make new technology purchases. There are a number of wholesale and discount retail companies who offer the latest technology at a reduced cost when compared to standard retail offerings, and many technology companies are willing to work directly with businesses who are considering buying their products. These companies quite often will offer special business rates on the items that they sell in hopes that when the business has further needs for technology items that their company will be the first (and hopefully only) stop.
If you’re looking for a good deal and aren’t in need of the absolute latest technology on the market, you might also consider shopping around for used computers and equipment. It’s often possible to find used equipment that has seen light to reasonable use, and these items are generally sold at a significant reduction to the full retail price. Make sure that any secondhand equipment that your business purchases has been inspected and tested beforehand in order to make sure that it works and that it isn’t on the verge of immanent failure; some of this equipment is sold “as is”, so there aren’t any refunds or warranties if the product doesn’t work after you receive it.
Look for Enterprise Licensing on Software
Should you be in need of software for your business, then one of the best deals that can be found is in volume licensing (which is often referred to as enterprise licensing.) The way that volume licensing works is that instead of buying a number of copies of the software that you need, you simply purchase a single copy of the software and a number of licenses equivalent to the number of computers that you need to install the software on (or a larger number in anticipation of adding more computers down the line.) You then install the software from the same copy that you purchased, but give each installation a different license number. All of these licenses can then be activated and used as normal (though some companies don’t require activation on their enterprise software, or include an activating program that can be run on the network level.)
Some software manufacturers who deal in the volume licensing of software offer significant discounts on these licensing packages, especially when compared to the cost of having to purchase multiple copies of the software separately. Much like other companies, these software companies do this because if you can get a good deal on the software that you purchase now then there’s a good chance that you’ll come back to them first on the next occasion when you need some software.
Share Technology Expenses
One other option of you’re trying to reduce the cost of your technology expenses is to share them with another business. This can be done in a number of ways, from going in together on volume licensing of software or purchasing multiple pieces of equipment at once in order to secure a larger discount to sharing office space with the other business and placing jointly-purchased technology in an area that’s easily accessible to employees of both businesses. Just make sure that there is a written agreement in place which details the purchase of said technology and the ownership rights of each business, in order to prevent any potential problems that may arise should either business fall on financial hard times or simply desire to sell off some of their assets.
Beware of Costly Outside Attacks
When dealing with technology, there are other ways that it can cost you money aside from simply having to purchase new equipment. If you aren’t careful, you might fall victim to a variety of nasty computer viruses, hacking attempts, or other computerized attacks. The best way to protect you and your business from the cost and loss of productivity which could result from these attacks and infections is to make sure that your network is secured and that all computers that are connected to your business network are fully outfitted with up-to-date virus scanners, spam blockers, and software firewalls. You should also have company policies in place regarding personal use of computers, downloading of new software, and the handling of e-mail attachments.
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