Irrespective of how decent an IT budget you've gotten sanctioned, chances are, it will never be enough to do everything you set out to do for your IT infrastructure. That obviously doesn't mean you can run your IT infrastructure on a zero budget (but if you are doing it, then we'd love to hear your story!). It just means that you can never shake off the feeling of being stretched for IT budgets. You will always wish you had more funds to add more software licenses, more bandwidth, more powerful systems, and so on. That's when you have to figure out ways of achieving the objectives you initially set out to achieve, with the same budgets.
So this story is not about cost cutting, but rather about identifying potential areas of IT infrastructure optimization, so that you can save costs in one place to invest in a more critical one. Identifying areas of optimization is easier said than done. At the top of it, you'll find just about every part of your infrastructure equally important. That's why it requires a careful analysis of your IT infrastructure and your budgets, so that you can juggle them around to fulfill your objectives.
Any IT infrastructure is split into the following three parts:
Hardware: Desktops, laptops, storage and networking equipment, etc
Software: OS and apps on desktops and servers
Services: Bandwidth, AMC, cloud based apps, etc
There are ways and means of saving across all these areas, so that you can spend in the areas that are more critical for you.
Saving on Hardware
In hardware for instance, you could identify methods of extending life of your existing systems. This way, you could defer the purchase of certain systems, so that you can purchase the ones you really need.
You could take green measures to reduce power consumption, or replace your CRT monitors with LCD/LED ones (but here you're spending money to save money). These would of course have to be compared against how much you're currently spending and how much you'll save and over what period of time. Plus of course, replacing hardware means you're spending a large amount straight up front.
The Soft side of things
Likewise, you could save in software by moving certain inhouse apps to web based ones, choosing open source and free software instead of licensed solutions, and so on. This is obviously easier said than done because both web based apps and open source/free apps have their own drawbacks that need to be looked into. Should you choose a local vendor to custom develop your application, or should you choose a standard software platform? The former will be cheaper than the latter, but may not be feasible over the long run in terms of scalability, maintenance, etc.
So while you may save on hardware costs and reduce the size of your IT infrastructure by moving apps to the cloud, you'll end up spending more on bandwidth costs, as well as transferring some of your IT budget from being a capital expense into a operational expense (because cloud based apps are charging for a service).
Similarly, open source and free software usage is good so long as you have in-house expertise to manage it. If you don't, then you'll anyways need to purchase support for it. Further still, if your existing manpower leaves, and you don't have the systems well documented (which happens quite often!), then you're really in for trouble!
Services for less
The last part is services, which includes AMCs, Internet bandwidth, mail services (if you don't have one deployed inhouse), etc. Internet bandwidth is something you can never have enough of, but it is something you can control, so that you can defer the purchase of more bandwidth. Likewise, if your products are already on warranty, then you may not like to put those on AMC till their warranty expires.
In the pages to follow, we give you insights into how you can save in hardware, software, and services. We've explained different tools and techniques in each. Finally, we've given examples of how some CIOs are finding innovative ways of stretching their IT budgets.