By Matthew McKenzie
Education is a sound investment for any small-business IT manager. And if you know where to look, it's an investment you can make for just pennies a day.
Many IT staffers think organizations like IEEE's Computer Society and the Association For Computing Machinery are open mostly to computer science researchers and academics. Dig a little deeper, however, and you'll learn that nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, both organizations offer members a variety of practical, real-world IT reference and educational tools. All Computer Society and ACM members, for example, enjoy free access to more than 1,000 e-book titles, including more than 600 e-books from O'Reilly's outstanding Safari catalog.
Better yet, both organizations allow members to access thousands of online training modules that cover a huge range of IT topics.
Some of these training materials are geared towards programmers and academics. The vast majority, however, cover information that small-business IT professionals are likely to find immensely useful.
While the two organizations' online resources overlap in some ways (both, for example, license access to the same Safari and Books 24x7 e-book catalogs), their educational offerings also differ in some key respects. In addition, each group takes a somewhat different professional focus; anyone who wants to get involved with IT standards, for example, might prefer to join the Computer Society and participate in one of IEEE's standards-making committees.
Both of these groups, however, maintain huge libraries of practical, well-crafted IT education and reference materials. Better yet, anyone can join ACM or IEEE for less than they are likely to pay for a single IT reference book from a traditional online bookstore.
Right now, ACM and IEEE both offer one-year Professional Memberships for $99. Students pay about half as much, although their memberships don't include quite as many perks. And if you're really on a tight budget, IEEE also offers a six-month Computer Society membership for just $49.
A membership with one of these groups will pay for itself the first time you access a useful reference e-book rather than trudge down to the bookstore to buy a copy. And it will keep paying off every time you find an online course that teaches you how to run your small-business IT operation more productively and efficiently.