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Want to cut down costs within your small business? Office tech is one area where it is really easy to save money.
Making a few simple changes and implementing some cheap new technologies can drastically reduce your bills--often simultaneously improving your efficiency and helping you become more environmentally-friendly.
We came up with a list of steps you can take to lower your office tech costs.
Assess and streamline your tech inventory
The first thing you should do is assess your current technology inventory.
You don't necessarily need to purchase the latest version of every product that you use--if something is working for you now, that's good enough. Additionally, streamline by getting rid of elements like overlapping software licenses or excessive operating systems.
SmartMoney suggests that you ask yourself, "What's redundant? What needs to be replaced? What can keep for the next year or so?" when analyzing your situation.
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Cut your landline
As we've mentioned before, landlines are on their way to obsolescence. With a multitude of cheap and convenient replacements available, a landline is no longer necessary for your office to function.
VoIP, or internet phone service, is a great alternative, allowing an office to save a bundle with a flat monthly rate for domestic and international calls, while coming with the standard accoutrements you would expect from a traditional landline (such as a specific local number and voicemail service).
At many companies, employees are permitted--and most often prefer--to use their cell phones for business calls. This gives workers the freedom to make and take calls at their convenience. You may consider subsidizing employee cell phone plans (or at least data plans for mobile e-mail), which will still likely be cheaper than a landline.
Renegotiate vendor contracts for lower rates
Now is precisely the time to renegotiate your vendor contracts.
In this rough economy, your tech service provider is probably desperate to keep your business, and therefore will be more willing to agree to a lower rate.
Don't be afraid to ask for a discount--according to Smart Money, during tough times, contracts and rules become much more flexible, and a vendor will likely go farther to ensure you don't switch to a competitor.
Replace equipment with energy-efficient versions
This one is simple: replacing appliances in your office with energy-efficient versions will save you big time on electric bills. Plus, you can often get a federal tax credit by switching over.
Energystar office equipment has been federally-approved to be energy-efficient, and you can find out which ones come with a tax credit here.
Also, installing a smart meter is a fabulous way to get real-time feedback on your office energy consumption and make appropriate changes.
Turn everything off
Another no-brainer: Turn everything off.
Leaving computers on after everyone leaves wastes unconscionable amounts of electricity. It takes only a few extra seconds to turn them off before heading home. (Not your Web servers, of course!)
Although this move is pretty impractical, unplugging all electronics, which still draw a current when not in use, at the end of the day could boost your savings even more--if you have the time and energy to do so.
Buy used or refurbished equipment
Refurbished computers are a comparable alternative to purchasing brand new models. This approach is significantly cheaper than getting brand-new appliances ... and easier on the environment as well.
PC World has a detailed list of retailers that offer deals on refurbished computers.
Craigslist can also be a good source for used equipment that is still in good condition, but beware; there are no guarantees, so do your homework before making any purchases.
Use web-based applications instead
You no longer need to shell out a large chunk of your budget on software--switch over to web-based equivalents instead.
At TBI, most of our computers don't have Microsoft Office installed; we use Google Docs for free. This choice has the added benefit of allowing us to access our files from anywhere. Similarly, many companies use Google's cheap e-mail and calendar services instead of buying and running a Microsoft Exchange server.
You could also try CutePDF or OpenOffice, suggests PC World.
Investing in the cloud is worth it. According to Smart Money, it is cheaper for a company to pay a monthly rate for web-based versions of tech essentials, such as antivirus protection or back-up programs, than buying the technology up front.
If you absolutely need certain software, take advantage of free trials, which often get you 30 - 60 days of free use, for a temporary cost alleviation. Adobe, for example, offers fully functional trial versions of its Creative Suite apps--Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.
Free web-conferencing services
Rather than paying for a web-conferencing service, implement free online tools instead. Applications like Skype and Google Talk allow for high-quality video conferencing, at no cost. This could potentially help cut your travel budget, too.
Working from home has become just as easy as working in the office. Recent technologies that are now becoming standard, such as web-based document sharing, allow employees to do their work from just about anywhere.
An innovative way to cut office tech costs, courtesy of Tech Republic, is to implement one "work-from-home" day per week. Shutting down the office for one extra day saves on all costs associated with having it open, and everyone is still able to get just as much work done.
Your employees probably won't mind, either.