Budgeting

3 Ways Spending Less on Hardware will cost you

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How “Cheap” Machines Become Expensive


Everyone in business IT knows that budgets are shrinking. In an environment with fewer dollars, it's tempting to look at low price tags as the most important specification any hardware can carry. The problem, as we are reminded frequently, is that total cost of ownership (TCO) cannot be ignored. More importantly, the total benefit of ownership is a metric that IT managers must take into consideration seriously when specifying the details of servers or workstations. 

There are multiple aspects to TCO for hardware, and most of them have nothing to do with whether the hardware is likely to break and need service. For our purposes, let’s assume that any workstation you buy is going to be an absolute rock of reliability and quality. That still doesn't take away three ongoing costs of owning your workstations. 

1. Lost Productivity

You've heard that time is money, well one of the primary ways in which the cheapest priced machine can become expensive over time is through the lost productivity that accompanies the minimal performance.

Managers focused on nothing but purchase price might criticize the organizational cost of a few seconds per operation or the inconvenience caused to an employee by a desktop workstation compared to a laptop, but over the course of a workstation's lifetime, those seconds and minutes add up.

2. Reduced Effectiveness

Workers who have to deal with daily frustrations from underperforming or poorly configured workstations are less effective.

Human memory is poor, especially after the fifth meeting of the morning. Handwritten notes are better than nothing, but notes typed into a laptop are surely best. That isn’t possible for workers away from their desks if their computers can’t follow them.

There are still organizations with managers who consider laptop and other mobile computers as luxury items. IT managers might want to point out that mobile computers can increase information accuracy, improve productivity, lower network infrastructure costs, and enhance security in return for their perceived luxury.

3. Security and Network Infrastructure

Considerations such as network infrastructure cost should be considered in TCO calculations, especially when WiFi has become nearly ubiquitous, and the costs of running cable continue to rise.

IT managers who want to seriously tilt the table in the direction of mobile endpoints can discuss the cost of potential data breaches through physical intrusions. The average desktop-based client infrastructure is far less secure than an infrastructure and policy framework that has:

  • Most laptop and mobile devices locked in drawers or cabinets at the end of the day

  • The rest in the possession of employees trained in security

Moreover, connecting to central assets through a VPN can be far more secure than the average desktop-based client infrastructure.

Decisions based solely on minimum purchase price can come back to haunt an organization for years. Current Technologies specializes in consulting with your business, finding out your needs, analyzing all options and bringing you the solution best fit for your business.

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Budgeting IT Growth- For Growing Businesses

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Cast your mind forward 5 years. Will we still send so many emails? Will we be satisfied with a keyboard to fill in web forms and use passwords to log on to secure systems? The changes in speed of access and capability are coming fast. As facial recognition, voice recognition, and biometrics develop, our concept of how we communicate with machines will change. The effect of cloud computing will drive down the cost of infrastructure and create new potential for business solutions.

There are smarter ways to drive down the risks associated with aging IT systems that are likely to add value to your business. The question is how much should you spend?

We have tried to set a guide based on a percentage of revenue, but that is too vague for many businesses where maintaining margins is hard work. Often a better answer lies in reducing waste or risk. First of all, it is important to understand your risk around IT involves loss of systems or loss of competitive edge in the marketplace. Then look to business processes with high cost and look for technology to reduce that waste and so reduce the cost per product.

That cost may be in marketing, sales, inventory, materials, or time. The savings will build the business case for spending on IT.

Building a Business Case

There are some clear costs to IT that you can work into your business case. If you are using PCs, servers, and mobile devices, there is a cost to buying them and maintaining them. This may be a fixed cost if outsourced or a variable cost if you buy the equipment as needed. PCs will vary from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand, depending on the demands you are placing on them, from an email station running a couple of small spreadsheets to a workstation running 3D design tools. You should anticipate three to four years of performance from the right PC, but to stretch it further will have hidden costs in increased downtime, maintenance costs, and poor performance relative to newer machines.

For each new starter in your business you need to factor in the annual cost of a PC, a device, and software, and if you are using the cloud, factor in monthly fees. Again, these will vary from application to application, but you should be able to figure out what your costs will be. There is also the cost of supporting each person in your business in terms of their IT tools, which will either be a direct cost or a hidden cost. The costs are hidden when you have no formal support arrangement and your staff waste productive time fixing their own IT problems or working around them. Direct costs are usually lower than hidden costs because problems are fixed efficiently. Management of an individual’s IT environment will cost from a few hundred dollars a year to a few thousand depending on the complexity of the systems being used.

Dealing with Growth

If your business is increasing staff you may need to revisit your infrastructure strategy and change how you share, store, and protect your data. As you add employees, you will need larger, more expensive systems unless you have adopted a scalable cloud solution that allows you to simply add one more team member to the account. Of course, not all applications have a cloud version yet, so you may need to invest in a hybrid solution with some servers and some cloud storage.

The more you can push to the cloud, the less capital expenditure you will need to budget for, but keep an eye on the comparison costs over a four-year period. Many cloud solutions are cost effective for the enterprise but not for the smaller business. For a fast-growing start-up, the cost of the cloud is not the issue as it is all about the freedom to grow without the need for expensive upgrades.

Understanding your business and getting the right advice on suitable technologies may give you the advantage you are looking for. When your business is growing is the perfect time to reconsider your IT needs, and taking professional help is never a bad idea. Current Technologies has been helping companies manage growth for over 20 years. Our team is well versed in today's technology, where it will be in the future, and how to apply this information to your business. 

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Stop Entry Level Shaming

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There’s something about that label. “Entry level” systems are seen as insufficiently powerful, marginally useful, and utterly degrading when placed on a professional’s office desktop.

This characterization might have been accurate years ago. But today, even entry-level systems can be capable, powerful computing devices that, under the right circumstances, can be “cool” for users to work with.

Moving entry-level systems from stigma-inducing to cool requires properly making a handful of critical decisions. Get them right, and your organization could save significant money while boosting user satisfaction with new systems.

What is Entry Level?

It usually starts with a modestly powered CPU (often one generation behind the current market leader) and continues to have the following:

  • Minimal RAM (generally 4 GB at this point)

  • Basic graphics capabilities (sometimes, those on the motherboard; other times, those available from an inexpensive graphics board)

  • Gigabit Ethernet

Wrap it all in a basic box with a standard keyboard, mouse, and video monitor, and you have your entry-level system, which in many cases, is exactly what most of your employees need.

It Might be the Perfect System

As companies race to embrace cloud services, it can be argued that the entry system is the perfect system for most employees to use.

It might be that what you need is an internal marketing campaign, not a larger budget for desktop workstations. It all depends on the job you’re asking systems to do and the way you present the systems doing the job.

Chromebooks are the very definition of minimalistic workstations. The barest entry-level workstation will be more powerful than the most powerful Chromebook, so comparisons should be frequently made when talking with employees.

Spend Where it will be Noticed

Spend a few dollars on the components that have the biggest impact on user satisfaction.

1. Keyboard

There is now a dizzying array of keyboards available for purchase. Most of the keyboards that make the “enterprise-class” grade are within a few dollars of one another, so employees can be allowed to “customize” their system with little difference in purchase price and no difference in support costs.

2. Mouse

The IT department could offer employees their choice from a selection of mice or other pointing devices to be used at the desktop.

For minimal difference in price, the employee has a maximum feeling of personalization.

3. Monitor Size

The enterprise standard has been twenty-one-inch or twenty-four-inch monitors for nearly a decade. But today, it’s possible to purchase twenty-seven-inch monitors for little to no more money.

The entry-level system doesn’t need to be a symbol of shame, for it can gain access to cloud-based services and information as equally well as more expensive systems. And if the IT department will allow for some choice in input devices and monitor, the users will come away feeling more digitally empowered than ever before.

Get The Most Out Of Entry Level

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Data Center Upgrade: Not All Or Nothing

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Everyone wants one screen to rule them all: one console display to monitor and manage all systems in a data center. According to some vendors, the only way to achieve this management “nirvana” is to bring in the forklifts and replace every system you own in one swoop. If you have an unlimited budget and no executive committee to report to, that's a suitable and realistic plan.

For the rest of us, the good news is that there is a better alternative: updating servers as they hit the end of their life cycle according to the refresh cycle. A mixed fleet of servers can be highly manageable if you consider a handful of key issues while you're building and evolving the servers within.

Picking The Server Management Framework

Several decisions follow the initial decision of which server management framework is selected. The basic split is between a framework from a hardware vendor and a framework independent of any hardware tie. While they are alike in many ways, there are key differences that will have major implications for your hardware choices.

Hardware-Tied Or Vendor-Neutral?

First, it seems obvious that a hardware-tied management framework should be at the top of your candidate list if all your servers are from a single vendor. While each new generation of servers has features that work more closely in concert with management applications, the vendor's software will typically work with at least three previous generations of hardware.

Vendor-neutral frameworks may lack the ability to take advantage of some specific server features, but they tend to offer consistent management across all servers of a particular generation and across two or three previous generations. They also can be cheaper depending on a multitude of factors. The real advantage of these frameworks involves existing analytics packages that you want to continue using. Integration with a wide range of third-party software is a strength of several vendor-neutral management systems.

Preparing For The Future

With all of these management frameworks, one of the most important considerations is how well the package prepares you for the future, since changing the software that manages a fleet of servers is not something to be taken lightly. Whether the management framework comes from a hardware vendor or not, it will be the tool that allows you to manage new servers and server blades as they are brought into service through the normal hardware refresh cycle.

As servers become part of a growing ecosystem of platforms that support virtual or software-defined functions, a management framework that supports all components of an integrated environment, from the server to storage to the network, becomes more important.

A single pane of glass that allows you to monitor and manage absolutely everything in the infrastructure is not yet available, but you can have a data center management system that will provide direct management of the servers in a diverse fleet while allowing integration with platforms that manage networking, storage, and other functions.

Another valid option for network monitoring and management is hiring a managed service provider (MSP). The advantages of hiring an experienced MSP like Current Technologies are numerous and include spending less on IT personnel, the MSPs are experts, you can rest easy knowing that someone else is protecting your network, and it is cheaper than and easier than doing it yourself.  It isn’t surprising that 70 percent of CIOs partnered with outside experts to plan manageable growth in 2018, find out what we can do for you today.

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How To Write An Award- Winning Grant Proposal

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Grants give teachers the opportunity to provide their students with technology they might not otherwise be able to afford. But it’s a competitive world where the winners take all, so it pays to be prepared.

1. Clarity

Before you do anything, you need to be clear on three things:

  1. The project for which you want funding. (It’s tempting to find grants first then suitable projects to match, but you’re unlikely to write a convincing application for a project you thought of on the fly.)
  2. The support of someone who ranks high enough to sign off on the application
  3. Your plan for the money — what is the need?

2. Every Application Needs A Need

Don’t wait till you find a suitable grant to write a compelling description of your need. Every grant is going to ask you to outline the problem, so you might as well have it ready.

What will clinch the winning application is the compelling nature of the need. Be clear about why this project is important to you and why you’re so excited it could happen thanks to the generosity of this grant funder.

Write out:

  • The evidence that supports the need — demographics, test scores, and even anecdotal evidence
  • The goals of the project — what will your students achieve if you’re able to buy the technology you need?
  • How will you measure success — what are the metrics? What tools will you use to capture them?
  • What exactly you need in the way of technology, people, and support

Having this already thought out means you can respond more quickly when you find a grant with an imminent deadline.

3. Be Meticulous

Don’t try to second guess what’s most important to the administrators of the grant. Give equal weight to every section and question unless directed otherwise. Assume they want a complete answer to everything they ask or they wouldn’t have asked it.

4. Be Clear

Extra credit will be awarded for concise applications that steer clear of unnecessary jargon. Don’t assume the people reviewing the grant are fellow educators. They could come from any walk of life.

5. Think Like A Teacher

What marks would you give a student who relied on unsupported assertions? “Some students can’t read” is weak. Describe the scale of the problem precisely.

6. It’s Not Really About The Technology

No grant funder wants students to have tablets, laptops, or whatever other technology you want to bring into the classroom. They want students to be able to read, to learn, to thrive, and to be prepared for life after school. The technology is the tool; it’s important to the application, but it’s not the outcome.

Make sure the students are the heroes of your application, not the technology.

Once You Get A Grant- Now The Fun Begins

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When is the Right Time to Refresh your Computer Fleet?

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There are more Important Factors than Update Cost


Stanford University’s IT department has a minimum standard for what their computers can do. For teaching staff, the standard is that the computer can handle running at least four applications at the same time. Using this standard, the university expects to replace computers every three to four years.

It’s just one example, but it’s a good one because Stanford’s policy is a reminder that a well thought out hardware refresh plan is about more than cost. There will always be disagreement about the answers, however that doesn’t mean it’s not worth asking smart questions and testing the industry assumptions.

Asking the right questions

What do I need my Computers to do?

Have you gone beyond the question of raw upgrade cost and asked, as Stanford has, exactly what should your computers be able to do? Many employees today would expect to be running far more than four applications simultaneously. Are your workers among them?

The ability to quickly multi-task is key in today's fast moving business environment. Employees need computers that can switch between many applications without losing a beat. Staring at a loading screen is a waste of time that you can never get back.

What is the Productivity Cost of not Refreshing?

Sure a slower refresh cycle saves money on the surface, but have you compared that to the lost time cost of employees waiting for applications to load or function?

Intel found that a faster refresh cycle brought an average productivity improvement of 9.7% over a range of tasks. You don’t have to rely on Intel’s numbers; you can do your own analysis.

Looking at productivity and refresh costs together will give you additional confidence in your decision, whatever it is.

When do Support Costs Peak?

Just like us, computers cost more to support in their declining years. It’s not just the hardware starting to fail, but also the burden of maintaining multiple versions of operating systems and software.

It’s inevitable that you have to refresh your computers at some point. It isn’t inevitable that you have to spend a fortune keeping outdated computers limping toward the end of a too-long life. Again, the trick is to look at the numbers and find the sweet spot between the two expenses.

Good Enough is Good Enough

The costs of a faster refresh cycle can potentially be offset by not having to buy the highest-end machines every time. At the rate technology improves, chances are most computing technology today is leaps and bounds ahead of what you bought years ago. The further into the future you expect your hardware to last, the higher the specs you need today. Equipment that will be replaced sooner doesn’t necessarily need to be as future-proof, and future-proof is often expensive.

Bring your Computer Fleet up to Speed

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Allocating Your SMB's IT Budget in Today's Environment

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Where Small- Medium Businesses are Currently Spending their IT Budgets

Businesses are in a tricky spot in 2018.  Global political uncertainty and flat company revenues mean IT budgets most likely won't be increasing. The good news is technological advances are allowing businesses to get more for less, and with a properly allocated budget your business can do the same.

Hardware and software

Research from Spiceworks, a network of IT professionals, suggests the bulk of financial allotment for the year ahead should remain with hardware (37% of overall budget) and software (31%). A combined 68% from these hand-in-hand tools is no surprise since these are the essential building blocks of any business. In order to skyrocket your business, you need a solid foundation. 

What will force IT departments to spend money on software this year is less likely to be new features than simple end-of-life replacements. According to Spiceworks, 46% of companies still use Microsoft Office 2003 on at least one computer. Even more startling is the ghost of Office 97 is still haunting 3% of companies. Software that is old enough to have a beer needs to be dropped in order to get the most out of your employees and their time.

Virtualization and productivity are at the top of the tree when it comes to priority updates.

Cloud and Hosted Services

This coming year there will be more spending than ever on cloud-based services – 38% of respondents consider the cloud very or extremely important to their current business practices (compared to 29% last year). This is due to the cloud's increased safety and ease of use in recent years. Email hosting is predicted to take up much of the 14% overall budget allocation in the cloud sector with online backup and recovery a close second.

Managed Service Projects

Remote Management and outsourcing of company IT infrastructure will take up 13% of the budget total. As headcounts shrink, IT departments are going to have to be more strategic in how they use people and outsourcing to managed service providers will become a necessity.

AI, VR and 3D

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and 3D printing are out of the lab and into real world applications. The remaining 5% of budget spend is predicted to be invested in making these systems a part of everyday use.

For the Visuals out There

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What do I do with this Information?

As you know by now every business is vastly different in their needs and budgets. This is a snapshot of where businesses like yours are currently allocating their IT budget. Also take into account that as technology advances and becomes more practical, you can expect to see the percentages allotted to the cloud and AI increase. Being on top of new technology in your industry can really set your business apart from competition and make your employees much more efficent.

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