Where Can I Get Money to Open a Business by epj16788

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									Can IT get me more for less to help me through the credit crunch?

An alternative look at IT costs for business managers
The problem facing most businesses at the moment is how to run more effectively and efficiently
without increasing and ideally, whilst reducing, costs.

There seems to be a constant need to spend money on IT. Many IT suppliers will tell you that
upgrading your systems means faster, more reliable computers. You’ll also be told that by
upgrading your software to their latest version with more functionality and more security, you’ll be
more productive and safer.

Some of you will have more pressing issues regarding your IT, for example computers that run
too slowly or are unreliable. You might be told your computers are too old and at the end of their
useful lives, or that the applications are now out of date and you have to upgrade. Or you may be
in the enviable position of expanding, so you need computers for new starters.

So in this tough economic climate the question you will be asking yourself is if it’s possible to get
more for the money you spend or to achieve the same result but spend less money. The answer
to this is that yes, it is possible, to make budgets go further or achieve the same and spend less
money, without the usual pitfalls.

Make your IT budget go further

Sounds too good to be true? Well it isn’t. This is how it could work for your business.

For many businesses, IT spend is all about buying new computers and ‘shrinkwrapped’ software.
Much of this is pre-configured and already installed when you buy your new computer, so you
don’t even know how much it cost you. But the costs aren’t so high that they raise eyebrows or
need any special approval and the manufacturers package everything together for you, so it’s not
a difficult decision. After you’ve done this a few times you might network them together. At this
point, it’s apparent that you’ve made a considerable investment in your IT and this approach
becomes your strategy by default – to just keep buying more of the same. And why not? Most
computer and software manufacturers plan for their customers’ growth and set out a simple
product strategy that makes it easy for you to use more of their products as time goes on.
However, as your company grows you end up having to license ‘enterprise’ versions of your
software – and pay enterprise prices. As this is your strategy, you feel you have no choice but to
go ahead and pay the extra and then go on paying. In this way you’re following someone else’s
strategy for their products, not one for your business!

A better way to do it

Large and complex organisations do this differently and get much better value for money – and a
measurable return on their investment in IT. They spend a small fraction of their IT budget on
PCs and ‘shrinkwrapped’ software – the rest is spent on analysing the business requirements and
considering how to provide a solution to meet their needs, then implementing it to suit, whilst
training their staff to make the most of it. Finally they pay to have it properly supported. This
means that the computer systems they buy work to meet their business’ objectives (rather then
their business having to work around generic systems), their staff are able to get on with their
jobs productively (because they know how to get the best out of the systems) and someone is on
hand to sort things out when they go wrong (so staff can focus on running the business, not on
trying to get the computers to work).
How can that work for me?

Many small and medium sized companies don’t have the kind of money to do this – some are
struggling just to buy the computers and software in the first place and most can’t stretch to, or
justify, the kinds of budgets that would be needed. In order to spend a much smaller proportion
of your budget on hardware and standard software so there’s money left over to pay for analysis,
implementation, training and support, something needs to be done differently.

Fortunately technological developments - particularly in software in the last few years - combined
with a good appreciation of how different approaches to using technology can serve a business,
means many businesses can get the same, or better, results from cheaper computers or by
extending the life of their existing computers. You don’t have to throw away everything you’ve got
and start from scratch either – the new and the old can co-exist quite happily.

Why haven’t I heard of it?

If it’s that simple, why isn’t every one doing it? Well, a number of reasons – a very important one
being that most IT suppliers are aligned with traditional manufacturers of computers and software
and the way they earn their money is through the margins on selling the computers and software.
It’s at the heart of how they survive. They need their clients to buy more of the same or upgrade.
It’s not cynical, it’s just the way things have been done up until now.

The good news, though, is that there’s a lot of legitimate software that is completely free of
charge. It’s well written, maintained, updated regularly and very secure. It’s not shareware or
freeware, it’s called Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). It’s been in use for many years
too. You may be using it now without even knowing - more than 70% of all the websites on the
internet run it. In fact, up until the last few years it’s been mainly known for how it’s used on
servers.

What Free and Open Source Software is available?

In the last few years, however, some companies have spotted a huge opportunity and are doing
business in a different way – using this approach to produce software for ‘the desktop’ or in the
office. Mature products have now established themselves, ranging from office suites to web
browsers to mail, calendar and address book combos. A couple of examples that are becoming
well known are the web browser, Firefox, and the office suite called Open Office
(www.openoffice.org) that includes a word processor, spreadsheet and presentations all of which
will work seamlessly to create new documents or open, edit and save the ones you already have.
There are products available this way that provide your server software, database, email,
calendars and diaries etc and as you’d expect, given its background, ones that manage server
functions and network administration.

And the best news is, because many were designed to work on older computers, they’ll work on
much cheaper new ones (or can replace the software on your existing computers to extend their
lives).

Does it really cost less?

Let's make a comparison based on some typical costs for a typical business with ten staff. We’ve
not used any single vendor’s products but taken an indicative price a bit below present market
prices. We’ll also itemise them so you can change or remove them to be representative of your
business (you can get accurate prices for your business from manufacturers’ web sites) – the
quantities should scale too.
Traditional commercial products on the desktop:

Standard office suite: ………………………………………............. approx.             £75
Anti-virus: ………………………………………............................... approx.      £40
Business desktop software (the “operating system”): ………….... approx.    £50
PC to run it on (recommended specification): ….…………………. approx.         £200
(1GHz Dual Core processor, 2GB memory, 40GB HDD, DVD,
NIC, graphics and audio enabled from a brand name manufacturer)
Installation and set-up: ….………………………………………...... approx.                £35

Total Price: £400

Compared with:

Standard office suite: ………………………………………............. Free of charge
Anti-virus: ………………………………………............................... approx. £40
Business desktop software (the “operating system”): ………….... Free of charge
PC to run it on (recommended specification): ….…………………. approx. £200
(1GHz Dual Core processor, 2GB memory, 40GB HDD, DVD,
NIC, graphics and audio enabled from a brand name manufacturer)
Installation and set-up: ….………………………………………...... approx. £35

Total Price: £275

You’ll notice we’ve mixed free of charge and paid-for software – there’s no reason why you
shouldn’t mix and match the ones that suit you best.


Traditional commercial products on the server:

Server operating system – 10 user: ……………………………….. approx £750
User management, mail and calendar – 10 user: ……………….., approx. £1,000
Remote access – 10 user: ………………………………………….. approx £600
Database – 10 user: …………………………………………………. approx. £1,800
Installation and configuration: ………………………………..…….. approx £500
Server (recommended specification): ……………………….…….. approx. £1,000

Total Price: £5,650

Compared with:

Server operating system – 10 user: ………………………………… Free of charge
User management, mail and calendar – 10 user: ..……………….. Free of charge
Remote access – 10 user: …………………………………………… Free of charge
Database – 10 user: ………………………………………………….. Free of charge
Installation and configuration: …………………………………..…... £500
Server (recommended specification): ………………………….…... approx. £1,000
2 GHz dual core processor, 4.5 GB RAM, 160 GB mirrored disk,
DVD-ROM drive, NIC, graphics enabled

Total Price: £1,500
In both cases, as a keyboard, mouse and screen will cost the same in both cases, they make no
difference in a price comparison (as we’re not looking at percentages) so they’re not included
here. So in this example, an office with ten desktops and a server running a fairly typical office
set up (office productivity suite, file server, user management, security, email, calendars and
diaries) the saving is some thousands of pounds. This is without considering the savings that
could be made by extending the life of some of your computers or being able to use less
expensive ones because the recommended specification requirement is lower.

Conclusion

So there you have it, cheaper computers and free software, you CAN now do the same for less.
Or you can do more for the same money. The money you’ve saved could be spent on
professional services to advise and help your business get the most out of your IT systems. Add
the benefits that proper implementation, training and support will provide to your business to
being able to mix new and old and it’s less risky than continuing with the strategy of just buying
more and more of what you’re used to.

Incidentally, the money you spend for services from your local supplier stays in your local
economy – that’s the money that comes back around to pay for your products and services.

Instead of having cheaper IT systems, you could have better trained staff, IT systems aligned to
your business processes more effectively and more staff time spent on productive work plus
cheaper IT systems - all from your existing budget.

This alone would be a great outcome, but how about achieving this now and having lower IT
costs in the future? Well, maybe you can get more for less …



This article was written by Des Gregory of Axiom Tech. Axiom Tech provides IT and communications solutions to
businesses across Europe focusing on their customers’ business objectives. Axiom Tech specialises in combining Open
Source and traditional, commercial software as well as many types of hardware and networking. Its staff has proven
expertise in designing and implementing upgrades, add-ons and new systems using the most appropriate technologies for
their clients’ needs. Axiom Tech also provides the full range of services from analysis through design to implementation,
change management and training as well as ongoing support.

If you have any questions about this article or think the ideas are of interest, Des can be contacted on 0845 127 0310 ,
des@axiomtech.co.uk or contact him through the website www.axiomtech.co.uk if you’d like to see whether this might
benefit your business.

								
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