You've sung Auld Lang Syne and tidied up the detritus from the New Year's Eve celebrations; it's time to roll up your sleeves and start thinking about work.
But before you dive into a new year's worth of projects, take a second to sit down and think about how you can stretch your business budget in the next 12 months.
Here are 12 ways to keep a few extra dollars in your pocket by rethinking how you use technology in your office.
- Cellphones may be a necessity, but that doesn't mean large bills are inevitable. If you spend most of your time in a major metropolitan area, local cell providers such as Mobilicity or Wind Mobile can offer significant savings on both voice and data services. But bear in mind the downside: If you venture outside your metro area, you pay roaming fees.
- If you do stick with a national carrier, an app such as Telicost from Montreal's Anomalous Networks can help keep costs under control. It tracks voice, data and SMS usage in real time, and warns if you’re about to cross your plan’s threshold. The Lite version is free, though businesses can purchase an additional software-as-a-service component to manage several phones and prevent expensive surprises at the end of the month. Telicost works on BlackBerry, iPhone/iPad, Android and Windows Phone devices, as well as Windows PCs.
- If you still have a fax machine lurking in a corner, occasionally spewing out a few scraps, consider switching to an online fax service such as Ottawa-based MyFax. This service lets you use your existing fax number to send and receive faxes over the Internet, without paying for an additional phone line. Their basic plan costs $10 per month or $110 per year for 100 pages sent and 200 received.
- While we're talking telephony, if you make frequent long distance calls, a technology called voice over IP (VoIP) from companies such as Vonage, which uses the Internet rather than the telephone company's lines, could mean substantial savings.
- Software licensing can be a huge drain on resources. These days, programs can often cost more than the hardware they're running on. Look into volume licensing plans such as the Microsoft Open license – you can subscribe with as few as five computers. Adobe and other developers also offer volume licensing plans.
- To eliminate license costs entirely, consider open source software such as LibreOffice, a productivity suite for Windows, Mac and Linux that consists of a word processor, spreadsheet program, presentation program, drawing tool and equation editor. For PDFs, try a free program such as NitroPDF. But don't download from just anywhere; you might be unconsciously leaving your system open to malware. Visit known sources such as download.com or Tucows Downloads, and be sure to check even their wares for malware before installing.
- If supported software is a priority (open source or freebies typically do not offer support), consider the commercial versions of free products; they are often cheaper than the big brand names. For example, NitroPDF offers a fully supported version, with volume licensing plans starting at 11 copies.
- If you have some older uninterruptible power supplies protecting servers or other devices, consider replacing them entirely with new, more energy-efficient models. The Trade-UPS program from APC even offers discounts on new models, and the company will take back your old units for proper recycling.
- Shut down equipment at night and on weekends where possible to save electricity. It's green, and it saves cash, too; equipment generates heat and increases cooling costs in summer, after all. Buy power bars with timers on them that will shut down automatically. If a computer has to remain on for some reason, at least turn off the monitor and peripherals.
- Look to the cloud when you need additional infrastructure resources. Cloud-based or hosted services can be considerably less expensive – but remember that an off-premises service may mean you need a better Internet connection.
- Consolidate supplies purchases to get better pricing. In a growing company, individual purchases can get overlooked; buying printer paper, toner or other small items in bulk can save a lot of money.
- Set up printers to default to double-sided printing, and teach your employees how to take advantage of other features, such as printing multiple pages on one sheet. It saves paper, toner and energy. And print in monochrome, not colour; it’s much cheaper.