Network Instruments recently offered Windows IT Pro readers eight tips for making your IT department recession proof. In the face of turbulent economic times, it can be difficult to decide what steps to take to reduce costs while ensuring your network meets your business needs. These tips present immediate and long-term steps to better network efficiency and reduce IT costs.

1) Understand Network Demand and Application Behavior
It’s been said that you can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. The same holds true for network management and capacity planning. Unless you have an idea of normal application behavior in the past, it’s difficult to gauge acceptable performance in the future or how the network will respond to new application rollouts. Establishing benchmarks and understanding long-term network utilization are key to ensuring effective infrastructure changes. In addition to evaluating network performance, understanding network demand and behavior is key to accurate long-term planning and handling new business requests.

2) Eliminate Unauthorized Application and Device Use
Unauthorized applications and network devices can consume significant bandwidth and resources and constitute a security threat. Daily network monitoring and asset tracking allows your staff to quickly identify unauthorized application and device use.

3) Save Money Using PC Power Management
Save the environment and your bottom line. Going green can save your company green. PC power-management software monitors computer activities and powers down systems when not in use. You can also implement policies with the software that place the computers into standby mode after closing.

4) Harness the Power of Virtualization
Use virtualization to consolidate network servers for more efficient use of network resources. Relying upon virtual servers reduces the need to purchase physical machines, saves money by reducing power consumption, shortens disaster-recovery time, and allows you to easily establish server and resource redundancy.

5) Align IT with Business
Managing IT costs is part technical and part personal relationships. In the current cost-cutting environment, it can be hard to avoid the knife even when your department is contributing positively to the company's bottom line. In early 2000, IT departments faced cuts due to a lack of understanding of how they contributed to business revenues. Although understanding has improved, the CIO can take steps to minimize the chance of having the budget slashed. First, organize IT costs around services and processes visible to the business. Second, establish strong relationships and clear communication with the CFO, explaining the risks of postponing infrastructure investments or reducing services.

6) Automate Business Processes
With layoffs plaguing many companies, now is the time to improve business efficiency with automation. For example, improving your company's capabilities to hold meetings online can reduce the need for travel. Are there any customer care services that can be delivered online rather than over the phone?

7) Prioritize Projects
As you face more project requests than available dollars, now is the time to prioritize projects in the queue. At the very least, determine which projects are necessities versus nice-to-haves. Taking it a step further, it's important to conduct in-depth cost-benefit analyses of each project to determine what value it offers short term and long term. Also, keep company annual growth targets in mind and determine what IT investments are necessary to achieve them.

8) Create HR Policies for Web 2.0 Applications
Although Web 2.0 applications can boost company productivity, they also increase exposure to security and compliance threats. Adopting policies that appropriately restrict use and educate users about potential risks can reduce bandwidth demand, security threats, and liability exposures