Almost a year ago (in "Now We Really Are Doing More with Less"), I wrote about Microsoft's flagging fortunes in the economic downturn and how they mirrored the issues its customers were facing. When Microsoft's "Do More With Less" mantra comes up, it's often in the context of saving money. And certainly that's at the heart of all IT management planning—always has been, always will be. But looking ahead to 2010, I see a chance for IT infrastructure to do more with less not just because it may save money but because it's the right thing to do.
Some of this may seem painful at first. But I think there's elegance in simplicity, a simplicity that can benefit us all if we can look past our ingrained wants and see what it is we really need to get our jobs done. In my own home office, for example, I've moved to a virtualized domain infrastructure, replacing several PCs and servers with a single machine. And while anyone can generally agree that virtualization is a good thing, I've gotten to the point where I believe we can't be aggressive enough about virtualization.
Ditto for desktop consolidation. Today, many users have separate smart phones, notebooks, and desktop PCs, which represent an incredible waste of management time and resources. In my own simple environment, hardware piles up, and I have to work to ensure that the working set remains as small as possible. The benefits are enormous: Fewer machines to manage, few software updates to install, less to worry about.
You can take this even further if you're aggressive about the software you in. Consider just PCs. Does every single user need Microsoft Office? Does every single user need every single application in Microsoft Office? Now ask the same questions about every software application you deploy and consider the maintenance required to keep everything up to date. You won't have to patch Microsoft Excel if it's not installed.
This is true of OS features as well. When you combine the latest Windows versions with Group Policy, you get amazing control over which built-in applications are actually installed to your desktops. Use it.
Speaking of which, sometimes newer is better. With systems such as Windows 7 and Internet Explorer (IE) 8, it's almost laughable to compare them to the software they will replace in most businesses, that is, the aging Windows XP and IE 6. Windows XP I can almost understand, but using IE 6 in this day and age is inexcusable. It's a software time bomb. Admins shouldn't let their users use IE 6. It's that simple.
If you're worried about the cost of upgrading to newer software versions, consider this: Those (mostly small) businesses still using Windows XP/Vista and Office XP/2003 qualify for an "Up To Date (UTD)" discount of up to 50 percent for Windows 7 and Office 2007 (and Office 2010 once that ships). The deal is good through June 30, 2010. This is an unprecedented deal. Previously, Microsoft exempted software that was two or more versions old from getting such a steep discount. Find out more on the Microsoft SMB Community Blog.
Finally, my biggest office pet peeve of all, which dates back to my very first "real" job in banking 20 years ago, is this: Many employers seem to forget that little things can keep employees—or, in the case of admins, users—happy. This includes giving them the ability to work at home by substituting a notebook for that stodgy desktop, or on the go, with a modern, capable smart phone. Many users would actually be pretty impressed and appreciative to go from XP to Windows 7. I mean, you're doing it anyway, right?
All of this is common sense. But I'm amazed by the pushback I get from admins when I suggest things like outsourcing email and applications to the cloud and even virtualizing core infrastructure. It's the 21st century, people. Let's act like it. Along the way, we might just save some money and become more efficient. And stop worrying about the things that simply aren't core to our businesses.