I've been surfing the net, checking out what cost savings articles are currently out there. And I have to say, the most frustrating thing about most of the articles I've found is that they allude to cost savings, but they really don't provide any concrete numbers or plans of action. While it's true that smart infrastructure management, product bundling, and research-based purchasing decisions are smart for business, we're in the type of economic climate where many of us need clear-cut costs to make sound budgeting decisions (or just to keep above water). As IT pros are increasingly expected to become business strategists, finding hidden costs to cut becomes a valuable skill.

While there are many more cost-savings options out there, I've include four in this article that yield positive savings and won't significantly hinder your business.

1. Microsoft Office--OpenOffice or Google Docs
Cost Savings: Up to $500 per machine
Thoughts: While Microsoft Office is commonly hailed as the de facto standard office productivity suite, there is nothing that Office offers that is so compelling that users can't live without it. OpenOffice offers comparable alternatives to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel, and Mozilla Thunderbird is a comparable alternative to Outlook. Best of all, every alternative I've mentioned is free.
Drawbacks: OpenOffice is slower than Microsoft Office, while adjusting to Google Docs may be difficult for some individuals; compatibility between alternatives isn't always 100% (especially with autoformatting); many people are comfortable with Word and Outlook.

Additional Reading:

2. PBX--Voice-over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
Cost Savings: Vary
Thoughts: VoIP is a powerful and cost-efficient alternative to traditional PBX systems. In addition to cutting or eliminating the cost of long-distance phone calls, VoIP offers improved integration with email, which can be a major boon to customer service and sales representatives that need to track and manage clients over extended periods of time. Both proprietary VoIP solutions and free solutions are available.
Drawbacks: Quality may not be quite as good; adjustment time for employees.

Additional Reading:

3. Microsoft Exchange--Exchange Alternatives
Cost Savings: Significant, vary by organization
Thoughts: Since the role of Exchange Server is to serve as a back-end for your email client, it's not surprising that many alternatives exist that claim to offer all the functionality of Exchange at a much lower cost. While there is convenience in having the same vendor offer a number of related products, most Exchange integrate with Outlook just as well as Exchange does. In addition, there are even free, open-source alternatives available.
Drawbacks: Some alternatives might not integrate as well with Outlook, some vendors may offer inferior support and less frequent updates.

Additional Reading:

4. ESX Server--Hyper-V
Cost Savings: Up to 2/3 of cost
Thoughts: For individuals with very specific virtualization needs, it is understandable why they would choose to partner with VMware. However, for most organizations, the purpose of virtualization is to cut costs and increase efficiencies. While monetary gains can certainly be reached with both vendors, the significant price point in Hyper-V makes it a very compelling offering. Of course, look into Hyper-V closely to make sure it can meet all of your virtualization needs.
Drawbacks: Hyper-V lacks some features, has a less robust management system, and does not yet have as broad of a portfolio of related products.

Additional Reading:

Now that you've read my recommendations, I'd like to hear from you. What cash cows do you think organizations spend too much money on, and what alternatives are available? Or, if you think using cost-effective alternatives will end up costing organizations more money in the long run (in weaker support, more problems, less efficiency), I'd love to hear from you as well.

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