DIY tips: How to cut costs and get more from your IT gear

Forget buying new tools; adjusting applications and resources can deliver results in a downturn

IT managers can turn on SNMP polling across various devices, such as light systems, and monitor power usage and thermostat levels without investing in power monitoring tools from a vendor. Bordeau says the metrics can be captured, tracked, averaged and compared against bills to trend where unnecessary costs are accruing.

"Many things have poll-able metrics now and can be network-attached," Bordeau says. "Every penny counts right now."

Tap collaboration, social networking tools

Naveed Husain isn't feeling the penny-pinching effect of the recession as much as others in his field, he says, because he works in public education -- where every dollar needs to be stretched into three.

"We have never been able to throw money at things, so we buy things we know can be used in a variety of ways," says Husain, CIO at Queens College, a City University of New York public educational institution.

For instance, instead of investing in software to revamp the university's Web site and separate tools for project management, Husain tapped an existing enterprise Microsoft SharePoint license to do both. The collaboration software helped Husain build a standard look and feel across Queens College's various departments and not spend a cent.

"The whole idea when we decided to use SharePoint was to leverage what we were already spending money on, so we can really get everything out of it possible," he explains.

Husain also is putting social networking to use by building Facebook pages for university departments.

"This isn't cutting edge or new, but our students are already using this application and it is available to us for free so why not meet our customers there and provide them the resources they need in a setting they are comfortable with," Husain says. "And it's free for us."

'True-up' maintenance/software license contracts

An economic downturn provides the perfect opportunity to take an inventory of network devices and software licenses, track actual usage and associate a cost with what gets used in the environment and by whom.

"True-up maintenance contracts," says Lou Nardo, Netcordia's vice president of product management. "[It will] help stop over-paying on network device maintenance beyond what is still owned and deployed."

John Turner, director of networks and systems at Brandeis University, adjusts his organization's maintenance contracts during tough economic times. With some 900 edge switches, "it makes sense for us to put maintenance on core equipment and just spare the edge switches," Turner says. He adds that having maintenance on all the switches costs more than having a few spares on hand in case one breaks.

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