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's a risk and that shows up under the warrantee, but we do the same no-maintenance with access points and VoIP phones," he says.

Repair existing equipment

Brandeis' Turner also thinks more companies could get better at repairing equipment or replacing power supplies when times get financially tough. For instance, the cost to buy a new VoIP phone could be $400, when the price for repairs is more like $120. Even less expensive is the do-it-yourself-option.

"We can fix a VoIP phone in-house with a spare part and 20 minutes of labor for about $13," Turner says. "You turn to such methods in hard times, but really they make sense in any economic times."

Enable NetFlow and IP SLA

Turning features on in network hardware can deliver volumes of meaningful data and reduce manual efforts for IT managers. For instance, Cisco equipment includes features such as NetFlow and IP SLA, both of which often remain dormant unless activated.

"These features are built right into Cisco IOS and turning them on delivers traffic flow and performance data without spending more cash," says Josh Stephens, vice president and head geek at SolarWinds.

The network management company offers free downloadable tools that help IT managers use NetFlow statistics and IP SLA  to better monitor performance, revealing top conversations and bandwidth hogs, for example. IP SLA also lets network managers generate test traffic on the network to determine availability.

"Without IP SLA, network managers would have to telnet to each router and do pints and perform traceroutes to get the same information," Stephens explains. "This work would be a lot more manually intensive without turning on NetFlow and IP SLA.

Eliminate unauthorized application and device use

The recession has many IT managers thinking they should lose the nice guy mentality and lock down application and device usage in favor of business-critical demands. But many might not realize they can gather the necessary data without investing in more tools.

According to Russ Currie, director of product management at NetScout, the company's nGenuis Performance Manager product can be configured in such a way to deliver Web site statistics via a dashboard feature. Rather than investing in a new tool to monitor Web traffic, one customer used nGenuis to ensure his site could handle the load of dozens of employees simultaneously watching the presidential inauguration online at work.

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