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

"We had a customer report that he set up rolling dashboards in our product during the inauguration in order to be prepared to take action if the online viewing interrupted business services," Currie says. "If you know there is an event coming, establish the filters and get that data right in front of you. If behavior impedes business, lock it down. Don't do a post-mortem on why things crashed when monitoring tools can give you insight in real-time."

Fine-tune existing network gear

First American's Seitz realizes that even though funds are dried up today, customer demand for IT innovations will continue at a breakneck pace. That's why he's working with F5 Networks during this downturn to review his existing network infrastructure and find ways to add intelligence to the gear to improve application delivery to mobile users.

"We have some 2,000 applications that we run and it would be impossible for us to support a separate code base just for mobile devices," Seitz says. "We need to be forward thinking because some of these things won't stop just because we don't have extra capital to invest; we just need to do it in a different way."

Restructure staff

With payroll budgets strapped, it's a good idea to take inventory of in-house talent and realign IT pros to the job most suited for them. Virginia Tech's Jones says he's doing just that as part of an effort to make the university's enterprise systems accessible from PDAs and other mobile devices.

"There has been restructuring to take advantage of in-house programming talent," Jones says. "We are looking at the big picture and realizing we need to make our apps easier to back up and maintain and that we have the programming knowledge in house to do that without having to turn to a vendor."

Squeeze more from freeware

Freeware and open source applications have become a must-have for many IT shops these days.

For John Kokidko, network operations administrator at Georgetown University, an open source application called Netdisco helps him discover the network, see what's on ports and potentially lock out threats. Designed for moderate to large networks, configuration information and connection data for network devices are retrieved by SNMP.

"We started using Netdisco because we needed to control infected devices via port shut-offs on our network. But because our network is ever-expanding, the app is now getting used beyond our original intention and helping us discover and view the network in a logistical sense," he explains. "It's a pretty powerful open source tool and it's free. Really how could we go wrong?"

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