We hear it every day: Do more with less. But what does that really mean? Can we move forward and expand our capabilities without investment? How much will our resources be cut back? Whether we are talking about what we have or what we do, "do more with less" sends a clear message: The status quo is no longer acceptable.
Business people classify a reduction in expense into one of two categories: Cost avoidance and cost savings. It can often be difficult to tell whether a given line item results in one or the other, but there is a simple rule that can help:
- Cost avoidance reduces next year's budget, allowing us to put off or eliminate a cost we thought we would incur in the future.
- Cost savings reduces this year's budget, producing quicker and more tangible results.
Both are future costs (it's awfully difficult to save money you have already spent!) but the latter is much more "real" than the former. Importantly, cost savings is the true measure of doing more with less. Cost avoidance is nice, but it won't meet that requirement!
We can all think of ways to avoid costs. We can use what we have more efficiently, putting off a future expansion. In the case of enterprise storage, improving capacity utilization is a prime candidate for cost avoidance. With the ratio of used to usable running in the low 20% range on average, many of us can find extra space to put to use. We can also look at cleaning up the data that is stored on our systems, deleting unnecessary extra copies, temporary files, or inappropriate content. Advanced compression and deduplication technologies can even free up space without deleting anything! The result of these efforts is less need to buy new disks or arrays to expand our infrastructure.
We can also avoid costs and delay purchases by prolonging the life of current gear. Many systems are not configured for optimal performance, and a few days work to tune the settings might allow us to get another year out of an older array. But make sure you are really saving money! Maintenance costs ramp up quickly after three or four years, and older, smaller disks consume much more power (and take up more space) than newer devices. There comes a time when old storage systems must be retired regardless of their depreciation status!
It is much more difficult to find real cost savings in IT. Eliminating current expenses might mean breaking leases, returning gear, or tough negotiations with vendors. Many have chosen the painful route of eliminating personnel as well, since such operational costs can be more-rapidly recognized.
One popular option is the conversion of capital costs to operational costs by turning to service providers. Rather than replacing a server, storage, and backup combination to run email, for example, a managed service can be engaged. The old equipment can be removed, eliminating maintenance, power, and floor space costs, and the organization can pay for service on demand. This increases flexibility as well, allowing the system to be rapidly expanded or reduced as needs change.
There are many other expenses that can be eliminated if one is creative. Many larger organizations buy hundreds or thousands of backup tapes every month, for example, spending many thousands of dollars. But backup administrators can get creative, changing retention schedules, more effectively filling tapes, increasing reuse, or relying on disk-based backup. All of these have the side effect of improving effectiveness of the system as well.
What creative areas of cost savings have you discovered? We will return to this topic frequently here at the Enterprise Storage Strategies blog!