Technology runs the workplace. There’s no escaping it, but allowing technology to run over the workplace is expensive. There are always more devices, tools and apps that feel like they can help. Eventually, you have to focus on reducing your IT spending.
One way a lot of companies achieve that goal is by utilizing shared devices. If one computer can server two employees, it seems like an easy opportunity to save money. If you have shared devices, and virtually every workplace does, you might benefit from a few tips that can improve on that sharing. Here are five.
Central Login Servers
Our first tip is one that will especially serve small businesses. To put it in simple terms, a central login server is a master computer that controls the other workstations in the office. It handles backing up data and storing user settings and adjustments. When implemented, the central login server enables any workstation to be a customized device for every single employee. You simply login with the most convenient device and you have immediate access to all of your work.
Central login servers can make IT maintenance easier and less expensive. They can also extend the life of workstation devices. Since the server is substantially more powerful than a traditional PC, it can supplement some of the workload and allow older devices to keep up with the workload for a longer period of time. In all, it’s an avenue businesses need to consider to make device sharing efficient and simple for employees.
The most important aspect of sharing devices is ensuring that employees can pull up everything they need for work. Many software companies have developed apps and tools to streamline this process, but if you’re on a tight budget, you might not want to spend money on new software. Most modern operating systems already have sharing components baked into the package.
Consider Windows 10. It already gives users the option to sign in with a Microsoft ID. That ID saves settings and can even be paired to automatic backups. It gives you many of the benefits of the central login server we just discussed, and none of it costs any extra money.
The key to using embedded sharing services is to educate employees on using them. At the most basic level, everyone can handle logging in to get their settings and layout. That’s nowhere near the extent of services that come with the package. Take the time to learn the ins and outs of sharing services that you already have, and give your employees a chance to learn too. You can find more efficient device sharing without spending a penny on new machines or software.
Technology can do a lot to help you share devices in the workplace, but it can’t do everything. Device sharing comes with certain obstacles. When the shared devices are mobile, those obstacles multiply. A well-defined accountability system is key to empowering employees with an efficient means to share.
At the most basic level, you need protocols for checking out and safely returning devices. There should never be any doubt as to who is in control of each device. Safely storing (and charging) devices also needs to be a standard protocol. When employees understand the expectations, they can go through the steps that are designed to make device sharing more effective.
If more than one person is storing work on a single device, the risk of devastating data loss explodes. No matter how carefully you plan, unexpected device losses are inevitable. Sometimes, technology just breaks. Every company needs an extensive backup and data security plan — doubly so when employees are sharing devices. The central login server concept can make things easy, but even that isn’t really enough.
The rule in IT is that any information you can’t afford to lose needs to exist in triplicate. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve seen this before. Important data should exist in the form of the original copy, a local backup and a cloud backup. If a rigorous schedule isn’t keeping all of those copies up to date on each device, you’re playing a dangerous game.
There’s a whole category of shared devices we haven’t yet touched. Specialized workstations come in many forms and functions. They can be the shared printer, a dedicated conference projector or even an office coffee maker. This is such a broad category that there isn’t much general, easily digestible advice to give. That said, there is one idea that can help run specialized workstations effectively: workflow.
If you keep a close eye on how employees are using the shared station, you can usually spot efficiency bottlenecks. Are too many people trying to print at the same time? Does it take forever to set up for a presentation? Is coffee addiction spiraling out of control?
When you’re auditing workflow and finding problems, the most important thing to remember is that additional devices or workstations aren’t always the answer. Too often, managers overlook how easily a little bit of scheduling or procedural shift can ease the bottleneck and make the shared technology more accessible.
Hopefully, these five tips can help you avoid overspending on personal devices for your employees. If they aren’t enough, there is still a deep, rich world of IT advice available. Have a chat with your team and see if you can find more ways to squeeze a little more bang out of your devices.
About the Author: Nancy Peckham
Nancy began her career in telecommunications in 1983 as an account executive with Republic Telecom, a regional long distance carrier. She was named district sales manager for the Wisconsin region in 1987 when Republic Telecom was acquired by Mid American Communications. She recognized a need for independent, objective telecommunications consulting which led her founding Valicom. Since its launch in 1991, Valicom has been a leader in providing telecom expense management solutions and serves enterprise and mid-market clients in a variety of industries and verticals across the U.S. Nancy earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, founded and served as president of the Telecommunications Professionals of Wisconsin (TPW) from 1989-1992, and was executive vice president on the board of directors of the Society of Telecommunications Consultants (STC). Nancy is also a founding member and executive council chair of the Independent Telecommunications Expense Management Association (i-TEM).