Cost cutting - from desktop to toilet

What is this word you call 'refresh'?

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Recently, we shared some preliminary results from our annual x86 enterprise user survey. The topic of that article was the economy, and what it’s done to our survey respondents’ 2010 IT budgets. You can see that article here and take the survey yourself here.

Now we’re taking a look at a sampling of the qualitative answers we received in the survey when we gave the respondents a chance to tell us about the good, the bad, and the just plain stupid attempts to cut costs. As you’ll see, these plans are ill-fated due to a combination of short-term thinking, utter incompetence, and probably a heaping helping of toadying as well.

Hardware refresh cycles were mentioned several times, including these stories…

“So, we have these 5 year old MICRON computers. Micron is no longer in business. We've been inundated by a rash of failed Micron computers. Latest news from the heights of management? Yes...you got it. To save money they won't be replacing those computers. I guess they'd rather spend the money having us repair these failing systems than replace them and make everyone work a little better. Yeah...you try running Autocad in Vista on a 5-year-old POS with 1GB of RAM. Go ahead....we'll see you tomorrow after the app loads.”

“When buying replacement PCs, the boss said to not order any speakers with them, on the grounds that they didn't have a legitimate business purpose, and it would save us some money on the cost. Turns out many people get their voicemail via their email, and need computer speakers (or headphones) to hear their messages. Luckily, we are able to keep the external speakers from the old PCs, so it's not a total waste. Other than that, we run computers until they die (or complain a lot about how slow they are).”


Using outsourced services to save money was also cited a number of times, with survey respondents alluding to uneven results, one-sided contracts, and paying money for few benefits. This next response is pretty representative of what we read from others. (It also had a fair amount of detail, so I used ‘xxxx’ to hide the writer’s identity – better safe than sorry these days…

“…we're a very small company - xx people. Our CFO outsourced IT support without consulting the software engineering department, which managed the IT infrastructure at the time. The IT mgmt company's contract spells out in detail that their job is to basically make sure that Microsoft security updates are applied and "notify us if there is a problem with a server" (there are only 4 servers - a domain controller, a xxxx server, and two xxxx servers that are still managed entirely by the SE staff). They don't manage e-mail or telephones (we use xxx), and they don't manage the firewall. $1500/month.”

You can also save money by strategic IT hiring… like this example:

“IT guy is a part timer, and spendthrift who has no qualms about blowing tons of money on kit and is as capable of running a server as a 2 year old. He's the CEO's xxxxxxx, neither of whom could find their own asses with two hands and a stick attached to an ass-finding radar. I'm actually a xxxx designer now because I couldn't take the torture of IT anymore.”

We also had a large number of hilarious responses, like these below….

“To save money they cut down on coffee room supplies. Got rid of bottled water. To increase communication we have mandatory meetings with sign in sheets. All in the hopes of improving morale? We must now bring our own coffee, but the worst, is we have to bring our own toilet paper!”

“The phones in 'public' areas of the office had the cords to the handsets removed, forcing the use of speakerphone (*shudder*) to discourage personal use of the phones.”

(Author’s note: Unless these phones were racking up huge charges for phone sex services or something, this is just too extreme a step. There is NOTHING worse than listening to someone else’s aimless, stupid conversations on a speaker phone. However, as someone who often delights in making others uncomfortable, I’ll make myself available to come to your offices and conduct enough shudder-inducing conversations to make them reverse the policy. I’m just in this business to help people, after all.)

“Too numerous to list really. Making IT / users print only in duplex mode to save toner and paper. Created policy that all unessential computers, lights, electrical appliances be turned off when not in use, including 5 minute auto-off power for computer monitors.”

“Reuse calculator paper rolls by rolling them up the opposite way.”

“No more post-it notes ... 3 x 5 cards only ... have you ever tried to get scotch tape off a flat screen??? Isopropyl alcohol 70%, the kind that doesn’t have lanolin in it!!”

“My favorite thing here: Toilet paper is noticeably narrower - to the point it falls out of the dispenser…”

(Yes, this is terrible, but consider yourself lucky that you have toilet paper at all, right? Our pal in comment #2 above has seen his office stripped of both coffee AND toilet paper. These are truly troubling times.)

Surveying the scene

The survey covers a lot of ground, such as the ways your organizations are dealing with challenges like budgets and facilities constraints, but also how real-world folks like yourself view x86 servers and the vendors that vend them. We’re still running the survey – still looking for people who have opinions and don’t mind sharing them with us. So if you have a few minutes and are someone who knows your way around a data center (particularly x86 servers), we’d very much like to hear from you. We guarantee your anonymity and won’t try to sell you anything. Click here to get started.

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