Three Cost-Cutting Tech Solutions Every Operator Needs To Know

Posted on October 5, 2011

CHICAGO — Computer expert Scott Graflund, owner of CMIT Solutions of Arlington Heights, shared with operators at the Illinois Limousine Association’s fall meeting last month three concepts that can change the way they run their operations: cloud computing, VoIP calling, and thin-client appliances. Deployed correctly, these tech tools can complement or replace existing office systems and perform the same functions at lower cost.

The Cloud
Most people by now have heard of cloud computing. It’s a system where a company’s computing resources, such as data servers, are hosted and managed offsite by a third-party provider and accessed over the Internet via web applications. The cloud essentially eliminates the need for bulky inhouse servers and frees up office space.

The economic model offered by cloud services mean lower upfront costs and less hands-on maintenance. “The cloud is important because it saves you money,” Graflund said. “Instead of a big investment in in-house computing infrastructure that’s amortized over a period of time, you can pay [for cloud services] by the month.”

While the cloud offers tremendous benefits, there are also some risks involved. But as cloud computing proliferates, expect to see increased data security.

For more about the cloud, please read Jim Luff’s article on cloud computing and his blog post about a recent computer crash to see the headaches that come along with it.

“VoIP’ stands for Voice over Internet Protocol and is basically a phone service that delivers voice communication through a broadband Internet line instead of a traditional phone line. The main advantage to this is that a person does not have to physically be in his or her office to answer incoming calls to their extension.
VoIP makes phone calls through an internet connection.

VoIP makes phone calls through an internet connection.

VoIP systems are similar to the cloud because the phone lines are hosted by a cloud-like VoIP provider.

“Instead of buying a phone switch, you can set up your company’s phone numbers through VoIP for a monthly or yearly fee,” Graflund explained. Like with cloud servers, this method saves money by reducing up-front costs.

“The call quality and service is great and comes at a fraction of the cost,” Graflund said. “An owner can have his business spread out all over the globe and no one has to know, because although employees and offices might be out of state, they can all share a single number with different extensions, just like a traditional office phone system. They can be at home and still answer their office line, still re-route calls to the company’s other extensions.”

Learn how to set-up a VoIP system in this PC Magazine article.

Graflund defined an appliance as something low-cost that helps us. “It’s inexpensive and commoditized so you can maximize its use and replace it easily,” he said.

The appliances operators should familiarize themselves with are called “thin client” appliances, which are computers or computer programs which depend heavily on server or mainframe computers to fulfill traditional computing roles. The servers can be in-house or in the cloud, and must connect to the thin clients via Wi-Fi.

Thin client workstations connect to a server to access programs and files.

Thin client workstations connect to a server to access programs and files.

Thin clients can resemble tablets or laptops in appearance. They are made with solid-state technology so there are no moving parts that can break easily and are difficult to fix. Or they can just be a screen-and-keyboard setup that does not have any disk drives, which makes it harder for someone to steal information.

The difference between a tablet and thin client is that a tablet performs all of its computing functions on its own and has an internal memory that stores all of its programs and files, whereas a thin client accesses programs and files from the cloud or in-house server. If a thin client breaks, it can be easily replaced and no data is lost.

Danny Bacher of Atlanta’s Topper Worldwide told LCT his office is 100% web- and cloud-based, from reservations to vehicle tracking.

“There are two parts to this business: the first part is growing your gross revenue, which comes by increasing your clients and trips, and the second part is costs within your own office,” Bacher said. “You might bring in the same amount of revenue in year B that you had in year A, but if you cut costs during year B, you can still increase your profit margin.”

With new technology come new risks. Graflund mentioned two in regards to these three technologies. The first is the threat of being hacked. Hackers may not necessarily care about your limo operation, but your data can be stolen in the event that they target a big corporation whose cloud you are using, such as Google, Microsoft or Amazon.

Companies also risk becoming much more dependent on connection systems, i.e. broadband Internet. Once the connection doesn’t work, a company loses all ability to connect to the cloud or VoIP systems.

“The best way to deal with this is to think of having more redundancy for data back-up, just in case,” Graflund said.

[See complete coverage of industry technology trends in the November issue of LCT Magazine].

—    Michael Campos, LCT assistant editor

Related Topics: cloud computing, cost savings, New Operator, office equipment, operations, technology

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