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Using your network to weather the global economic storm

Perhaps never before has the global economy faced such uncertainty – at least not on this scale. What started with the United States’ housing and credit markets swiftly made its way across Europe and eventually hit the Asian and Middle Eastern markets. We now find ourselves in the midst of a global economic downturn.

While many view this time of change as a crisis, others see it as an opportunity. We at HP ProCurve believe your network can help you not only push through the downturn, but also come out of it stronger than ever before. Here are our Top 10 recommendations – from a networking perspective – for weathering the global economic storm.

1.Don’t panic. Now is not the time to overreact. It is also not the time to freeze up. Your business must move forward and your network must move forward in support of it.

2.Take advantage of the opportunity. The most successful businesspeople and enterprises always turn a setback into an opportunity. As many organizations will struggle in this tenuous environment – some will fall altogether – the time is ripe to boost your company’s competitive positioning and profitability. Your network can be a significant enabler for these efforts – delivering new services, capabilities and efficiencies that create competitive advantages and boost revenue.

Make sure you implement solutions that positively impact business agility and scalability. Doing so will ensure your organisation can take advantage of market opportunities and scale in accordance with demand.

3.Focus on network security. Business continuity is essential in uncertain economic times. The margin for error is increasingly narrow and network downtime can have a devastating impact on your organization. Make sure your business maintains pace and your enterprise assets are protected by bolstering network security.

4.Seek employee productivity gains. With shrunken budgets and in many cases, fewer employees, business efficiency is crucial. Use your network to empower your workforce. By automating certain tasks and delivering IT tools that boost efficiency and productivity, your company can effectively do more with less.

According to industry analyst Nick Lippis in the November 4, 2008 Lippis Report: “As corporations reduce staff, remaining employees are required to increase their workload. For those business and IT leaders who view IT, networking and communications in particular as strategic, they will leverage IT to ensure that employees can increase productivity. Business leaders can choose to guide their firms into a period of huge productivity growth on the order of 5 to 10 percent during this downturn as RIF [Reduction in Force] is complemented with business processes automated through IT.”

5.Leverage your network for new business services. The biggest way your network can help grow business during the economic downturn is by delivering new capabilities and services. Networks are no longer merely utilitarian conduits. They have become business drivers and enablers. If you can tap your network to further engage your existing customers or attract new clientele, your company has a better chance of sailing smoothly through the economic storm.

6.Get more than one infrastructure bid. The days of indiscriminate spending are over. That’s why it is important to look at several vendors whenever you seek new networking solutions. Industry analyst Mark Fabbi of Gartner advocates a balanced approach to relationships with vendors. He states that “enterprises would be best served by competitively bidding projects instead of adopting the ‘trusted advisor’ approach with a single vendor.”

You also may want to re-evaluate the ongoing costs of your existing infrastructure systems. While change is often associated with spending, keeping your current systems might be more costly than making a switch. This is especially true if your networking vendor has you locked into proprietary technologies and expensive service contracts, or if your vendor is not poised to survive this economic downturn.

7.Beware of hidden costs. Look carefully at total cost of ownership (TCO) when purchasing and maintaining networking solutions. Support, upgrade and replacement expenses can be debilitating for companies who think their budget is safe after their networking gear is installed. In addition, increasing maintenance and service costs can significantly increase the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) coupled with annual maintenance fees. Therefore, make sure you ask for a vendor’s value proposition that includes services like lifetime warranty and free software upgrades as it relates to ongoing costs.

8.Lead efforts to make your IT efficient and effective. Nothing can tether – or unleash – your business more than your network. It is a key enabler of technologies for virtualization, automation, consolidation, energy and space efficiencies, unified communications and much more. In addition, a robust Wireless LAN based on 802.11n standards can extend your network’s reach and impact while reducing costs.

Sometimes the problem is not the equipment. This is also a great time to break down traditional walls between IT teams. If your organisation is moving to standardized processes such as Business Continuity Planning, it is necessary to become fluent in those processes and how the network can make them more effective.

9.Seek safe, long-term partners. Not every networking vendor will make it through this economic downturn and you do not want to be left with unsupported networking gear. As an integral part of HP and as a leader in the networking industry, you can be rest assured that HP ProCurve will be here to support you in both the immediate and long-term future.

10.Don’t give your vendor complete control. Taking advantage of new opportunities requires business agility and networking flexibility. Proprietary platforms that don’t interoperate with industry standard solutions limit your options and give too much control to the networking vendor.

In difficult economic times, it is factors such as reliability, open standards, ease-of-use and lifetime warranty that give customers maximum value and choice at a low total cost of ownership. The goal of any economic downturn is to first survive, then to thrive. To do that, you must look for new ways to grow your business, lower costs and mitigate risks. By leveraging your network, you can be a calming beacon as your organisation navigates rough waters.

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