For most businesses, IT support weighs heavily on IT budgets. Not only is there the cost of getting problems solved, there’s also that of associated downtime.

There are some simple ways, however, to reduce the support costs incurred by your IT systems.

1. Educate your staff. Smart and self-sufficient users lessen the load – firstly by causing fewer problems, and secondly by being able to quickly resolve problems themselves. Investment in training and education programs can also be supplemented by the approach of your internal support staff – making sure that they actively try to coach and educate staff about the function of relevant systems, and don’t simply take a remedial approach.

2. Invest in the right systems. Far more than user mistakes, it’s the failings of IT systems that can pressure IT budgets. If a particular system in your business is demanding more than its fair share of support hours, investigate alternatives. Support savings can have a dramatic effect on any new system’s ROI. Similarly, make sure that your systems are efficient. WAN-based backup with instant restore capabilities (rather than tape-based systems), for example, can reduce the overall business costs of an outage.

3. Perform regular maintenance. It’s more cost effective to prevent problems than it is to fix them. Make sure that your IT support is proactive, keeping systems well maintained and up-to-date, but ensure that these updates are performed with minimal effect on business operations.

4. Consider outsourcing. Outsourcing some or all of your IT support needs can deliver better value-for-money than employing an in-house team. Through outsourcing, you can access your outsourcer’s range of specialists and technical expertise, without having to recruit or develop those skills in-house.

5. Make someone else responsible. With the push towards Software-as-a-Service, you can shift the responsibility for the operation, maintenance, and upgrades of your business applications and services to specialist provider, usually with Service Level Agreements that are far more than stringent than what can be achieved in-house.