How to Build an IT Budget for Work Anywhere

September 10th, 2021

CTOs and IT leaders are facing the challenge of preparing their IT budgets for 2022 – and for some of you, it’s stacking up to be a budget season like no other. There’s a high likelihood that you won’t only be enabling your team to work from their desks in the office. You’ll also be finding budget for solutions that will help them work anywhere, productively, and safely.

Global Workplace Analytics estimates that more than half of the U.S. workforce has jobs that can be performed, at least in part, from home, and by the end of 2021, up to 30 percent of U.S. workers will be doing their jobs at home multiple days per week.

Before You Talk Numbers

Setting a realistic budget for the work-anywhere model – then keeping to it throughout the year – depends on a detailed understanding of your management team’s vision. You may find that managers who were once opposed to remote work (i.e., The “How do I know they’re working?” protesters) now know their teams can be productive with this model and may be planning to allow more remote work than you anticipate. Make sure you know how many people will be working from home, the applications they need to do their jobs, and if they’re expecting you to support employees who will work both in the office and at home.

Collaborating can also lead to the bonus of creating a sense of ownership among managers, which can help you get the budget through approval and increase the chances you’ll have support for sticking to the budget throughout the year.

IT Budget Line Items and Costs

Significant changes in your IT environment will mean more work putting accurate estimates together, so here are some tips and resources to get you started with different elements of a work-anywhere budget.

  • Infrastructure

In general, there are two ways to build a work-anywhere environment:

    • Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) or Cloud Workspaces where desktops run on virtual machines (VMs) in the cloud. This could also look like RDS.
    • Virtual private network, which creates a private network to connect remote workers with your business’ physical infrastructure

When comparing VDI vs. VPN budget-wise, VPN is the less costly way to go. However, some VPNs aren’t optimized for speed, and the further the worker is from your facility, the more performance can be negatively impacted. So, in some cases, VDI may be the better choice for productivity.

As you research Cloud Workspace solutions, you’ll see that they have various features, and they’re offered at different price points. Therefore, you need to investigate costs as well as whether they provide the functionality your team requires.

  • Cloud Migration

If you choose VDI, you may also need to allocate some of your IT budget to migrating applications to the cloud. This cost involves more than using cloud services — you also need to factor in how to move your IT environment to the cloud. This may require adapting – or redeveloping — custom applications for the cloud. A realistic budget depends on understanding the work involved.

Also, calculating cloud costs in advance can be challenging – your costs will be based on how much storage you require as well as whether you reserve that capacity in advance or request additional storage as needed.

Enterprise Storage Forum offers a breakdown of prices for various cloud providers and links to their price calculators.

Also, bear in mind that it’s relatively easy for your team to add services on a trial basis and forget to inform you when the cloud provider starts to bill or to use a service temporarily and forget to turn it off. So, you may want to consider a solution that monitors cloud usage so you won’t be surprised by your bill at the end of the month.

  • Communication and Collaboration

Dispersed teams need effective ways to communicate. This can range from using a cloud collaboration solution such as Google Workspace or Microsoft Teams to a full Unified Communications as a Service (USaaS) suite of solutions and services. The size of your budget line item will vary as well, from less than $20 per user per month to up to $300 per user per month for the most robust UCaaS solutions.

  • Security

IDC estimates that businesses should spend between 7 percent and 10 percent of their IT budgets on security.  For financial institutions, Deloitte and the Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) estimate the average security spend is $2,300 per full-time employee per year.

Keep in mind that your 2022 security budget may be different than in past years. If you move from on-premises infrastructure to VDI, you may need to deploy new security solutions to secure your cloud environment. Additionally, security solutions vary in price – and functionality. Do your due diligence to find the best security you can afford.

  • Patching and Updating

If you choose to use a VPN for remote workers, patching and updating company-owned devices, systems, and applications can take a big part of your team’s time – and account for a significant fraction of your labor budget. Calculate a realistic estimate of the time this will take and budget accordingly.

  • Backup and Disaster Recovery

You also need to rethink your business’ backup and disaster recovery strategy to support remote work and which will differ depending on whether you go the VDI or VPN route. Speak with a knowledgeable provider who can help you devise a plan to ensure that all data generated and shared with a work-anywhere team is recoverable and protected.

  • Hardware

Although it’s another expenditure you’d have to account for, providing company-owned laptops to work-anywhere employees result in important benefits. First, you can control what’s on the laptop, so you ensure it’s only used for work. It’s also easier for your IT team to push updates, repair and maintain devices that are standardized to one vendor.  Additionally, using company-owned devices also means you can choose security-hardened devices, minimizing the chances of compromise.

You can look at some of your options in the Forbes article; however, for budget purposes, you probably don’t want to plan for less than $1,000 to ensure your team is using laptops that are suited to corporate work anywhere.

Factor in Savings and Competitive Edge as Well as Expenses

As you crunch the numbers for your 2022 budget, make sure you look at a move to a work-anywhere model holistically. Even though your IT budget may look bigger than in years past, also consider cost savings you may have with a remote workforce. Global Workplace Analytics reports employers could save almost $11K per remote worker through reduced real estate costs, lower absenteeism, decreased employee turnover, and increased productivity. Although your savings probably won’t totally offset the bump in IT budget of a business migrating to the cloud, the cost-saving of the work-anywhere model will certainly help the bottom line.

Also, if you are moving from an on-premises IT environment to the cloud and “as a Service” billing, you are replacing capital expenditures with operating expenses. When you use virtual infrastructure and cloud applications and services, it’s no longer necessary for your internal IT team to maintain on-premises solutions. Your vendors and providers may also include some services with the monthly OPEX cost, further reducing the labor burden on in-house IT.

You may also be able to gain new capabilities from the services you select, such as faster communication with your customers or the ability to quickly add bandwidth, storage, or testing environments, which can result in advantages over your competitors.

Also, the iHire “What Candidates Want” survey reveals that 47.8 percent of job seekers feel it is “important” or “very important” that a prospective employer allows them to work from home. The investment you make in an IT system that supports work from anywhere may help your organization, in the long run, meet its goals for innovation, competitiveness, and growth.

Good Luck with your IT Budget

The way we all do business has changed and so has the shape of the workforce. One of your new challenges is to create a budget that supports new processes – and new locations—for people to work. The work you put into your 2022 budget will pay off with an IT environment that meets your business’ needs today and gives you greater agility to address future changes.

If you’re looking for some numbers to help put your 2022 IT budget together, contact our team for the information you need.

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