The total investment for the eCabinet system runs between $75,000 and $80,000, including equipment and labor costs. The hardware itself costs about $25,000.
Importing older paper documents into the system is a more expensive task. Paper documents need to be digitized, a process which Mr. Grijalva estimates cost his firm between $30,000 and $40,000. That included hiring workers to scan documents, training, and hiring a manager to oversee the undertaking. To save time and money, G&A only scanned documents going back a year or two.
As employees generate new documents, they do so electronically rather than on paper, so that information won't need to be scanned. Mr. Grijalva says that developing the discipline to do this remains a major challenge for the company.
"It is very hard to get away from paper and rely totally on electronic versions. It's going to be a culture change for us as a company to realize that we don't have to rely on paper all the time as we switch to an electronic medium."
In addition to speedier access to information, the company estimates it will save $30,000 a year on paper by creating electronic documents. It will also spend less for offsite document storage, reducing the $1,000 monthly storage bill.
Still, electronic storage isn't a total panacea. Legal requirements mean that some documents must be retained, usually for one year.
With multiple locations and many users, implementing the system is a complex undertaking but one that Mr. Grijalva is confident will mean a better future for his firm.
"As an outsourcing company it makes sense for us to do this," he says. "We are always looking for more efficient ways to do things cheaper than our clients can."
For many businesses, keeping software up-to-date, configured, and running properly on dozens or hundreds of PCs is an expensive and seemingly endless chore for weary IT staffs.
TriNet Communications, a telecommunications equipment distributor based in Livermore, California, has largely eliminated this problem by installing software that simultaneously serves its main office, its warehouses, and its sales staff.
Using a product called MetaFrame Pres-entation Server by Citrix (www.citrix.com), TriNet has simplified and centralized its technology maintenance.
"MetaFrame also allows us to 'publish' applications, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, and Lotus Notes, to all users," says president and CEO Jon Fernandez. "Now, if we perform a software update, we can simply perform the upgrade once on the server, and all users have access to the latest version."
Not having to maintain and troubleshoot software on 25 far-flung PCs is a boon, but the real cost savings come at software upgrade time.
The company doesn't have an IT department – Mr. Fernandez and one employee manage the software along with their other duties. Now, Mr. Fernandez says, "every time we upgrade the software, we save $5,000 to $6,000 by not having to upgrade every computer."
Additionally, TriNet's sales teams and warehouses across the country have instant access to the new software, and authorized employees even can access it from home or while out of town.
"The biggest benefit is that our people – especially remote sales people working on their laptops out of their houses – can get into everything," he says.
While the MetaFrame system offers tremendous benefits, Mr. Fernandez cautions that its high price may not make it right for every business.
"The biggest drawback is that it is an expensive piece of software," he says. TriNet spent $20,000 on their original Citrix MetaFrame Server and then around $7,000 to upgrade to the Presentation Server. "Altogether the cost is around $27,000 – not including the consultant time to install and configure it."
"Another drawback," Mr. Fernandez adds, "is that the license fees are expensive."
Still, for many companies like TriNet, the system's benefits far outweigh its cost: According to Mr. Fernandez, Citrix MetaFrame is the number 1 remote access software on the market, with Presentation Server the latest and greatest upgrade.
Mr. Fernandez also says that employees adjusted quickly once the Presentation Server was implemented. "Our remote employees already were using Citrix MetaFrame," he explains. "When we upgraded to Presentation Server, it actually made the access easier."
TriNet employees appreciate particularly the increased speed of the system, even for users accessing software on the local network.
"Over the network, our accounting software plugs away," Mr. Fernandez says. "But if you go in through Presentation Server it's probably twice as fast." That provides an instant productivity increase.
"We're very heavy computer users," he adds. "You don't want people staring at the computer waiting for things to load."
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