Five places where e-business owners can find cost savings

With the global economy getting worse by the day, even those businesses that felt confident going into the downturn are getting ready to batten down the hatches as a nuclear winter sets in.

If you run a business, here are 5 areas where you'll likely be able to discover some cost savings.

Advertising. While I'm not one to necessarily advocate cutting an advertising budget for no reason other than it's easy, I have seen that when times are good, businesses worry a lot less about waste in their advertising budgets than they should. Some don't even monitor ROI closely and some make little effort to optimize campaigns.

There is a lot of scope to track ROI and optimize campaigns to ensure that budgets are getting the most bang for the buck, and now is the perfect time to take advantage of it.

Hosting. I'd estimate that over half of my clients have hosting packages that can only be described as "overkill". Some have a dedicated server when they would be fine with a VPS and others have basic hosting accounts that they're overpaying for because they never bothered to look for a better price.

Whether your hosting costs are significant or minimal, every dollar wasted hurts a business in times like this, and taking a closer look at your hosting situation can't hurt.

Equipment and supplies. Every business needs equipment and supplies, no matter how much "conservation" is implemented. Yet many don't shop around for the best deal, despite the fact that the wonderful world of ecommerce and shopping comparison services make it easy to find great bargains.

Additionally, the wide array of refurbished equipment that is widely available (from computers to printers), often with the same warranties as new equipment, offers a great opportunity for added savings.

Software. How much of the software that you pay for offers functionality that you can get for free? You might be surprised to learn the answer - a lot of it.

I just bought a new computer and was planning to purchase a copy of the WS_FTP Pro FTP client, which I use on my other machines. But I decided to try Filezilla, an open-source FTP client, and was pleased to find that it does the job just as well, saving me more than $50.

Operations. A tough economy is a great promoter of efficiency. What parts of your business aren't operating like a well-oiled machine? You have reason to find out because operating inefficiencies are often a source of great waste.

From customer service to business development, there are plenty of places where you are likely to find room for improvement - and savings.

Case in point: I hate bookkeeping and had always paid to have someone else do it. Yet a couple of years ago I started using QuickBooks. Ever since then, I have been doing my own bookkeeping with minimal pain. As an added bonus, I've saved money on accounting costs because my accountant has far fewer "messes" to clean up at the end of the year.

Bottom line: waste is all around us and using the economic crisis as a reason to take out the trash can be good for business.

You just have to be willing to look and do a little housecleaning.

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