There are provisos: the software can only be used within your business, and you’ll need to take an online training and assessment programme to ascertain your suitability for the pack. This is intended for bona fide professionals, after all. Full details at https://partner.microsoft.com/40016455
With Windows Server 2008 costing £428, Vista Ultimate weighing in at £212 and Office 2007 Professional priced at £380, you would save more than £800 on those three alone.
Become a beta tester
Becoming a beta tester not only gives you access to the latest software, but can prove financially rewarding as well.
Manufacturers provide beta software free of charge as quid pro quo for roadtesting their software and reporting bugs. Admittedly, most beta software will eventually time out, but there are perks. Microsoft, for example, gave every beta tester who filed at least one bug report a free copy of Vista Ultimate, saving them £200. Others, including Symantec and Quicken, have reportedly done likewise.
Microsoft’s MSDN Evaluation Center (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/default.aspx) will be the place to find the early betas of Windows 7, Office 14 or any of the software giant’s forthcoming products. You can sign up to become an Adobe beta tester at www.adobe.com/products/tryadobe/betatesting.html
More than £200 on a free copy of Vista Ultimate.
Update your office phone system to VOIP
Businesses of all sizes are starting to replace rusting analogue PBX boxes in favour of all-digital systems, and the motives are obvious: they already own servers that can do the job, so updating to a VoIP system is as “simple” as installing appropriate software (much of it free) and buying suitable phones. But its real power lies in its scalability.
To demonstrate the timeliness of the idea, PC Pro contributing editor Jon Honeyball talks about his experiences with 3CX (www.3cx.com) in Advanced Windows, while Simon Jones opts for the full Unified Communications experience in Advanced Office.
Up to £150 for an eight-user analogue PBX system.
Use online alternatives
Although we’d rather use Microsoft Office than Google Docs (http://docs.google.com), it’s difficult to justify the price. Google’s offering covers the basic features that casual users will need, and with Google Gears in beta testing (http://gears.google.com) you can use it like a desktop app.
And, just to prove online apps aren’t only here for the boring things in life, give Adobe Photoshop Express (www.photoshop.com/express) a whirl. This innovative free program takes many of the best features from Photoshop Elements (which costs around £60), so you can quickly enhance pictures by cropping, removing red-eye and adjusting settings such as saturation. Where it falls flat is when you try to make advanced changes, for example to levels and curves, as Express simply doesn’t offer such features.