John C. Ahlberg is president and chief strategist for Waident Technology Solutions in Glen Ellyn, IL. The firm provides end user support, network and technology management/support, and strategic information guidance to small and mid-sized businesses. “We align technology tools with business goals and deliver cost-effective, innovative solutions that implement business strategy and exceed client expectations,” Ahlberg says. A former CIO, he currently leverages more than 15 years of professional experience in commercial real estate and law as well as traditional business process consulting. asked Ahlberg about the firm’s involvement with commercial real estate and the ways that firms can save money on technology. What can Waident Technology Solutions do for commercial real estate professionals?

Ahlberg: Waident partners with our clients to provide the end user support and technology management they need. Our CRE clients demand responsiveness, communication and uptime–we feel the same way. Waident takes ownership over all of the technology to ensure it is leveraged in the best way and remains up to date to ensure stability. Our helpdesk is just a phone call or email away. When you call, you get someone in real time–or what we call MyTime Support because a lot of end users call support when they are away from their desks or in meetings. We act as CIO so the technology stays in line with the business goals. What percentage of your clients work in commercial real estate?

Ahlberg: Currently, about 50% and growing. Several members of the team here worked for CRE firms, so we know the business dynamic and what the employees need. We talk the talk and walk the walk. What are the most critical technology investments for cash-strapped companies to make during these difficult times?

Ahlberg: My main advice is to spend money effectively. Don’t ignore your old equipment and hope it doesn’t break to save money. We aren’t in the hardware game, but we have had clients using very old equipment as their main servers without realizing no one in the organization would be able to login to anything if those machines die. Spend money when needed, but do not invest in technology unless there is a return on your investment.

For larger firms, look at virtual server technologies like VMware and SAN technologies. I’ve seen moderate investment yield a huge savings. For desktop PC’s, rather than stick with your regular upgrade cycle, hang on to them for another year. There is normally many times more power in your desktop that you need, so buy a cost effective model rather than the high end model. Do not upgrade to the lastest operating system or software version unless there is a real need to do so. In the meantime, download the MS Office Compatibility program so the staff can open and share Office 2007 files rather than buying Office 2007. Investigate open source programs like Open Office. It works great and it’s compatible with Microsoft Office.