Ask yourself when you'll get a return on investment.
To effectively manage your Internet costs, first establish a good business case for using it. If you and your employees don't agree on your motive for deployment, you'll incur costs that are hard to justify and even harder to control.
Step one is to decide what commercial gains the Internet can deliver.
It may reduce costs and improve customer service. It may help to establish a more profitable relationship with your suppliers. Perhaps you can generate new, high-margin sales by developing an electronic commerce channel to market. Or you may want a web site to enhance your marketing, while encouraging your staff to use it for market research and lead generation. Once you've established your Net business plan, you can decide what usage levels are appropriate to execute your plan - and hence estimate the costs involved.
Your next step is to specify the technology to provide you with the right level of access, security and management, as mapped against your plan.
Costs vary, depending on the connection you select, which in turn depends on the traffic you've predicted. Shop around for the right service provider for your needs, and don't forget about training and support.
After you've done this, develop your usage policy. The greatest near-intangible cost of the Internet is the productivity impact of uncontrolled access. Balance this against the benefit of increased innovation. The next step is to communicate the resulting policy balance to your employees and to install the right network technology to control and manage that policy.
Finally, be prepared to adjust your business plan and control policy as you go along. Our experience shows that well planned Internet usage is not just controllable and cost-effective, but profitable.
Graeme Allan is managing director of Bay Networks UK, 01628 774477.