After that, Miller says storage also is a key priority. Watermark uses a product called EqualLogic (equallogic.com) for managing storage. Miller says an "enterprise class" wireless product from a company such as Cisco (cisco.com) or Aruba Networks (aruba.com) will make wireless access—where staff can tap into the network from a laptop—much easier to manage. Network appliances are costly, sometimes as much as $1,000, but pricing is often based on the number of "users," and churches can sometimes arrange a charitable discount for the products.
In all cases, as a church creates an IT budget and decides what computer technology is important, the underlying question should always be, How does the technology make ministry easier?
"Communication is a big deal for us—not just internal, but external," says Daryl Hunter, senior IT architect at LifeChurch.tv. "We have 14 campuses in five states. We have to have a solid IT operation."
Upgrades and Maintenance
Brian Barnier, a consultant for Value Bridge Advisors (valuebridgeadvisors.com) and a church trustee in charge of IT at his church, also emphasizes the importance of regular maintenance and upgrades in a budget, mostly because this is where the surprises usually arise. He says an asset management and logging system is important for IT volunteers and staff to use because it helps bring some sanity to IT operations. Such a system shows the equipment running at the church, which versions are installed, and when maintenance needs to be scheduled.
Barnier says churches can even do risk assessments, determining the ministry challenges and costs if computer equipment is not maintained properly, or if a multi-function device goes down for a week. He says this assessment can be as simple as a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet that lists the equipment, purchase date, and any upgrades. IT analysts from Gartner Group and others insist that the main goal with maintenance is just to know what equipment you have, how it is being used, and how it has been upgraded.
Types of IT Equipment
Once a church has a clear understanding of how an IT budget impacts ministry, and how upgrades and maintenance help avoid risks to a smooth-flowing church operation, the next step is to think about which IT equipment and software is really important in the grand scheme of ministry.