The IT worker's Wall Street meltdown worry list

Five questions about your job and your future

Will I be outsourced?

The harsh reality is this: A database administrator can cost US$90,000 annually, but companies that go offshore can pay US$20 or less an hour to have that admin's work done remotely. Offshore outsourcing consultants expect offshoring to increase. A wild card will be the election. Eugene Kublanov, CEO of NeoIT, an outsourcing management consulting group, said the next president, especially if he is a Democrat, could put in tax incentives to encourage companies to keep jobs here.

But companies that treat IT employees as expendable face a serious downside, as Dale Frantz, CIO at Auto Warehousing, recently explained "The 'churn and burn' approach to hiring and careers in IT has been very destructive, I think, and some of the sad states of current software and system solutions available in our industry reflect that."

Will I get fired?

There's a good chance, if this catches you by surprise. ... The same credit tightening that is closing car dealerships, dry cleaning businesses and restaurants may now be aiming at that niche software vendor that just happens to supply your mission-critical software.

What do you do if a critical vendor says he can't cover payroll? Users should double-check their software escrow arrangements, which usually involve putting the source code in the hands of a third party that provides escrow services.

"The bottom line is that you need to make sure that you can get a hold of the source code if that company goes under and ensure that it is the correct version and is valid," said Randy Roth, a partner at Corporate Contracts, a contract negotiations firm.

What can I do to avoid getting laid off?

What analysts and surveys all seem to agree on is that companies will be deferring new IT projects and cutting where they can until the economic questions are resolved. It stands to reason that stepping up with ideas for savings and learning some new skills, especially virtualization, will be a plus in any organization.

Ken Brill, executive director of the Uptime Institute, has advice about where to start: As many as 15 percent of the servers in any data center are "comatose," and not doing anything useful. Killing those servers as well as server buying with an eye on energy savings can cut thousands of dollars in costs. Companies that virtualize can typically consolidate five physical servers into one, and not having to build a new data center can save millions of dollars.

"Maybe in this downturn efficiency will become more important," Brill said.

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Patrick Thibodeau

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