So you have an existing branch office - or a lot of existing branch offices. And like many organizations, you\u2019re looking for ways to make your life a bit easier - and to potentially save some money in the process.In many cases, the evaluation and potential purchase of all-in-one devices may be worth some of your brain space. As discussed last week, the cost benefits are compelling when it comes to installing all-in-one devices in a new branch office. Rather than buying multiple networking devices - switch, router, PBX, network optimization, firewall, etc. - consolidated devices combined those functions in a single product.Although it\u2019s easy to justify the cost of a unified threat management device, services gateway, or multifunction router at a new location, it\u2019s not as straight-forward when the branch-office is happily humming along.Basically, it comes down to this: If you are spending too much time maintaining, upgrading, troubleshooting, or implementing branch office gear, all-in-one boxes may reduce your stress load. Or, if it\u2019s time to upgrade anyway, that may be the perfect time to consolidate the number of devices under your watch. We\u2019ve created some criteria to help organizations determine if and when it\u2019s time to consolidate the branch office infrastructure:* Determine how much time your IT staff is spending monitoring, maintaining, and troubleshooting the individual devices. If your staff or individuals at the branch are spending anywhere between six and 16 hours a month on network maintenance, troubleshooting, or other issues, you may be better served with a consolidated device.* If you house more than four to six network devices at a branch office, consolidating those functions into a single device should decrease downtime and reduce maintenance costs.* If you don\u2019t have security functions (IDS, VPN, firewall) at the branch because you can\u2019t afford it (yes, many organizations are in that boat), you should consider consolidated devices when it\u2019s time for a router refresh. Make sure the new device provides you with the routing and security functionality you need.* If you\u2019re thinking about adding new functionality, such as IP telephony, VPN, network optimization, at the branch office, you should consider a consolidated device because the combined capital and operational start-up costs may be lower - and you\u2019ll be getting more functionality with less maintenance time.* Anytime you\u2019re upgrading network infrastructure at the branch, compare stand-alone solutions with a consolidated device.A greater challenge for many organizations is determining who has authority over the branch technologies to make these decisions. In some cases, a single person or group has authority over all branches; in others, individuals at each branch make the decisions; and in yet others, the appropriate department (telecom, networking, applications, security, etc.) makes the branch buy decision.I\u2019ll be discussing Nemertes\u2019 recent findings in this area next week, but in the meantime, please e-mail me regarding your organization\u2019s strategy for branch-office technology decisions.