Here's a rough-and-ready benchmark to gauge how your company measures up against these successful firms: Give yourself one point for every "yes," and no points for every "no."As Tolstoy wrote, happy families are all alike. So are successful companies. Time and again, I hear the same strategies from successful organizations for lowering costs and measurably improving employee productivity.Here's a rough-and-ready benchmark to gauge how your company measures up against these successful firms: Give yourself one point for every "yes," and no points for every "no" - and see below for how to interpret the answers.\u2022\u00a0Have you investigated broadband opportunities within the past 24 months? One leading firm was able to reduce telecom costs by 30% - while increasing bandwidth consumption - by deploying metro Ethernet. Several others have found that broadband solutions, including DSL services, can double or triple bandwidth to remote-office locations without increasing the price. If you haven't looked at broadband in a couple of years, now's the time to re-assess.\u2022\u00a0Do you have a clear handle on wireless costs in your organization? Most firms don't. Cellular voice and data services might consume as much as 40% of your total telecom costs, yet telcos are rolling out an unprecedented suite of low-cost services, and sweetening the deal with features such as local-number portability and Wi-Fi hot-spot interoperability. If you know exactly what wireless services are costing you, congratulations. If not, it is time for an audit.\u2022\u00a0Have you explored Multi-protocol Label Switching (MPLS)-based services? Not every organization needs them, but most should at least consider them. MPLS can enable large companies and those with international links to reduce overall costs for voice, video and data by providing a mechanism to integrate all three forms of traffic onto a single infrastructure.\u2022\u00a0Have you assessed or reassessed IP telephony within the past few months? If the last time you looked at IP telephony, the Backstreet Boys topped the charts, it's time for a second glance. We're not recommending a huge upgrade of your existing TDM PBX. But IP telephony technology has matured, and companies are beginning to reap tangible benefits in the form of moves-adds-changes cost reduction, WAN cost reduction, and most importantly, employee productivity. Small and midsize firms stand to benefit from IP telephony, which simplifies phone management and administration.\u2022\u00a0Have you looked at bandwidth optimization technology? We're not talking about your father's compression boxes. Vendors such as Packeteer and Peribit Networks have incorporated features ranging from compression to load balancing to dynamic quality-of-service enablement, with the net effect that you can reduce traffic on congested (and expensive) links by 75% or more. If the price of bandwidth is keeping you awake at night, consider these tools.If you've scored 5 out of 5, congratulations - and stay tuned for further tips on running an optimized network. If you're at 3 or 4 out of 5, that's still pretty good - but you should consider spending an hour or two assessing the options you missed. And if you scored less than that, it's time to move out of tactical mode and invest some time and energy into strategic planning. The payoff will be worth it.