Russ Levanway, CEO, Tektegrity

Meet Quirky, Crabby and Slowpoke. No, they’re not Snow White’s newest friends, they’re nicknames for computers we’ve encountered. Unlike Snow White’s protective little buddies, these characters steal time and wreak havoc in businesses.

With several years in service and a hard drive full of applications, even the most well-built machine can slow down, become unpredictable and affect your performance. Regular upgrades and maintenance are good ways to extend the life of a machine, but at some point, not even a kiss will turn a frog back into a prince.

Refreshing

In the information technology industry, we refer to replacing computer equipment as “an IT hardware refresh.” The difference a new computer makes certainly feels refreshing. Technology improves rapidly in just a few short years. In those same years, performance of existing hardworking hardware can also diminish. As computers age, maintenance and repair costs rise, software installations and upgrades start contributing to slowdowns, and your workflow and bottom line begin to suffer.

Timing

Our clients often ask about IT hardware refreshes at this time of year. Many of these inquiries arise after discussions with accountants, due to possible tax benefits related to putting new equipment into service before the end of the year.

While some industries follow their own standards, our general recommendation is to replace workstations and laptops every 3 to 5 years and servers every 4 to 5 years, depending on your industry and the applications you run. If machines are approaching the 4 year mark, plan for replacements, rather than further repairs or upgrades.

If you buy hardware with a 3 year warranty or you lease on a 3 year term, consider a 3 year refresh policy. If you’ve always purchased your equipment, don’t overlook the leasing option. In some cases, it’s more affordable than purchasing. Either way, you’ll always have machines that are current and protected in case of hardware failure.

Planning

When planning a refresh, keep in mind that hardware costs are only about 1/3 of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). To remain up-to-date and avoid incompatibility issues between applications and operating systems, a refresh should include installation of the newest versions of your software. This means software and training costs should be considered, as well as ongoing regular maintenance.

Good planning minimizes disruptions during a refresh. Train staff so they’ll understand changes and take advantage of new software features. For the switchover, save time and avoid frustration by using a qualified IT provider with a comprehensive installation and data migration system. That way, when machines are booted, everyone’s software, data and documents, e-mail, internet bookmarks, printers and network connections will be ready to use.

Consider scheduling your refresh around slower, less demanding times of year. Depending on your organization’s system, workstation migration can take even qualified professionals several hours for each machine.

Happily Ever After

Don’t let the thought of limited disruptions scare you. A planned disruption is always better than an unexpected crisis involving data loss, productivity standstills and an inability to serve your customers or clients.

With a regular hardware refresh plan in place, Quirky, Crabby and Slowpoke can’t sneak in and affect your organization’s performance. Welcome Speedy, Current and Trustworthy to the team. They’ll make friends around the office quickly, and then hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work they’ll go.

Russ Levanway is the CEO of TekTegrity, an IT Managed Services Provider serving the Central Coast and Central Valley. The organization’s Total Systems Management™ (TSM) service model provides preventative IT support at fixed monthly fee levels. For more information, visit www.tektegrity.com.