This won’t be all that shocking to you. One of the secrets to fewer computer and network problems is making sure you’re not operating using old hardware and outdated software.
Therefore an obvious solution to this is to be proactively planning to upgrade hardware and software. When a business is not doing this, it is typically because of one of the following two reasons:
- A business owner is trying to save money and doesn`t see the benefit of buying new hardware or software;
- A business owner does not have the proper information available to them in order to make effective decisions and implement a strong plan.
In most cases we see, it’s the second reason so I’m going to focus on how to solve that.
This doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Every type of hardware you have as part of your IT infrastructure has an expected life span. Computers will last you 3-4 years before having more chronic problems and slowing your staff down. Servers are typically good for four years and network devices are around the same.
On the software side you can expect Microsoft to come out with a new version of Office every three years. For your accounting or Line of Business software, you can expect it to be updated on a regular basis as well. If you’re not sure what to expect, a simple look at the history of upgrades will tell you.
So that’s the simple part, here comes the more difficult challenge. How do you know what you have and collect the information regularly for analysis and planning? If you had someone going around to each computer, network device and server looking at their age, power, warranty status and software you might need to hire someone extra.
The solution is to ensure your IT partner has the technology and skills to be able to collect this information automatically, analyze it for you and present the information to you in a manner that you can make quick and effective decisions that you’re confident in.
For your servers, you should know how old they are, when the warranty expires and when you’ll likely need to replace them as this will be a large expenditure in your budget.
You desktops and laptops should be equally transparent. First you should decide if you’re going to be on a three or four-year replacement cycle with your computers. This will depend on how your team is using them.
Then you can plan out on an annual basis how many computers need to be replaced and put it in your budget. Most businesses don’t replace all their computers all at once. They usually do 25-35 percent of them a year.
In order to do this you should receive a full inventory of your machines and a recommendation on which ones should be replaced this year. If you incorporate this into your annual budgeting process then it becomes very straightforward.
Where the problem lies is when you get a surprise half way through the year that you need to buy 10 new computers or you start having a bunch of them break and productivity grinds to a halt for your team.
Your network devices are an important consideration as well. The risk of downtime increases with age and for the relative cost of these devices, it’s better you budget to replace them on a four-year cycle than wait for them to fail and have your office down for a few hours or more as a result.
The time to do this planning is on an annual basis as part of your IT plan and then review it quarterly to ensure it is being implemented. This is a great way to be proactive and prevent all sorts of headaches for your business.