How To Decide When To Upgrade Your Hardware

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it" is not a sensible policy when you're dealing with crucial IT gear. Follow these basic guidelines to ensure you're getting the maximum value from your equipment while minimising risk.

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Depreciation Is A Guide, Not An Absolute Law

Desktop and laptop PC refresh cycles have frequently been dictated by expectations about how long equipment takes to be written off -- that's where the common three-year cycle often comes from. While this isn't a terrible measure, you don't have to stick to it slavishly. If a device ends its usefulness early, it can always be written off early. That's what accountants are for.

A further complication is that much PC gear is now so cheap that it can be written off immediately, so depreciation cycles don't apply. For businesses with turnover under $2 million, that limit is due to go up to $20,000 from July 1 -- which covers a lot of hardware.

Repair Or Replace?

For more expensive gear, repairs and upgrades are likely to be a sensible option, especially if you have a support contract. However, you need to carefully calculate how long you expect the life of the item to be extended by the repair, and the impact of downtime if you don't have alternative equipment to use.

In the desktop PC era, upgrading machines with improved processors, more memory or extra storage was a common task. This is a less popular choice now that notebooks dominate, since they're typically much harder to upgrade (though switching to an SSD can be worthwhile.

Assess The Risk

Maintaining older systems can represent a risk in itself. We saw an extreme example of this last year when businesses were forced to migrate from Windows XP. Businesses that continue to rely on XP-based software are paying far more for support and patching than it would have cost to upgrade in a timely fashion.

Examine Alternative Models

If you are looking to upgrade, then it makes sense to examine alternative models to the traditional approach of simply buying new gear. Rather than purchasing a server, you can use cloud computing for capacity as you need it. Rather than buying a printer and supplies, you can sign up for a pay-per-page contract. Rather than backing up to tape, you can back up direct to a service like Amazon Glacier.

Hardware picture from Shutterstock


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