Business computers at year end: Upgrade or not?
It’s nearing the end of the year; you can receive tax advantages by upgrading your business computers, but do you really need to? Tax savings or not, purchasing a new computer is still an investment, and it would be nice to to know whether it makes sense from a technical standpoint. Here is some guidance to help you.
For most small businesses, the biggest expense they have is payroll, so most of this comes down to how does using old computers and old technology affect your users.
- Does booting up your computer take over 30 seconds? If so, it’s time for a new computer. At the first computer job I ever had, the first generation IBM PC literally took about 5 minutes to boot up! I was in high school making minimum wage (I think $3.35 at that time!) and computers weren’t integral to business at the time, so it wasn’t a big deal. But think about your employees, whose jobs require their computers; they’re just sitting there waiting on a computer. Sure, they can leave it on overnight, but if your systems are configured properly, they’ll be rebooting at least once a week for updates. Over time computers tend to get slower and slower; hard drives work slower and slower; and gradually your users adjust until at some point it just becomes horribly wasteful (and eventually, annoying and frustrating for your users.)
- Do individual tasks take more than a few seconds? If so, it’s time for a new computer. When a user clicks on Outlook, Internet Explorer, Word, Excel, or whatever, they should be able to begin their desired task within a few seconds, absolutely less than five seconds. This also includes most tasks within the software. If the user clicks to a different browser page, clicks to save a document, etc., and they get a “rolling circle” or hourglass for more than 10 seconds, then it’s time to upgrade.
- Is the performance of your system causing users to use time-consuming work-arounds? If so, it’s time for a new computer. For example, do employees write down customer information, or appointment details, or sales orders on paper just to enter them later because the computer or software is too slow to do it in real time?
- Consider these examples:
- If an administrative assistant loses 1.5 minutes an hour to waiting on a computer, the loss in productivity would pay for a new computer.
- If an employee loses 3 minutes an hour to waiting on their computer, and you have 10 employees, then on average you could be wasting anywhere from $20,000-$25,000 a year in direct payroll (plus the payroll overhead.)
- Here’s the best rule of thumb: If your computers are over 3 years old (4 for servers), then the above are probably all true, and it’s time for an upgrade.
All the above are related to performance issues, but compatibility plays an important part also. The older your computers and software, the more likely you are to run into issues requiring complete replacement upgrades on everything at once. This is particularly true for businesses covered by some type of compliance regulations. For instance, a line of business application (or even accounting/payroll application) may require an update, but the update won’t install on the older OS on your computer, and so you have to upgrade your computer and OS; but then some other application you have won’t install on the new OS, so you have to upgrade that application at the same time. But then that new application doesn’t support your 6-7 year old laser printer, so you have to buy a new printer. The end result is having to replace every computer, every application, and every peripheral all at once, and before some deadline put in place by either a vendor or even compliance legislation. This may sound extreme, bReut we’ve seen it happen.
Lastly, sometimes a business owner, wanting to put off an expense, ends up spending much more money than they would have. The best (or worst?) example we’ve seen of this is a business that decided to delay replacing their already way too old server just one more year. Even though the cost of their new server went down, their actual cost went up almost $5000 because of downtime and maintenance the old server required during that additional year.
At WJP Enterprises, we recommend replacing workstations every 3 years and servers every 4 years in order to optimize the benefit and efficiency of IT operations; and to really get the most out of your IT assets, contact us about setting up a plan where we manage and maintain your systems with 24 hour monitoring and checks that can help prevent many problems from occurring, and often resolve them before the problem is even noticed.