There are more Important Factors than Update Cost
Stanford University’s IT department has a minimum standard for what their computers can do. For teaching staff, the standard is that the computer can handle running at least four applications at the same time. Using this standard, the university expects to replace computers every three to four years.
It’s just one example, but it’s a good one because Stanford’s policy is a reminder that a well thought out hardware refresh plan is about more than cost. There will always be disagreement about the answers, however that doesn’t mean it’s not worth asking smart questions and testing the industry assumptions.
Asking the right questions
What do I need my Computers to do?
Have you gone beyond the question of raw upgrade cost and asked, as Stanford has, exactly what should your computers be able to do? Many employees today would expect to be running far more than four applications simultaneously. Are your workers among them?
The ability to quickly multi-task is key in today's fast moving business environment. Employees need computers that can switch between many applications without losing a beat. Staring at a loading screen is a waste of time that you can never get back.
What is the Productivity Cost of not Refreshing?
Sure a slower refresh cycle saves money on the surface, but have you compared that to the lost time cost of employees waiting for applications to load or function?
Intel found that a faster refresh cycle brought an average productivity improvement of 9.7% over a range of tasks. You don’t have to rely on Intel’s numbers; you can do your own analysis.
Looking at productivity and refresh costs together will give you additional confidence in your decision, whatever it is.
When do Support Costs Peak?
Just like us, computers cost more to support in their declining years. It’s not just the hardware starting to fail, but also the burden of maintaining multiple versions of operating systems and software.
It’s inevitable that you have to refresh your computers at some point. It isn’t inevitable that you have to spend a fortune keeping outdated computers limping toward the end of a too-long life. Again, the trick is to look at the numbers and find the sweet spot between the two expenses.
Good Enough is Good Enough
The costs of a faster refresh cycle can potentially be offset by not having to buy the highest-end machines every time. At the rate technology improves, chances are most computing technology today is leaps and bounds ahead of what you bought years ago. The further into the future you expect your hardware to last, the higher the specs you need today. Equipment that will be replaced sooner doesn’t necessarily need to be as future-proof, and future-proof is often expensive.