By: Jim Hauer, Owner HCS Tech

 

We buy one or two computers a year, depending on when they break or just get too slow.

 

Buying a computer or two every year sounds like a reasonable way to budget, but you end up with computers that range in age as much 3-7 years, a lifetime in the computer world. Different operating systems, outdated drivers, a range of software versions, along with multiple other issues, ends up costing you much more in total cost of ownership. Yes, there is a way to get a matched set of computers.

 

Operating Systems

 

If you have been buying a new computer a year for the last several years, you could have a bunch of differing operating systems. Here is a list of Microsoft release dates.

 

 

Even though Windows XP came out 15 years ago I  added it to the list because a lot of IT professionals hated Vista and didn’t trust Windows 7, so a lot of computers had XP for quite some time. Then, like Vista, a lot of IT professionals were wary of Windows 8, so much so, Microsoft came out with Windows 8.1 a year later.. There are a lot of legacy operating systems still in use out there, how well do they all work together?

 

Having different operating systems in the office can create problems, here are just a few:

 

  • When you call your IT professionals for support, they have to determine what operating system you are running in order to provide the correct support, which in turn adds time charges to your bill. Also, remember that each version has multiple updates. Even if you have the same operating system your versions may be wide apart.
  • There are separate security and other updates for each operating system making it harder to keep versions up to date. Having to update several different operating systems in your environment also adds additional cost over time.
  • Different versions require different drivers for hardware. When you add a new printer or scanner, you may have to update each version of operating system separately. Going to each machine to find new drivers for each operating system adds time and frustration.
  • New hardware peripherals may not have drivers for older operating systems and some newer operating systems may not have drivers for older equipment. Therefore you may have equipment that can not be used with certain operating systems.
  • Different operating systems may require different versions of software for the same program. These different versions can lead to performance differences and incompatibility issues. Also, certain features may be available on some versions of software and not others, making training a nightmare.
  • Training on new software may be a challenge if your mission critical software runs differently under different versions of operating systems.

 

These bullets are but a few issues that could be a result of having multiple operating systems in your environment. Standardizing on one operating system will decrease the overall cost of ownership for maintaining your computer resources.

 

Budgeting to replace everything

 

In a previous blog I go into detail about budgeting for IT. Basically there are three ways to budget or pay for replacing your equipment all at once so everything is uniform. You can make a capital purchase, finance the purchase with a note or lease, or rent the equipment.

 

Renting seems to be the best option because it allows you to use your capital to make investments back into your business and avoids taking away some of your borrowing power. Renting the equipment allows you to replace all of your equipment every three years, always keeping you current and uniform

 

Please see the budgeting for IT blog for more details.

 

Swapping Out

 

One demoralizing effect of buying one or two computers every year is who gets the new computer. When I see small businesses replacing one or two computers there always seems to be a “swapping out”. Certain people end up getting the new computers to run their software better, while others on the bottom of the company totem pole get stuck with older computers that are hand-me-downs from other workers. With each swap out comes a myriad of issues regarding compatibility of software, drivers, and other issues mentioned above.

 

Another issue of swapping out is talked about in my blog regarding buying the right computer for the job. By constantly moving computers around, some people could end up with underpowered or under performing computers. The flip side is that workers who don’t need a lot of processing power can end up using very high powered machines that cost more money to maintain and manage. Not right sizing computers for your needs adds to the overall cost of ownership.

 

Make a budget and stick to it
Trying to budget your computer needs by buying a few computers every year is just not sound IT management. Figure out a way to get all of your systems uniform and keep it that way. The initial cost may be troublesome (unless you rent), but your overall cost of ownership will diminish greatly over the next three years if you have consistency throughout your IT environment.

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