Computer Replacement Best Practices

Computer Replacement Best Practices
By Luis Alvarez

One of the questions we get asked a lot by our clients is “When should I replace my PC?” (or server, or printer, etc.). Fortunately for them, technology lifecycle management is one of the cor components of our Managed Services offering so we have an answer for them.

There is no “industry standard” per se regarding a replacement schedule but most organizations who have developed a replacement policy have decided on a three-to-four year schedule.  For many, the traditional rationale was centered on the tax depreciation schedule but that has not been a big factor for newer businesses.

There are three main reasons for PC replacement: Cost, Productivity and Maintenance.

1. As the cost of the PCs continues to decline and the power of the hardware and software increase exponentially, it is easy to justify replacing a PC in order to improve the end user’s ability to do their job.  Studies have shown that replacing a three year old PC with a current system improves a user’s productivity by at least 10% and usually more than 30%.  Assuming the fully burdened cost of a PC replacement at $1,000, the gains in productivity are significant enough to justify the cost.

2. Moore’s Law, named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, says that the performance of the heart of a PC, the central processing unit or CPU, will double every 18 months.  Given a three-year replacement cycle, a new PC will be four times more powerful than the system it is replacing in every case. That equates to faster operation and improved productivity.

3. Older PCs tend to consume more maintenance resources over time. This is a factor of hardware aging and software becoming bloated.  In the case of the hardware, although PC components are designed and built with rigorous  operations in mind, the fact is that most PCs are kept turned on virtually 24×7, or over 6,000 hours a year or more than 19,000 over three years.  Most components are rated for 10,000-20,000 hours of mean time between failures (MTBF) so it’s not unusual for PCs to suffer hardware failure over that time. The Windows operating system is notorious for slowing down over time for a number of reasons, not the last of which is the accumulation of patches and updates as well as legacy dynamic link libraries and other binary code that affects performance. The only way to reverse that trend is to reformat the drive and reinstall to operating system and applications; the support time required to do that is more than that required to install and setup a new PC, so the cost is higher.  It’s cheaper to buy a new PC.

One additional factor to be considered is the development of applications over time, not only utility software, such as Microsoft Office, but proprietary applications used by a business.  Software developers build and enhance their products to take advantage of the then-current hardware and operating systems and, although most are designed to be backwards compatible, newer systems can take advantage of performance improvements that older PCs can’t. A three-year replacement cycle ensures that the hardware used by the staff keeps up with the latest enhancements to the software being used.

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