A question we get a lot these days to be sure.
To clarify the question more, “Should our business upgrade our old technology continuously through patches and fixes or just wait and buy all new stuff every 3-5 years?”
The answer comes in 2 parts. 1)Budget and 2)Business Goals
The first part is easy to understand. It usually comes down to how little can be spent and still get the job done. Part of this mentality comes from undervaluing IT infrastructure which to us IT providers is confusing. The entire business world lives or dies based on if their technology works so how can IT dollars be considered the bottom of the budget? We try to educate our clients about this end of things and usually those that don’t come around will end up asking questions in the future such as “Why do I have to replace all the technology now?”
That is not to say we encourage unlimited spending in the IT department, but there has to be a consideration of dollars contributed to the significance of what your IT is doing for your business. That brings us to the 2nd part.
2)Business goals determine how much IT infrastructure you need. Industries vary so much in what their technology requirement are that on the small business scale, the differences can be significant. For example, if you are running a job placement business, primarily your communications is the most important aspect of IT. That means email handling, storage of resumes, VOIP/Skype type communications and the usual host basic system software. Compared to a medical office that may have multiple users on a shared database entering live patient information but doing very little with the internet, the requirements are different. Further compare a factory where a strong internal network is required across a large area to access drawings, diagrams, photos, videos etc for post and pre production devices.
What it comes down to is, if you do more with your computers, you need more for your computers. A small 4 person graphic design company may need more backup, storage space and internet speed to do its work than 10 person accounting office that just does tax returns.
There is a threshold however and that is dependent on the number of users. Once you get into the 25+ user range, the administration and technical requirements of just maintaining that many users becomes an entity unto itself and if a company is going from a small number of users to a large number of users in a short time usually they are not prepared for the the IT surge that will be required to handle the change.
So coming back to the original question:
We always recommend sitting down with your IT provider and planning out a 3-5 year plan. This usually coincides with sales and growth estimates as well as operational statistics that can be directly related to what technology is needed.
We always look to choose equipment and technologies that will have a valid upgrade path and a clear definition of usage in a 3-5 year directive.
We always try to look at the whole infrastructure not just pieces because applying “band-aid” solutions may work short term but could create a dead end in the long term. The perfect example here is Windows XP and how a large percentage of small business did not and still have not decided what to do about moving forward. They may have already hit a dead end and may require not only hardware and OS upgrades now but whole software packages and customized solutions that were working fine previously may not longer be compliant to today’s standards.
We always want to see our clients invest wisely in their technology, make it last as long as possible but still provide a realistic goal of moving forward when the time comes.
Saving money by not investing for many years will always result in a large and usually uncomfortable transition to the new platforms which invalidates any savings you thought you had made over the previous span.
There is 1 caveat to this. Some technologies have been made disposable which by our definitions means after 1-2 years, you throw them out and get new ones. These include things like cell phones, small printers, low end tablets, low end laptops, portable hard drives and flash memory devices. All these items were designed to be inherently obsolete and are not coincidentally affordable. This is also why a new 1 or 2 person start up company can get away with just having personal equipment and not even consider an IT budget, but rather spend money ad-hoc when needed. This philosophy doesn’t work for a traditional office configuration or any larger groupings of users.
For more information or to ask any questions, please feel free to contact us anytime. You can also ask about our technology audits and our FREE start up technology evaluations.
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