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When Should A Business Owner Upgrade Hardware or Software?

Upgrading – When Should You Do It?

Our technological landscape is always changing.  Every single day, we hear an announcement about some new piece of software that will change our lives, or breakthroughs in developing hardware that is 100 times faster and 100 times more resilient than ever before.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of new technology that hits us in our globalized, science-oriented world.

One of the decisions many of our clients are faced with is when the appropriate time is to upgrade a piece of hardware or software.

Upgrading hardware and software is a costly, time-sensitive task and can cost quite a bit of money if not managed properly – especially when said hardware and software is updated frequently.  The cost of purchasing the new equipment and software is not the only cost, however.  The cost of downtime from computers and servers being down while updating can cause a significant disruption in business operations.

This is where an intelligent IT professional is needed.

An intelligent IT professional ideally has multiple years of upgrading and installing new pieces of software and hardware, which affords them a unique insight into what kind of effects individual updates have on existing infrastructure.  A competent IT professional will know which updates are critical, which updates will save money in the long run, and which updates are necessary for security reasons.  As such, he/she can break down hardware and software updates on a cost/benefit basis and advise you on when it’s worth it.

(Side Note: At this exact moment in time we’re explaining to one of our clients that a drive in a critical server is in a state of predictive failure and trying to convince him to upgrade the drive)

Frequency of upgrading software and hardware also depends on what kind of business you run.  Are you in technology, where the difference between a sale and a bust can be determined with how quickly you operate?  Are you in accounting, where every bit of data about every client needs to be secure and quickly accessible?  Are you in law, where a court case tilts on having every document and file you need at your disposal the moment you need it?

This isn’t to say that your business needs constant upgrading – you can get by a lot of the time without upgrading until it’s absolutely necessary.  Take Microsoft Office for example.  Right now, the 3 most common versions circulating are Office 2003, Office 2007, and Office 2010.  How different do you think those versions are?

In consecutive order, there isn’t much difference from a predecessor to its successor.  Watch over a few generations though, and you’ll see programs evolve and look like entirely new pieces of software.

In my experience, the #1 reason to upgrade a piece of software or hardware is to fix bugs and errors.  Many programs have bugs hard-coded in them that can manifest immediately or over a long period of time.  These are not intentional, but it takes time for a company to hear about such problems and to have their staff look over the code to find the bug and fix it.

Another reason to upgrade is to keep up with the latest technology.  If you’ve recently upgraded to Windows 7, but the rest of your software is old, you will soon find out that Windows 7 sometimes has a hard time maintaining compatibility with older software.  The last thing a business owner needs is to upgrade to Windows 7 to increase security in his network and then find out that some of his crucial, third-party software cannot function in Windows 7.

As for older hardware, you simply may not be able to run newer technologies on older computers due to their lack of power.  If you’re running newer and newer version of graphics and video editing software, even a 5 year old computer probably cannot handle the load well.

Ultimately, it’s a judgment call as to when a small business or individual user should upgrade software or hardware.   It’s a good idea to have an IT expert on hand in order to go over the pros and cons list for upgrading software – he’ll help you understand why a particular piece of software or hardware is worth the cost to purchase.

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