3 Reasons Why Your Business Needs a Hardware Refresh Strategy

Author: Levi Wilson

Today, our companies completely rely on technology. It only takes one rogue computer virus to grind a company to a digital halt. Moreover, information technology is an extremely complex field, and there are an ample amount of strategies and tactics that a business owner needs to be aware of and must maintain a continuous sense of vigilance to defend against such digital disasters. It can become overwhelming; nonetheless, a successfully plan must to begin somewhere, and a good beginning to an IT/Business strategy is the development of a hardware refresh plan.

No two hardware refresh strategies (HRS) are exactly the same; sure, there are overarching IT strategies and best practices, but your business' HRS will be as unique and individualized as your business. With that in mind, the following sections introduce three topics you should familiarize yourself with before creating a business hardware refresh strategy.

The Idea of Increasing Productivity

There are distinguishable differences of productivity needs from one area to another. Being able to identify the high productivity pieces of hardware within a system is essential when forming a successful hardware refresh strategy.

Productivity levels are based on two measures: reliance and speed.  Reliance refers to how much a user relies on their system to do his or her work. In the case of a knowledge worker, many times the worker cannot do his or her work unless the system(s) is working. After a certain age, hardware becomes much more susceptible to breakdowns, and the risk of a productivity disruption increases. To avoid this issue, replacing hardware before it begins to wear down is a much better choice.

Speed is important for situations where users are dependent on the performance on their machine. If a user is waiting for the computer to function properly, that waiting period translates directly to lost productivity. Manufacturers are constantly making speed improvements to their new hardware offerings, and having a refresh strategy in place allows users to get the full benefit of a fully up to date system. There is a point where the cost of a new system is lower than the cost of productivity loss due to waiting. In a high-productivity usage machine, such as a 3D CAD workstation, that point is normally about 3 years.

Both the speed and reliance measures help determine an appropriate refresh time table that can be applied to any hardware on the network.

Plan Based on Specific Hardware Usage Levels

In most cases, the best strategy is to stick to a pre-determined refresh plan, such as the one shown below. In other words, purchase hardware for the specific level of productivity needed, use that hardware for its planned life, and replace it at the end of its life. In a small number of cases, cascading hardware from a higher level of productivity and repurposing the hardware to a lower level of productivity might make sense. However, the cost of labor to repurpose hardware often far exceeds the realized benefit of extending the life of hardware.

  Level of Use (Years)
  High Medium Low
Phones/Mobile Devices 1 2 3-4
Tablets 1 2 3
Laptops 2 3-4 4-5
Printers 3 4-5 5-6
Servers 3 4-5 5-6
Storage 3 4-5 5-6
Workstations  3 4-5 5-6
Thin Clients 3 4-5 5-6
Switches 4 5-6 6-7
Firewalls 4 5-6 6-7
Wireless access points 4 5-6 6-7
Print Servers 4 5-6 6-7
Cabling/Fiber 5-7 7-8 8-10

Financial Budget Strategy for Growth

Another factor is matching the company’s financial capital budget objectives. Many times it is much easier to spread the costs as evenly as possible throughout the entire refresh cycle. The goal is to stay away from the trap of having an excessive cash need for capital one year and then very little the following years. The major benefit of having a hardware refresh strategy is that it helps in budgeting and managing cash flow.