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When is the Right Time to Upgrade Your Computer Equipment?

Dear Small Business Advisor,

I own a small business with several computers and devices (networking, mobile devices, printers, etc.) and a few of them are getting a bit old. I’m reluctant to spend money on upgrading everything without any clear idea of the benefits/advantages (especially since everything still works). Can you provide some advice on when is the right time to upgrade?

There are many good reasons to upgrade to newer computers and devices, but one overriding factor that leads businesses to delay things is the cost involved in upgrading. Small businesses are typically keeping their hardware longer now mainly for perceived economic benefits. Many computers are more than five years old and there are a significant number of desktops, laptops and servers running out-of-date operating systems and software. Ultimately, the economic benefit begins to shrink rapidly after a certain point and the downsides begin to pile up.

Marc Bressman, an IT consultant with more than 15 years’ experience and owner of FalconTech LLC, has this advice regarding the benefits of upgrading:

When discussing upgrading, I like to break-down the potential advantages into a few categories – security, performance, compatibility and new features.

From a security perspective, ensuring that all of your technology components are up-to-date (both software and hardware) is extremely important. Nowadays, new threats are emerging constantly, and devices and software might not be as well protected as they once were. For somewhat newer devices, ensuring that you are running the latest versions of software and operating systems (OSs) can help reduce your exposure and protect your business and your technology investment. Older devices and computers (especially mobile devices, networking equipment, and printers) might no longer qualify for security updates and patches, and when this occurs, it is important to replace them in a timely fashion so that you are not using out-of-date and unprotected equipment that leaves your business vulnerable.

While it might be harder to immediately see value when discussing upgrades in terms of security (though it is still just as important), it is much easier to immediately see tangible improvements when looking at performance. Replacing aging equipment with new machines can usually offer significant speed boosts that allow for improved business operations. This not only applies to end-user workstations (computers and laptops), but also mobile devices, and even oft-forgotten network equipment. Additionally, you’ll have the added bonus of increasing staff morale and reducing downtime.

Compatibility is another area that offers more of a behind-the-scenes gain, but it can have some major implications. Microsoft has been rolling out Windows 11 for the last year, but it has limited what devices are allowed to upgrade. As a result, there are plenty of computers that will not work with Windows 11, and once Microsoft stops supporting Windows 10 in a few years this could easily become a concern. On top of that, newer software can have much more stringent requirements that might prevent it from working with older hardware or OSs, or at the very least cause interoperability problems that can lead to increased maintenance and support costs. Hardware upgrades can be a good way to avoid all of these potential headaches down the road.

Finally, new features (or the “wow” factor) can be a good reason to upgrade. Take a wireless router for example – you might be using one that was purchased a few years ago, and while it works perfectly fine, it is using a much older wireless networking standard. If you have newer wireless computers and mobile devices, they might still be communicating with each other (and the Internet) much more slowly because of the older wireless router – upgrading it could allow for much faster network speeds and all the benefits that come along with that. While there are plenty of instances of hardware or software vendors, including features and functionality that don’t actually increase the usefulness of their products, there are many more instances where newer features, standards or technology can be a real boon to a business and its operations. In situations where you are uncertain, it is always a good idea to consult with an IT professional or consultant so they can assist you in making the best decisions about your technology needs!

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Courtesy of NJ Business Magazine

Article Author: Bruce Freeman