How do we work out what IT equipment to keep and what to get rid of?

We never seem to throw anything out. How do we work out what IT equipment to keep and what to get rid of?

Do you have one of those workplaces where old computers hang around indefinitely, possibly with their insides hanging outside the box? What about old servers that are well past their use-by-date, but somehow limp on and on and on?

If this sounds like you, it’s probably time to clear your workplace of old IT equipment…

One of the best things you can do with your old equipment is to get it to the recyclers promptly. There may be components of your machines that can be reused before they age any further. The remaining materials can then be broken down and recycled too. Remember, the longer your old equipment sits in a corner or cupboard, the less likely it is to be of value to anyone.

Have a look for a local recycler of PCs, but make sure they have sound environmental policies and won’t ship parts to third world countries for manual destruction – creating toxic environments in the process.

While hoarding IT equipment might not seem like a big problem, it actually is – because, more often than not, it indicates a bigger problem at a strategic planning level. I know this because old computers take up space, use power and slow people down. There is no justification for making use of old PCs unless you are a not-for-profit organisation using voluntary labour to repair and operate the PCs. I say this because computers are a productivity tool, and when they are no longer saving an employee time they are counter-productive.

We still think of computers as expensive, which is a throwback to the early days of IT when a PC cost $5,000, and a salary was $30,000. Today, the median Australian salary is approximately $55,000 and a computer costs $1,000. So, with the shift in cost ratio from 1:6 to 1:55, getting the best possible performance and productivity from our people by investing in technology is important.

Recent reports have shown that Australians are ‘among the most overworked people in the world’, but unfortunately we are not the most productive. It’s likely that our hesitancy to spend money on productivity tools has us working harder – not smarter.

But, how do you know when to throw IT equipment out (of course, by this we always mean ‘recycle it’!)? This is either a simple issue, or a complex one – depending on your point of view. If you can handle the idea that IT equipment should be maintained to a high standard to maximise your staff productivity, PCs should be replaced automatically every three to four years. To achieve this, you’ll need to set up a replacement schedule – and stick to it.

This replacement schedule should incorporate an assessment of all equipment at the three-year mark, during which a decision regarding the equipments future should be made. If the equipment is performing well, keep it for a fourth year. If it is slowing down or has become unreliable, replace it. This does not work so well in small businesses where additional expense is often avoided to the detriment of productivity – but the rules still apply, and should be factored into budgets.

Storage, PCs, servers, network speed and the like are all worth spending money on. This message has finally reached the marketplace, and we are reading this week how PC sales have surged by 24% as people gear up for the growing economy. There is also growing demand for storage and backup solutions. Storage has grown, but the backup of large amounts of data is causing problems for a lot of businesses. There are solutions for this, but they are all expensive. Again, this is why careful planning and budgeting are important, so that storage doesn’t grow faster than the backup capability.

Often, I see IT advisors who are great technicians with a poor sense of business, who truly believe that their job is to save their clients money by not spending anything extra on IT equipment. These guys run around patching old PCs all day, and feel like heroes for the savings they are making. They have no sense of how hard they are working to keep old equipment running, and think nothing of all-night sessions spent trying to save a dying server. But they also have no concern for the impact that each IT incident has on the client sitting behind the computer, who is trying to do some useful, profitable work.

These guys are usually very knowledgeable and have great justifications for why they run the systems the way they do. They’re also stunned when the total cost of running a new fleet of computers with quality management, and the inclusion of finance, is lower than their salary. Today, with good quality management tools available to every business – large or small – there is no excuse for unstable systems and reactive IT management. So, plan to upgrade, simplify and save time and money – while getting more from your staff by removing the wasted time and unnecessary stress caused by old computers.

Ultimately, if your computers don’t run quickly or reliably, it is time to do some planning and budgeting to ensure you are not burning thousands of dollars on your resources to save only hundreds on your computers. Clearly, part of your planning is to ensure that as the new equipment comes in, the old equipment is taken out and sent to a recycler. For more information, refer to my previous article, Greening your IT systems.

Click here to read more IT Systems expert advice.

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.

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