Is It Time To Replace IT Equipment? (How To Know, What To Do)
As a business leader, you have a lot on your mind. Finances, staffing, deliverables, sales, and more. At least your IT infrastructure is working. One less thing to think about, right? Well…maybe, but maybe not.
Just because your equipment is working on a daily basis doesn’t mean you can completely put it out of your mind. In this article, I’ll explain how to know when to start thinking about replacing your hardware, how to plan for the expense, and the steps to take.
At Kelser, we help hundreds of people just like you keep track of their entire IT infrastructure including servers, devices, software, and more.
Regular monitoring helps avoid surprises, allowing you to plan for the budget and logistical challenges of replacing your equipment before it fails.
After you read this article, you’ll understand the benefit of monitoring the different elements of your IT infrastructure, how to know when it’s time to replace them, and the best way to plan.
How To Know When To Replace IT Equipment
There are a number of factors that come into play when deciding whether or not it is time to replace different parts of your IT.
One of the first considerations for any element of your IT (servers, storage, network devices, hardware, or software) is support. If it is no longer supported under a manufacturer’s warranty, you are at risk. That could play out in the form of a hardware failure, a service outage, or a security incident.
When equipment fails, you fall into the unpleasant position of trying to source replacement parts on the fly. That is nerve-wracking and expensive both in terms of the urgency of getting replacement equipment and the potential downtime for your business.
Equipment that is no longer supported by the manufacturer doesn’t receive patching and security updates, putting your organization at higher risk for a cybersecurity breach.
Maybe you are planning an acquisition. Or, demand for your product is skyrocketing, meaning significant increases in customer traffic. Are you adding employees or locations? Anticipating reductions in your workforce?
If you’ve moved to more cloud-based applications there will be greater demands on your network capacity outside your building. Cloud backups and storage mean that a lot more traffic is exiting your building; an older business-class firewall running on a cable connection may not be able to do the job.
All of these changes affect your IT infrastructure both in terms of equipment needs and costs.
Many newer applications have significant requirements in terms of computing, storage, and bandwidth demands.
If you are in healthcare, for example, and are changing to Epicor, there are very defined minimum hardware standards for running the software. The company is very specific about offering support for their product only on hardware that meets certain requirements. You may not be able to just run it on your 5-year-old server.
Many small and medium-sized businesses implement quick-fix solutions that may ultimately not be right for their business.
For example, when they have a switch failure in their network, they run out to a store and buy a consumer-grade switch. While I understand that this is a quick and sometimes less expensive short-term switch, using consumer-grade hardware in a commercial setting is never a solid long-term solution.
Consumer-grade hardware cannot be managed remotely, so if you work with an external IT provider most consumer-grade hardware is unmanaged. This means that updates designed to enhance security and optimize performance, don’t get installed, and diagnosing problems is more difficult.
In addition, the gear is likely to fail more quickly because it isn’t designed for 24/7 business environment use.
Technology changes quickly. What was good enough five years ago is not good enough anymore.
Take firewalls for example. Having a basic firewall in place used to be sufficient. With today’s advanced security challenges, organizations need firewalls with more flexibility, advanced security features, and capacity for things like large-scale virtual private network (VPN) connections.
Your devices may start having issues. They might not fail completely, but they have issues that are affecting performance, causing outages, or frustrating users.
Proactive Steps To Take To Prepare For Equipment Replacement
There are proactive steps you can take to help you plan and prepare to replace equipment. Taking these steps will put you in a better position to take action before issues arise.
1. Inventory Equipment
At least once per year, take a look at your equipment. Know what you have and where it is in its life cycle.
For example, if you have a server that is 5 or 6 years old, it’s time to start planning for replacement.
Think about what makes sense for your business. Does it make more sense to replace the hardware or is there a better solution? Maybe moving to the cloud makes more sense than housing your data on-prem.
The best solution will vary for different organizations. Make sure you really think about what makes sense for you.
2. Reassess Workloads
How are you using your equipment?
Maybe you have things running that you no longer need. Maybe you anticipate running applications that demand more compute or storage resources. Don’t forget to factor in anticipated employee fluctuations and growth opportunities.
Most companies are not in a constant state forever. What are your current usage demands? What do you anticipate the demand will be for the next year, the next 5 years?
If you have a server that is creaking away at 90 percent utilization, it might be time to either add to your farm or perhaps look for alternatives.
On the other hand, if you have gear that is at 5 percent utilization, does it make sense to keep that stuff spinning or can you move those workloads to another virtual or physical server, shutter the low-use one, and save on utility and support costs.
Nobody likes to hear from the furnace repair person that their furnace needs to be replaced. Issues like this are not the surprises most of us like, especially when they involve unbudgeted expenses.
But, if you know your furnace is old and you keep putting off replacing it because you don’t want to spend the money, eventually it is going to catch up with you. The same is true of your IT equipment.
Planning ahead for the budget impact of equipment replacement is a necessary part of life. Nothing lasts forever and the more proactive you are about budget planning, the better off you will be.
Organizations need to monitor their gear to know what is happening.
Monitoring provides alerts when a power supply or memory module is failing in a server or a network switch is having port problems, for example.
If you are not monitoring, you may not know what’s happening until you start getting complaints from users or customers or experience a serious outage. Monitoring allows you to get ahead of problems.
So What Comes Next When Thinking About Replacing Your Business IT Equipment?
In this article, we’ve talked about the things that indicate it might be time to replace business IT equipment. We mentioned support termination, increased and decreased demand, new applications, commercial vs. business-grade hardware, age, and reliability or performance issues.
We also highlighted steps you can take to best position your organization to anticipate equipment replacement.
It’s important to know the equipment you have and its life expectancy, keep track of the workloads currently living on your equipment and understand the future demands that your infrastructure will need to accommodate, plan your budget, and monitor your equipment so that you are alerted to equipment failures and performance issues.
At this point, you have a full understanding of when, why, and how to handle IT equipment replacements.
Large and very small companies may have all the resources necessary to handle the IT equipment tracking and replacement activities outlined in this article.
Small and medium-sized businesses may have the resources or may benefit from the services of an external IT provider.
At Kelser, we help customers with proactive managed IT solutions. We know that managed IT isn’t the right solution for every business and that’s why we are committed to publishing articles like these that business leaders like you can use to get the solutions that are right for their business.
To learn more about managed IT (including cost), read this article: Are Managed Services A Good IT Solution For Small & Medium Businesses?
Or find out whether managed IT is right for your business by taking the short quiz below.