As time pushes ever onward, so does the march of technological progress, something that is a constant concern for any company that relies on its IT infrastructure to function. Since 2020, this has included almost any business outside of exceptionally small cooperatives.
Naturally, as with any other vital factor to your business, one aspect that is essential for businesses to factor into their business plan and their procurement is the longevity of the equipment they choose to buy.
Obviously, IT equipment needs to be powerful and versatile enough to be fit for purpose, but a huge part of this and ensuring equipment is cost-effective is its longevity and lifespan.
There are a lot of exceptionally contradictory rules when it comes to replacing technology in the office, but ultimately, how often should you replace your equipment and what should you choose when you do?
Here are some of the factors that might help you make your choice.
Does It Still Work?
Ultimately, one school of thought is simply that you should not fix what isn’t broken in the first place, and the first question to seriously consider is if your equipment is good enough and effective enough for the tasks you want it to do.
Answering this question is far more difficult than asking it, however. It requires close contact with not only your company’s IT department but also external business IT experts and the very people who are using your systems.
Also, the question of functionality isn’t a binary one; many computers that are reaching the decade-old mark will still work fine for a lot of basic office tasks, but could frequently hang, lack certain ergonomic features that make them easier to use for long periods and be one update away from obsolescence.
The switchover to Windows 11 will be a major point where a lot of old equipment will simply no longer be usable, as the switch to an updated Trusted Platform Module means that a lot of computers made before 2019 will need to be upgraded or replaced before Windows 11 can be used.
Is It Still Supported?
The Windows 11 question brings to mind another exceptionally important question, one with a lot of nuanced issues attached to it, and that is the question of software and platform support.
In an internet-driven business world, active and consistent support is more vital than it has ever been because there are so many incentives for bad actors to look for security vulnerabilities and exploit them for financial gain.
Exploiting security vulnerabilities for a profit has become such a lucrative activity that it has become a cottage industry, often referred to as “ransomware-as-a-service”.
One of the biggest causes of such vulnerabilities, besides social engineering, is the exploitation of older, unsupported software used because it is compatible with the older equipment prevalent in an organisation.
Most famously, Windows XP was exceptionally popular with businesses over a decade after being launched, years after its primary support was discontinued and through nearly four generations of new versions of the operating system (Vista, 7, 8/8.1 and 10).
Even though Windows XP was designed during a time when the concept of multi-user environments was still not a universal concern and just as the internet was becoming the centre of many businesses, it was still used long after even its extended support period had ended.
This meant that the OS, already somewhat infamous for its security issues even when it was actively supported, was even more vulnerable, and sure enough, the NHS was as of 2019 still using an 18-year-old OS two years after a major ransomware attack exposed the vulnerabilities of the system.
If this is the case for your business-critical software, now is time for both a hardware and software refresh, transitioning away from tools that work but can no longer be said to be fit for purpose.
Is There An Alternative?
With that said, there are some complicated cases where it is not quite as clear that there is a one-to-one transition from an older piece of software to a new one.
There are so many cases of major parts of certain specialist fields and sometimes entire industries reliant on ancient computer software and technology, ones which would cost far too much money to transition away from than the risks and expenses that come from retaining legacy software.
It is obviously not ideal to rely on unsupported, legacy software and hardware, and you should always be looking to transition away from it, as well as assessing the risk of older hardware in your systems, but sometimes it is a necessity and experts will help you find a way to minimise the risk.