Technology

We know you just upgraded a mere five years ago but it's time to replace that legacy technology

Time for a Change, Again

We know, you just upgraded, but it’s time to replace that legacy technology. Here’s our guide to cushioning the blow.

Wouldn’t it be great if technology was more like your favorite sweatshirt? You know the one: You’ve worn it for so long that even the stains have stains, and every one of them reminds you of a great story before you started adulting.

Unfortunately, technology does not have the life expectancy of your fond memories. Your hardware, software and applications won’t last more than about four or five years under the best of circumstances. Just when it seems that everyone in the office has gotten used to their new, shiny everythings, IT lets you know your system is overdue for a revamp.  

We feel your pain. So here’s some wisdom from Twin Cities’ tech pros to help you know when you should — and shouldn’t — replace your legacy technology.

The hard stuff: replacing equipment
Investing in new technology can be a significant capital expense. But there’s also a significant cost for not updating equipment, says Nathan Austin, owner, founder and vice president of business development at Mytech Partners, an IT and business consulting service located in New Brighton. “You have to factor in downtime for repairs, rising costs to support outdated equipment and reduced productivity from equipment that’s not performing as well as it should,” he says.

When is it time?
Austin cites a recent Gartner Research study of 177 large businesses which reported that the average life span of desktop computers is 43 months and only 36 months for mobile computers. According to a Techaisle.com study, machines that are four years old or more, have an average direct cost for upgrade and repair and indirect cost for lost productivity of $1,400 per year. What do we mean by “productivity”? Austin explains: “We find that companies with outdated technology require three to four times more tech support time when compared to companies that invest regularly in proven IT strategy and technology best practices.” 

It’s a cloud, cloud world
Austin notes that those who do upgrade equipment are doing it differently. “Last year we saw a trend shift, and nearly every client of ours who was replacing physical servers that had reached the five-year mark was not buying a new physical server, but moving to the cloud with an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) or a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model,” he says. “Physical servers, especially for small businesses, are becoming extremely rare.” 

But what will it cost me?
Budgeting for a quality, business-class computer is around $1,000, he says, adding, “For an IT budget that covers equipment, security and support, a good place to start is to budget $250 to $300 per user per month. The more complex a business is — multiple locations, security compliance regulations, specialized software — the bigger that budget will need to be.”

The softer side: Upgrade or risk security issues
Brent Morris, vice president of business development at SUCCESS Computer Consulting, a Golden Valley–based outsourced IT firm that supports small and medium-size businesses. He notices that while many of his customers understand that replacing hardware is often a matter of improving productivity, he often has to explain that, in the case of operating systems and foundational systems, it’s more a matter of security. Organizations understand that Windows XP is no longer supported, but not many are aware that Windows 7 will stop receiving support in 2020. “When there’s no support, there are no updates, and that makes you the Swiss cheese of security,” he says.

Morris has recently been working with a client who needs to replace a medical health record system that was custom-built about 15 years ago. “The company that created the software has sunsetted the product, and it is no longer supporting this application. That puts my client in a bind. It’s critical to the operation of their business, but it’s going to take them years to make this transition,” he says. 

Find a shelf. Now buy something off that. 
While it was common 15 or 20 years ago to hire an application specialist, Morris says that now most businesses can find off-the-shelf applications that can meet their needs with just a few customizations. His biggest piece of advice: “Make sure you’re purchasing from a stable manufacturer who will be around to support the platform.” There are some creative ways of paying for this new investment, Morris says. “More and more businesses are moving to leasing, software-as-a-service or hardware-as-a-service, because it can be easier to budget for a monthly expense instead of a capital outlay.” 

This story appears in print in our March/April issue. Click here for a complimentary subscription.