If it ain't broke.... Don't fix it.
Thats a mantra we hear quite a bit in our line of work, but I am going to challenge that and say - Yeah go ahead and fix it anyway. All too often the thought process around technology is that you are saving money by not maintaining or replacing technology infrastructure. While that ideology might suffice for the first few years of your technology lifecycle, eventually it is going to end up costing you more in the long run to wait until it breaks.
When we have questioned the approach of waiting until something breaks to fix it, the response normally is - well no need to spend the money until it actually breaks. The biggest problem to this approach is that by doing so, you are actually planning on losing some money. The amount of money you lose depends on how long you will be down, how many of your employees this will affect, and how many customers it may impact. So that cost can be as small as a few hours for only one employee to as much as your entire staff being down for days, and ultimately costing you customers. Think about it... the cost of the hardware typically doesn't change much. So whether you replace it today or next year, the price is pretty much the same. If you take the route of utilizing a managed lifecycle for your technology components, you can control the schedule in which something is replaced, thus limiting the impact it has on your employees and customers. However if you wait until it breaks, you lose all control of the timing and ultimately impact to your organization.
Why do business owners and manager wait until it breaks?
Is there any other aspect of your operations that you would take this type of risk knowingly? Would you wait to replace your service vehicles until they died on the side of the road? Of course not! Would you wait until your lights are shut off to pay the electric bill? Of course not! So why do so many business owners and managers neglect to plan for regular upgrades and replacements of their IT infrastructure? The answer most of the time is that they do not have a process in place for managing the cycle and certainly don't have consistency or diligence to it if they do.
What Should You Do?
So what should you do? First and foremost you should have an inventory of all your technology components, when they were purchased and when the maintenance/warranty expires. Secondarily you need to have a mapped-out and planned lifecycle for each type of component. That means you should schedule out replacement and upgrades of each and every device BEFORE it fails. This also allows you to create a predictable and forecastable budget for technology.
So what should those replacement lifecycles look like? Here is a general rule of thumb for each type of component. Obviously each environment is different and these timeframes can be different based upon the conditions of the environment(manufacturing floor etc.), the hours of usage, type of usage etc, but these are at least a start;
- Network switches - replace every 5 years on average
- Firewalls - replace every 3 years
- Wireless access points - replace every 3 years
- Servers - replace every 3 years
- Desktops - replace every 3-5 years depending on usage
- Backup appliances - replace every 3 years or when utilization nears 75%
- Network Storage - replace every 3 years or when utilization nears 75%
Remember these are just guidelines and your specific environment could dictate replacement earlier or later. If you don't have some managing that life cycle, the important thing is to start. Please - Don't plan to actually lose money and productivity! If It Ain't Broke.... Yeah Go Ahead And Fix It Anyway!