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When to get rid of old technology

As IT professionals we run into this all the time. A client has an old piece of equipment that they don’t want to replace because they think that it will be too expensive. While I don’t have a problem with anyone wanting to save some money the problem I do have is when that piece of tech is no longer supported by the manfacturer at all (be it hardware or software).

What happens when the OEM decides they no longer support a product? A number of things happen. For starters you might get lucky and not have any problems with this particular product ever (this is rare, but does happen).  What is more likely to happen is the fact that the product will eventually break down. Now what happens next is where things get interesting. So your 10 year old PC breaks down, lets say the hard drive dies, so you pickup the phone and call someone like us or your on-site tech. He/she first checks to see if support is still offered or not, tech finds out it is no longer covered under warranty nor is the manufacturer willing to even speak to the tech. No big deal, its just a hard drive right? Maybe, maybe not.

While hard drives are not too hard to find these days (even most of the old ones) the software can be more difficult to re-install, then there is the problem of drivers. Does the OEM still offer the drivers on their website? Did you hold onto the old software for a day like this or throw it out during some early spring cleaning a few months prior? Long story short, it can be costly to get a old PC back up and running after a hardware failure, so why not invest in new hardware routinely? In fact I recommend replacing desktops and servers every 5 years (laptop’s every 3 simply because they usually don’t hold up for 5 years and most manufacturers don’t offer warranty coverage past 3 years on laptops, 5 on desktops). Now what some companies do is they replace half  of their tech every 2.5-3 years so its not such a big payment all at once not to mention you don’t have everyone trying to learn new software all at once. Speaking of software…

Software is usually more expensive than hardware, and as a result more expensive to maintain. But if you have old software in place on your network beware the cost of supporting it when it gets out of date and the developer no longer supports it. For example when software goes past its EOL you usually have to deal with outside support contractors that specilize in supporting old software (that is usually much more expensive than keeping the software current) to keep it running the way you need it to. And sometimes you get lucky and your IT solution has ran into the software before and knows how to fix whatever problem you are having.

Something else to keep in mind when you or your company decides to start replacing technology, don’t just replace the desktops, replace cables and printers as well. If you are doing a network refresh (getting new switches, cables, punch panel, etc etc) replace everything you can, don’t hold onto that switch that was replaced 4 years ago just to save a few bucks on a new one. Trust me, it will come back to bite you at some point.

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