When is the worst time to realize you need a new car? When you’re on the side of the road in your old, broken down clunker that just won’t run anymore. Hopefully, you’ve never been there before. Unfortunately, businesses often find themselves in that exact situation when it comes to their computer systems. As businesses are increasingly dependent on technology, it’s ironic that attitudes about their upkeep and replacement remain lax. Why is that attitude dangerous and what can you do to combat it? Break/Fix Cycles There’s a good reason why you wouldn’t want to buy a new car, or a new computer system, just as the old one dies – desperation. Either you will buy a replacement that isn’t right for you or one that costs way too much. Waiting until a computer, server, or another piece is completely unusable is unwise. This can result in going over budget or having to comprise the actual needs just to have someone running. Take the time to develop a relationship with a Managed Services Provider or VAR to plan what you need for a technology refresh. Get a general idea of how long your systems can reasonably last (typically 3-5 years depending on equipment and usage). Create a schedule for replacement on a regular basis, diverting resources to make it less of a burden when replacements are necessary. Do this before you are desperate. Embracing the Technology Curve While you don’t want to wait until you have a steaming heap of broken technology, you also don’t want to swing in the opposite direction. Purchasing everything at the bleeding edge of technology guarantees that you will get a version filled with all the bugs that software and firmware updates eliminate over the first months. As with many aspects of life, you must strike a balance. Keep an eye out for any advancements in hardware or software that you (currently or could potentially) use that would make a noticeable improvement for your operations. Then, make a plan for making that purchase. Lean on the guidance of your IT Support professional for the timing that makes sense. New Options for a New Generation The amount of tech needed for even non-technical industries is increasing by the year. This can present new challenges for a new era. For example, for thousands of years, contractors have needed hammers, saws, and other tools for physical tasks. Now they need to have tablets for blueprints, smartphones for communication, and desktops for billing and documents. That doesn’t take into account the administrative offices for larger construction companies. If construction companies need all this tech, imagine the changes in other industries as well! Operating in this new age requires more expense and logistics. Thankfully, there are new options to address these new concerns beyond simply “go and buy what you need when you need it.” That’s exactly where a Managed Services Provider comes in. Dollars and Sense With your IT services provider, develop a monthly and annual budget for technology. Scour past spending numbers to determine reasonable, realistic amounts, as well as where you may have excessively spent due to desperation or the desire to be on the cutting edge. We have found that systems typically last about 3-5 years. Craft a budget that makes sense with this particular refresh cycle. Having a fixed budget in place will avoid surprises when technology spending comes up. In addition, take a look at subscription services for both hardware and software. Instead of charging one time for software without ongoing updates, products (such as Microsoft Office 365) now charge on a monthly or yearly basis. This allows you to know exactly how much you’ll need to budget as well as ensures you have the most recent version, features, and security updates. There are similar services that work with hardware. Hardware as a Service (HaaS), allows you to be up to date on hardware needs without having to worry about making large capital expenditures. Just like with software, you can pay a monthly or yearly amount and receive a hardware refresh at regular intervals. In addition, HaaS providers should include maintenance in between upgrades to keep the current systems running in the best condition. Technology is a part of business that won’t be disappearing. By doing your research and planning accordingly, you can successfully navigate when it’s time to upgrade.