01 Aug Best Practices: The way to win with IT equipment
We would frame this as a case study, but we need to protect both the innocent and the guilty. It is, however, exactly what happened. Something we don’t want to happen to you.
The hardware dilemma
“Leave this system alone. It’s working just fine.” If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, right? Well, no. In some cases, not right.
The fact is, every three to four years, depending on the type and use of a system, hardware should be replaced. Companies often feel this is a bitter financial pill to swallow (and we can take away that pain through our HaaS program: Hardware as a service- you lease, rather than buy hardware.), but not so bitter as a system going down. Do we KNOW that systems will go down at this rate? Our experience says yes, between 3 and 4 years, it will die, or it will cause such constant aggravation you’ll want to shoot it yourself. Now, these are the very good systems you need to run a business, not cheap off-brands. Those off-brands might save a few bucks up front, but chances are you won’t get your full three years, and will be plagued with one thing after another the entire time such a system is in use. You can’t spend your way out of this, either. Buy super high-end equipment and it’ll last forever? Eh, NO. Don’t try that. I’ll tell you why below, as the reason touches on much we’ll discuss here.
How sure are we? Consider this: When a business wants to become a TailWinds client, of course we prepare a proposal including initial changes. Keep in mind that although we have all the experience you’d ever want, we are not a 20-year-old company, and we run lean to save you money. In other words, we are very happy to on-board new clients. But if a business has an office full of four and five year old laptops, plus a couple servers running outdated Windows OS, and they say they don’t want to replace the equipment, we can’t sign them. We hate when this happens, because it’s self-evident that these companies are suffering under bad IT management, we know there will be problems, and there’s nothing we can do.
The crash that can’t happen
This week, we saw a case in point. We were contacted by a company we had met with some time ago, but had not yet signed as a client. A SAN (Storage Area Network- storage arrays which are set up as a network for ease of access) about which we had been concerned at the time was exhibiting odd behavior, and they wanted an “emergency second opinion”. There were problems in addition to age: It had ALL of their critical information stored on it- so, here’s this “one point of failure” that could seriously damage the business if it went down for the count. And now it was showing bad signs. They agreed to have us install a backup appliance far better than the method they had in place, and we did so immediately. That was a really good thing, because it promptly died.
The best answers
So, why worry about old equipment if you have good backups?
Old equipment is unsafe and inefficient. Yes, new equipment can fail, new equipment can certainly be hit by a truck full of wet cement, so it must have redundancy, and off-site redundancy. But old equipment most certainly will fail and/or will be a major irritation prior to failing. Even worse, old equipment is more vulnerable to every threat in cyberspace. If this had been an attack instead of a failure, the story might not have ended quite so well.
- The worst case is when the hardware is so old, it won’t run the latest version of Windows properly or at all. Unfortunately, this is most common with servers (“that old thing? Nobody wants to work on it, but we can use it for a server”). We often find these “old things” running old server software (because that’s all it can run, for one thing), and that means they don’t have the protections built into the later versions, nor the current updates.
- And if it’s old “ish”? Well, no. Even if it runs the newer software version okay, it still may not be able to take advantage of updates designed to combat the latest types of malware attacks. (Software of this type is most often written for the most current hardware, principally because it’s time sensitive.)
- If a hacker gets in, they have your data. Anything sensitive in there? Even if you don’t have medical info or credit card numbers, what about employee or financial information? How about just enough client information that the bad guys could dox them pretty good?
Maybe by now you’re wondering why this happens at all. How come I can keep my car longer than my IT hardware, and with no trouble? If you’re thinking it’s the manufacturers doing what they can to take your cash- planned obsolescence- yeah, there’s some of that. But more than that, it’s the speed of change in the industry. Hardware and software obviously have a close symbiotic relationship, and sometimes it’s a race. A great piece of new software needs hardware to accommodate it. Think about the “tabletization” of just about everything. You can hardly find a device with a screen that doesn’t have touch capabilities, and that happened in a super-short period of time. And during that time, vice versa: all your work apps were catching up to your play apps by adding touch capability. That’s a simple example, but it works the same way with the constant updates Microsoft and many others are pushing out (often in ways you can’t see), plus constant innovation in devices.
Now it should be pretty clear why super-high-end hardware won’t save you. There are some fancy solid-state servers that are used in the most sensitive environments, but they will never, ever, be cost effective for you. They won’t hang in that much longer, and even if they ran for twelve years, there’s the software/updates problem.
And, there’s a budget conscious answer for this. Lease the hardware AND the OS and productivity (MS office, including email) software from us. We’ll swap it all out for you at the end of the third year and you’ll not feel the difference. Changing out hardware, getting all your stuff from old to new machines is not a big deal for us, so it’s not a big downtime for you. By the time we bring the new equipment and plug it in, the switch is almost done. There’s very little training up, if any, needed, because the software is the same on both the “old” and new equipment. That’s productivity on a constant climb. And a very literal case of time and money saved.
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