How to Get Ahead on Your Next Hardware Refresh

If you knew that all of your company’s hardware would self-destruct on a certain date in the future, what steps would you take to prevent the total collapse of your business operations? You’d probably prepare long before that date to ensure a seamless transition to new devices before the old ones reached their expiration.

Devices don’t usually come with hard-and-fast expiration dates, though. Instead, they creep slowly to a stop — so slowly that you might not even notice the decline in function until it’s already impacting your company’s productivity.

If You’re Not Staying Ahead, You’re Already Behind

You don’t need to be convinced that all hardware eventually needs replacing. But budget constraints and competing priorities can make it difficult to justify retiring technology that still technically works. Instead, many companies attempt to save money by pushing their hardware to last as long as possible — not realizing that they have long surpassed the point of diminishing returns. By the time you’re ready to consider a hardware refresh, your company may already be losing money.

Aging hardware involves significant risks. It’s slower, it often can’t support new software and features that offer a competitive advantage in the market, and — perhaps most concerning — it might not be secure against new malware. That said, it also doesn’t make sense to buy new hardware every time a new model is released. So how do companies find the right balance to stay up-to-date?

Timing is everything. The best ways to ensure maximum value from your hardware are to maintain it, stay on top of software updates, upgrade hardware when it makes sense, and refresh before its value starts to go negative.

Preparing for the Technology Time Bomb

Despite all of your best efforts, a refresh may be forced by circumstances outside of your control. Your hardware might be functioning perfectly fine — optimally, even — when suddenly, the manufacturer declares it End of Life (EOL). When this happens, it means that they have set the date past which they will no longer offer support/repair/parts for that particular device. At this point, it doesn’t matter how much you paid for it or how long it was supposed to last — you know you’re going to need to replace it, sooner rather than later.

While the EOL without warning scenario above is probably the closest thing to self-destructing hardware there is, most of the time you have plenty of time to prepare for a hardware refresh. In fact, you can prepare from the initial moment of purchase by maintaining realistic expectations regarding the lifespan of your new hardware.

“It used to be that people could expect their enterprise hardware to last for up to ten years,” says David Bissonnette, Executive Vice President at Strategic Technology. “Today, with technology advancing so rapidly, sometimes you could be looking at a life expectancy of closer to three to five.”

Here are a few things to consider ahead of time, long before a refresh is necessary:

  • Adjust your expectations. When it comes to value, there’s more to consider than just getting your money’s worth in terms of longevity. For instance, if your company has mobile computers that still scan barcodes as well as they did on the day you purchased them, but your competitors have all moved on to devices that scan twice as fast, you’re putting your employees at a disadvantage.
  • Consider upgrading. Before you undertake a total hardware refresh, first consider what upgrades are available, and whether or not upgrading (as an interim step before replacing) makes more sense. In the IT realm, “upgrading” could mean doing something as simple as updating software or switching out external components such as keyboards; of course, it might also require something as extensive as sending all of your devices back to the manufacturer for a new operating system.
  • Have a refresh plan before you need it. Ideally, when you purchase hardware, you should have some idea of when you’ll need to refresh it, and a system in place for ensuring budget priority.

Things to Consider When It’s Time to Refresh

At some point in your hardware lifecycle, it will be time to refresh. When that time comes, recognize and embrace this as an opportunity to set your company up for long-term success. Here are a few things you can do to ensure that your hardware refresh will be as strategic as possible:

  • Understand ROI potential. Hardware can be expensive, but purchasing the wrong hardware can cost you even more in the long run.
  • Think ahead. Buy hardware with the next step in mind. Consider the upgrade potential of any hardware you plan to purchase, as well as how long it’s been on the market — avoid older hardware that could reach end of life in the short-term future.
  • Have a plan with a timeline. Set a notification to remind you of the next hardware refresh, to ensure that it’s given priority in future budgeting.
  • Consider Device as a Service (DaaS). With DaaS, the responsibility of maintaining and managing your devices and device refreshes becomes the responsibility of your service provider.

Last, but not least, understand the risks involved if you choose to update your hardware in batches. It can be tempting to take this route if you are working with a tight budget. But, this strategy can create uneven wear on devices and may end up costing you more money sooner than you anticipate. For example, if you decide to refresh just half of your mobile computers at once, employees will naturally prefer the faster, newer devices. If all of your mobile computers are in constant rotation, then productivity will be uneven between employees using the older, slower devices, and those using the new ones. If employees check out devices as needed, you can be sure that the newer devices will be used most often, causing them to wear faster than anticipated.

Whether you’re in the early stages of planning your next hardware refresh, or you need to refresh ASAP, we can help. Contact us to learn how we’re helping companies like yours effectively select, deploy, manage, support, and refresh large, widely distributed populations of enterprise and consumer devices.