Band-Aids are for Cuts, Not for Your IT Infrastructure

There is a strange phenomenon that I have been witness to for as many years as we have done computer sales, repair and consulting work for our customers - and that is, when it comes to IT service, either you are heralded as the hero or run out of town as the villain.  Naturally a customer is thrilled with you when you play the role of the “fireman” and bring their network or computers back from the brink, but when you give them an estimate for replacing that aging server or workstation or 10 year old backup system (if they have one at all) they drag their feet and look at it as an extra or perhaps unnecessary expense.  Don’t fix what ain’t broke - right?

Wrong!  Replacing equipment as it breaks or only when you experience a critical failure on your network is like using a Band-Aid to close a gunshot wound.  If you use a big enough Band-Aid, you’ll get the bleeding to stop but a better approach is to be fully prepared for the bullet before it arrives.  All computers are machines and all machines break or become outdated.  If you know this, why aren’t you planning and budgeting for these events today?  Your IT infrastructure is the backbone and nervous system of your organization.  Every operation, task and sale relies upon your computers and hundreds of thousands of dollars pour through their circuitry every year.  Having a critical failure costs money in downtime, sales opportunities lost, client inconvenience, inefficiencies when workers don’t have the tools to get their job done, rush charges for replacement equipment or service or overnight shipping, not to mention the physical toll in unnecessary anxiety it causes for you, your employees and your service provider.

So what is the solution?  Have a plan and schedule the automatic replacement of equipment as it ages and budget a percentage of your net revenue towards keeping this infrastructure current.

Here are some simple suggestions to help you make your plan:

1. Inventory any piece of equipment that would be hard to replace within 15 minutes of a failure or costs more than $100.  You’ll want to track this inventory in a database or on a spreadsheet.  If you need a database you can purchase one from our website by clicking on the link embedded in this post.  (FileMaker Solutions)  As part of this inventory you’ll want to assign a unique asset ID, the make, model, specs, date purchased and cost of the equipment.  (computers, monitors, laptops, printers, switches, firewalls, backup systems and network storage devices)

2. Using your inventory, you’ll want to plan the lifespan and replacement schedule of your equipment.  Workstations for most users, 4 years.  Workstations for power users, 3 years.  Servers, 4-5 years.  Monitors, 5-6 years.  Printers less than $300, 2-3 years.  Printers more than $300, 3-5 years.  Backup systems, firewalls, switches, network storage devices, 5-6 years.

3. Put an asset tag/label on each piece of equipment that includes the assigned asset ID, date of purchase and most important spec info (CPU MHZ, HDD capacity, RAM).  This will allow you to easily match the piece of equipment to your inventory.

4. Don’t buy the latest and greatest computer for the employee with the most seniority and roll their computer down to the employees with the least seniority.  A piece of equipment is not a perk or reward from the company.  It should be delivered to fill a specific need of a specific job.  Rolling computers down to the least senior employee imposes a restriction on getting the right piece of equipment to the right person and you’ll waste a lot of time and money repurposing computers that were perfectly fine where they were.  You essentially turn 1 system configuration and installation into a chain of systems that need installation and configurations.

5. Keep a spare older workstation or two on hand, configured, and ready to give to an employee if and when a system breaks down.  This provides your business with the continuity of still being able to conduct business even while a critical failure is being worked on.

6. Try to purchase like equipment from the same vendor so that when a system breaks down or requires service you are familiar with that vendor’s warrantee and service policies and procedures.  i.e. purchase all your workstations and servers from Dell or Apple, all your printers from HP, etc.  Get recommendations from your service provide on who’s equipment he recommends and works with regularly.

7. Stay away from no-name, white box, chop shop computer systems - stick with name brands you can trust and rely upon for service and warrantees.

8. Purchase 4hr turn around support warrantees on critical systems like servers and next business day service on workstations that are less critical.

9. Don’t waste your time shopping around for the lowest priced “deal” from the local warehouse store or on-line.  These deals are usually either bare bones garbage systems that are already outdated and priced so low as to grab your attention or they are pre-configured home systems.  Either way, they are not built with your specific needs in mind and you’ll end up with a hodge-podge of systems and software and operating systems on your network.  I know this may sound self serving but you should really pay your IT provider who knows your environment to configure your systems to order from one selected vendor with a configuration that uses a business class operating system.

10. Make sure your IT infrastructure includes a backup system, a recovery plan and you have tested recovering at least one critical file within the last six months.  I’ll be talking a little bit more about this in a future post but suffice to say, if your company's data is valuable to you and you haven't test restored at least one critical file in the last six months, you need to call us/your current service provider right now!

Overall keep this one point in mind.  Hardware is the cheapest component in your infrastructure.  It is the labor of installing and maintaining and using the hardware that costs, so you want to provide the best equipment and the right tools for the right job for your employees and stack the cards in your vendor’s favor so he isn’t struggling to keep old and mismatched systems running.

Don’t skimp and be prepared with a plan.

If you would like more information about how Productive Computing can help you with putting together a plan for your IT infrastructure, please contact us using the information listed here or you can visit us on the web at