All computers have a set lifecycle - which means that, at some point, all computer hardware will fail. Your practice's computers should be replaced when the cost of maintaining the PC outweighs the cost of replacing it. This is widely accepted as somewhere between 3-4 years, depending on how the system is being used.

Cost of Computer Downtime

Let's start off by agreeing that more productivity equals more money and less productivity equals less money for the company. Many offices try to keep their computers running for as ling as possible while ignoring the effect of a slower machine on productivity. Think back to the last time a computer in your company was down or running slowly: How productive was your company? How much time was lost trying to figure out what to do next? How many other people had to stop being productive to assist with the computer problem? While I cannot broadly answer how much money that costs any company, I can, with total certainty, state that anyone involved wasn't able to be as effectively productive for the company during that time. In a study for Intel by J Gold and Associates LLC in 2014, it was discovered that upgrading your computer hardware every two years leads to a 6.35% productivity improvement for office workers who perform 85% of their job on a computer. Any decrease in productivity either costs the company money, costs the owner time, or in many cases, both.

Fix or Replace Out-of-Warranty Computers

When an out-of-warranty computer begins having issues, should you attempt to fix it or replace it entirely? An average computer service call to replace a hard drive or power supply on an older machine will cost anywhere from $300-$500, depending on the specific parts that are needed for the repair. Meanwhile, the machine was probably down for at least a day or two and after the money that you didn't plan to spend is gone, you are left with a computer that runs like a 3-5-year-old machine. On the other hand, a new Dell OptiPlex 3050 with Windows 10 Pro, 8GB of Memory, an i5-7500 processor, and 256 GB SSD (solid-state drive) could be purchased for under $1,000 as a replacement... and from a performance standpoint, this new machine would absolutely put to shame any computer that was purchased brand-new two years ago. More often than not, new ends up being the way to go.

Planning out the life of your computer systems and hardware will allow you to replace them strategically before they start to eat away at your bottom line. Purchasing business-class hardware with a 5-year warranty will maximize your refresh cycle while minimizing both unexpected downtime and replacement costs. For tips on budgeting for hardware replacements, see the article "Managing Technology Costs: Tips on Budgeting for the Inevitable Replacements" from our April issue.