What are the direct and opportunity costs to having a workstation out of service?

Using computer equipment and networking infrastructure older than 5 years in a networked business setting can come with risks and expenses that outweigh the initial savings. Deferring regular technology refresh schedules and delaying updating of critical software systems leads to a technological debt load for an organization, with unanticipated urgent costs in the future when systems fail to meet the needs of operational requirements, security or company growth.

Risks of Tech Debt Include:

Security vulnerabilities

As technology advances, new security threats emerge. Older equipment may not have the necessary security features (TPM, secure firmware, up to date OS for example) to protect against these threats, making them more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Manufacturers may also discontinue releasing software and firmware updates, leaving these models exposed to known flaws.

Reduced performance

As technology advances, software and operating systems require more resources to function. Older equipment may not have the hardware capabilities to run the latest software, leading to slow performance and decreased productivity.

One example is drive speed; new computer equipment comes with fast solid-state “hard” drives as standard. Older machines with rotating hard drives are painfully slow to boot or load software in comparison. Hard drives are a frequent point of failure. All mechanical drives have a limited lifespan, and will fail over time, causing lost data and downtime.

New equipment can also fail unexpectedly but the risk of failure can be mapped on a bell curve, with early life products being a very low percentage, and new equipment is usually covered by manufacturers’ warranty for 1 to 3 years.

Reduced performance due to lack of a tech refresh program

Lack of support

Manufacturers and vendors typically stop providing software updates and technical support for older equipment after a certain period. This makes it difficult to troubleshoot and fix issues that may arise. 

Compliance issues

Many industries have regulations that require businesses to use equipment that meets certain security standards. Using older equipment may put a business at risk of non-compliance, which can lead to penalties or loss of certifications. 

Data loss

As equipment ages, the risk of hardware failure increases. This can result in data loss, which can be devastating for a business. Regardless of your infrastructure, it is important to have a robust disaster recovery plan in place to mitigate this risk. 

Losing technology due to lack of a tech refresh program

Expenses With Older Computing Infrastructure Include:

Replacement costs

As equipment ages, it becomes more likely to fail. Replacing older equipment can be expensive and may require additional expenses, such as data migration and software re-configuration.  By planning a scheduled replacement programme, these costs become more predictable and can be budgeted for.

Maintenance costs

Older equipment may require more frequent repairs and maintenance, which can add up over time. Parts for aged machinery may not be easily available. On the other hand, new equipment usually comes with one to three year warranties, with options for warranty extension, which ensures limited costs for maintenance. 

Energy costs

Older equipment may be less energy efficient, leading to higher energy bills. Modern processors in particular have been designed for much more computing speed with half or less of the electrical consumption and heat production of earlier generation CPUs. Newer equipment often complies with EnergyStar or PowerSmart ratings

Money loss due to lack of tech refresh

Training and staff productivity costs

As equipment ages, it may become harder for employees to use. This may require additional training for employees, which can be costly, or slow down their daily work. Out-of-date software systems or poorly-integrated business software can cause significant productivity losses. 

Licensing costs

Newer software and operating systems may not be compatible with older equipment. This is typically because new versions of productivity software may require higher and newer equipment standards. This may require businesses to purchase new licenses for software that is compatible with older equipment, which can be expensive.  

In some cases, old software platforms can reach EOS (End of Support) dates or the developer may go out of production leaving orphaned programs that may be business critical. 

IT support costs

As equipment ages, it may require more frequent support from IT staff. The accumulation can increase overtime and may necessitate the hiring of additional staff. 

Read more about how to reduce IT costs here

Is It Ever Cost Effective to Save Money With Refurbished or Used Hardware?

Older equipment will have a shorter remaining lifespan than newer equipment. Because of this, replacement costs may be more frequent. Older computers are also unable to handle the demands of new software and operating systems, which can lead to decreased productivity.  

One use case for purchasing refurbished equipment is where a project has a defined end date, the requirements are well known and stable, and the equipment is planned to be disposed of in a short time (1 -2 years, maximum). Even at this, the maintenance cost must be evaluated ensure that all the security and software requirement standards can be met for the limited duration of the project. 

What Other Costs are at Risk? 

Consider the cost of downtime when equipment fails, which can be significant. What are the costs to having a a network component taking tens of users out of work at one time? 

It is recommended to have a plan in place to ensure that your business can continue to operate while equipment is being repaired or replaced. 

In Summary

While continuing to use older equipment (or purchasing reconditioned equipment) may seem like a cost-effective option, it can come with a number of risks and expenses that can ultimately outweigh the initial savings. It’s important to weigh the costs and risks of using older equipment against the potential benefits, and to have a replacement plan and budget in place to manage these risks and expenses, as well as a process of regularly evaluating the equipment in use, to ensure that it meets the current and future needs of the business.