More for Your Money: How and When to Upgrade Computers for Your Business

by Brian Benton
- Oct 3 2013 - 3 min read
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Every business needs computers for their employees. It is the main tool in today’s business world. Generally speaking, it’s really more than the main tool in business—it is the tool for business. Nobody can work without a computer. Its importance in your business means that you must have the right hardware for what your employees do (and therefore upgrade computers periodically).

Two issues that all businesses face are keeping their computers up to date and managing their cost. Computer hardware and software are being updated on a yearly basis, and they can cost anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. You want your system to have enough power and abilities, but yet you don’t want to overspend.

“Trickle-down hardware” is one method a small business can use to spend less and provide enough computing power to its users. Trickle-down hardware is a plan where you buy powerful computers for those who need high-end workstations, and then pass them down to other employees once the high-end users receive an upgrade.

A good example would be an engineering firm. Engineers and CAD users need high-end workstations, whereas the administration staff may need a machine that has to handle only email and word processing. These are two different types of computers at two very different prices. Trickle-down hardware means you purchase a workstation for your CAD user, use it for a few years, then pass it down to the admin staff, only purchasing a new workstation.

CAD programs, modeling programs, and other high-powered software are typically being updated on a yearly basis. Each year, these tools can do more and thus require more power to use them. The same thing goes for office programs. But computers that are used only for email, web browsing, and word processing don’t need as much power behind them. Oftentimes an older CAD workstation still has plenty of power in it for office work, even if it can’t handle the latest CAD program.

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Here are four steps you can take to set up a trickle-down hardware program at your business.

1. Establish What Your Users Need. Start with the software they will be using. That will drive what hardware they need.

2. Create Standard Hardware Builds. Divide your users into groups based on their hardware needs: CAD users are one group, engineers may be another, administrative personnel could be another, and so on. It could be that you only have two groups. If you have only one group, then this method won’t apply to you.

3. Determine a Budget and Yearly Cycle. Once you know what you need to purchase and how many you can, propose a budget to the boss for approval. Figure out how often you will replace the hardware, and go on from there. Typically a three-year replacement plan is considered ideal, but you can adjust that to fit your needs.

4. Purchase the High-End Hardware. Buy what you need and start your rollout. Once the new workstations are installed and running, take the old machines, wipe them clean, and pass them down to the rest of your users. Everyone gets a new machine—or at least a faster, more powerful tool—to do their work.

Trickle-down hardware gets everyone a new computer that is better than the one they had before. It also means that you didn’t buy machines for the entire company to make that happen. When you spec out your hardware, it’s a good idea to purchase the exact same thing for each person. It makes maintenance easier. Replacement parts will work for everyone. Installation of software is also streamlined because the install process will be the same every time.

If you don’t have the budget to purchase new machines for the entire CAD department, you can divide the group into three subgroups. Subgroup A gets computers this year, subgroup B gets them next year, and subgroup C gets them the year after that. Everybody is then on a three-year cycle staggered throughout the company.

For more information about when to replace your computer hardware, check out this Forbes article.

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