Ryan Stickel

By: Ryan Stickel on December 30th, 2022

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Why Do I Need To Replace My Hardware Every Five Years?

Technology Strategy | Business Strategy | Devices

We’ve all been there. The computers you feel like you just bought are suddenly not new anymore. You can feel with each passing day the increased loading times and the lost functionality. But hey, they still get the job done. Right?

Well, not quite. That lost functionality is likely costing your business a lot of money.

No one wants to lose money. It goes against the whole notion of running a business. Understanding the expected lifespan of your hardware and replacing it just before it reaches its end of useful life is the best way to maximize your IT investments.

Now, you're probably thinking, “Of course, a company that sells hardware thinks I should buy it more often.”

And yes, Innovative does sell hardware to our managed services clients, but we're a service provider first. That's why we don't sell hardware to everyone, only to businesses under a managed or co-managed services contract with us.

Our goal is to improve your experience with technology, and that includes getting the most out of your hardware investments. It’s our job to help you make the best technology budgeting decisions. We don't want you to needlessly replace your hardware too soon, but we also don't want you to lose money on inefficiency by waiting too long.

Whether it be your computer, printer or firewall, we recommend a five-year lifecycle for most of your hardware. Certain devices like phone systems, desk scanners and screens will generally last you a few years longer, but for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on the hardware that requires a refresh every five years.

If you’re here reading this, you’re probably wondering why this refresh is necessary. You might be thinking, “This hardware costs a lot of money, and you want me to replace it after just five years?”

The tough answer to that is: yes, we do want you to refresh your hardware every five years. But it’s not so much a want as it is a need. In this article, we’ll explain why we, and many in our industry, recommend a five-year lifecycle for hardware, and why your dollars aren’t going to waste.

Your Hardware Needs to Function Properly

Now you might be reading that header and thinking, “Well, duh. Of course, my hardware needs to function properly,” but let’s explain a little further what we mean by that.

While your hardware might function for more than five years, it likely won’t perform as well as you need it to at that point.

Think about it like your cell phone. The average person replaces their cell phone every 2-3 years. Why? For starters, it’s probably because their carrier makes it easy to upgrade after that two-year mark. It’s also because the phone doesn’t function as well in year three as it did in year one.

Whether it be outdated hardware relative to new software, shortened battery life or just general wear and tear, people seem to move on from their phones rather quickly.

If your phone slows down, you’re going to want to upgrade. Shouldn’t you be holding your work devices to the same standard? This loss in functionality can kill productivity at work, which turns out to be very costly.

Why is my Hardware Slowing Down?

There are plenty of factors that contribute to the slowing down of hardware; one of the biggest being operating system updates and patches.

All the newest system updates are designed with the newest hardware in mind. While these updates might still be compatible with the old hardware, they won’t necessarily allow the device to run as well as it used to.

As the updates continue to mount and software becomes more advanced, the hardware will struggle to keep up and begin to slow down. There are ways to temporarily ease this. Computers will generally run better with the latest operating system rather than having the old one with 100 updates installed.

Resetting an older computer to factory defaults and installing the newest OS may allow it to function better, but it’s not a permanent fix. We would also never advise someone to do this themselves. It should only be done by experts who know how to correctly reset and configure the device.

Lost Productivity

According to a study released by Microsoft, old computers are costing small and medium-sized businesses $2,736 per computer annually. Depending on the number of users an organization has, we could be talking about tens of thousands of dollars. That’s a huge number that could’ve been spent upgrading hardware instead.

Keep in mind, that number is just the computers. That doesn’t include any money clients lost repairing other hardware like switches and firewalls.

Maintenance Alone is Not Sufficient

You might wonder why you need to refresh your hardware every five years while also paying for maintenance on that hardware.

When it comes to our Meraki gear, clients are required to keep the hardware under maintenance, otherwise, it will shut down. As long as they keep renewing that maintenance agreement, Meraki will send them a replacement device if theirs fails.

We recommend that all gear should stay under a maintenance agreement with the vendor, regardless of if that vendor requires it or not for the hardware to function. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

This leaves some asking why they should buy a new device every five years when they can keep renewing the maintenance. There are a couple of reasons this isn’t the route to take. For starters, we’re trying to minimize downtime.

“Scheduling an infrastructure replacement when it’s convenient is way better than having downtime due to failing gear,” our CIO Tyler said. “Your downtime will be much longer if your hardware fails randomly.”

For example, if your server were to fail on you unexpectedly, you would have to wait on a replacement, configure it, then restore your data. Now, instead of planning out a server replacement ahead of time and having it installed properly and in a timely manner, you’re going to deal with an abrupt, and possibly lengthy downtime.

Now you’re paying for a new server in addition to dealing with hours or days of lost productivity. That downtime can cost a small-to-medium sized business $137 to $427 per minute. Wouldn’t you rather just pay for a new server, and have it installed when it works for you?

This is why a hardware renewal would be more cost-effective and safer for the company than waiting for something to go wrong and relying on maintenance.

In addition to that, newer hardware generally means newer features, features that can benefit your company and make it more efficient.

Lack of Compatibility

At a certain point, you won’t have a choice when it comes to updating your hardware. The software on your device will pass you by.

Software is constantly updating and evolving, and as it gets more powerful, so does the hardware that’s required to operate it. The two go hand-in-hand. If you allow your computer to get too old, you might log in one day and find out you can’t use the apps needed to do your job all because your hardware is outdated.

Even if you’re still able to run these apps, odds are that an older desktop won’t be up to the task of running them properly and allowing you to do your job.

Cutting Corners Will Create Headaches

If there’s any place to cut costs within your company, IT is just not one of them. We champion technology and partner with clients so they can leverage it to its fullest extent.

Cutting costs on a refresh would be against our strategy and, quite frankly, irresponsible. We couldn’t knowingly leave you with outdated hardware. This would put your business at a disadvantage. It’s our job to let you know when to update and make sure you follow through in a way that fits your budget and IT strategy.

In the past, we’ve seen companies try to stock up on hardware that was being sold cheap. The reason it was being sold cheaply is that it was end-of-life. Essentially, this company was buying hardware that was soon to be obsolete.

Clients should never ever do something like this. With all the work you do on your computer, you can’t afford to have one that lacks functionality and is old before you even buy it. If someone is selling you something cheap, it’s cheap for a reason.

You’re much better off spending more money on a computer that’s new. It will last you longer and allow you to do your job.

How Much Will It Cost to Replace?

This is a loaded question as it will vary from business to business. On average, a business PC setup and installation costs $640-780. That number can fluctuate based on the scale of the project, how long it takes and the amount of software and settings being configured.

Innovative's clients with flat rate support contracts can usually get individual PCs installed for no additional cost, but a full refresh would likely require a project outside the scope of the contract due to the work hours and effort.

Our article on new computer setup costs will dive a little deeper, but if you’re bookmarking that for later, here are a variety of factors that will affect how much a refresh will cost you.

  • How many workstations do you have?
  • What hardware do you have in place?
  • Are you replacing everything at once or is it staggered? (i.e. new phones one year, new computers the next year, etc.)
  • Are you leasing or buying the equipment from us?

Rest assured, if you’re a client with us, your account manager will work closely with you to answer all these questions to make sure your hardware refresh makes sense for your IT strategy.

The Expertise of an MSP

If you’re a client with us, it means you’ve already trusted us to partner with you on your IT strategy. That’s not a partnership that we take advantage of. We understand why a five-year hardware lifecycle might feel like a cash grab to some, but it couldn’t be further from the truth.

The five-year lifecycle is the industry standard the experts in this field have agreed upon. Some MSPs have even gone to a three-year lifecycle, as they’ve determined that’s what’s best for their clients and their work functionality.

Here at Innovative, we aim for that five-year mark as a maximum, but some clients do replace some of their most critical hardware every three years. Every situation will be different as it all depends on the client’s needs and IT strategy.

Leasing is a great option when using hardware for three to five years. Instead of paying to own hardware you’ll move on from in a short time, you can lease it from us for a rate more efficient to you. This makes it easier to move on as you won’t feel the obligation to squeeze every dollar out of your hardware until it’s on its last legs.

As technology evolves, so will the standards. We’re always reevaluating this stuff. An MSP like Innovative will also always make sure you’re getting the best hardware that will work for your business.

You might be able to find a cheaper computer or printer at the store, but it might not be up to the standard or capability that your business requires. Getting the hardware through us ensures that everything is up to standard.

Time to Start Upgrading

With that, you should have a better idea of why this piece of your IT strategy is so important. You might be sick of hearing us say, “Technology is always changing,” but it’s one of the few constant truths we have in this industry, because well, everything is always changing.

Now it’s time to get out there and start planning out your hardware refresh. You’ll be better off because of it.

Innovative Ideal Client