Tech & Work

Tell us when it's time to upgrade

Determining when to upgrade software and hardware requires analysis and careful planning. Find out how three TechRepublic members plan for upgrades in their organizations and tell us what upgrade strategies you follow in yours.

Upgrades don't happen overnight. Planning for them is a tough process, especially amid budget constraints. TechRepublic member Juan Gomez came to the Technical Q&A Forum for advice on how to plan for software and hardware upgrades.

“I would like some tips in order to estimate future needs, like upgrades to hardware/software, extra disk space, hardware acquisitions, etc.,” he wrote.

Members offered this advice:
  • To plan for the future, look at your organization’s history.
  • Know your inventory.
  • Understand your organization’s business needs.

Learn from the past
Planning for the future means understanding your organization’s upgrade history. Member James Linn suggested that you start by collecting data on your organization’s software and hardware usage for the last five years. You can then create a trendline from the upgrade data to help you determine your organization’s upgrade patterns and recognize when it’s time for a new upgrade.

“For things like hardware upgrades, if performance is not a current issue, we look at either a three- or four-year turnover of assets—servers, etc. This should be based on software and hardware warranty periods, your depreciation schedule, or current practices,” he said.

Linn also pointed out the need to consider technology trends. Are you going to switch OSs? What about your server-based apps like mail?

"Project out when some of your future migrations might take place and plan for some hardware refresh being driven by that.”

We want to hear from you
We know you have a strategy for upgrading the software and hardware in your shop and organization. What advice would you add to what is presented in this article? Leave a note in the discussion below and tell us.

Know what you have
Member Jeffrey Hipschman said that successful planning begins with tracking the hardware, software, storage, and applications you already have. Armed with a strategic plan and knowledge of what you have and how long you’ve had it, you can develop a budget based on what should be upgraded or replaced first.

He also recommended maintaining a software license database to track renewal dates, software costs, and support costs. That will help you anticipate software licensing expenses, which are difficult to plan for.

Look to the business
According to member Tim Medhurst, your organization's business needs will drive most upgrade decisions. He offered several questions as a starting point for determining those needs:
  • Will you implement any basic systems, such as financial, payroll, or stock management systems, over the next year?
  • Will you need to integrate any of the basic systems you implement? That could involve major changes, including throwing away old systems and adopting an integrated solution.
  • Will you implement any business extensions, such as e-business solutions, data warehousing, data mining, or automation systems?
  • Will you install simple systems like file or e-mail servers?

When you’ve assessed the organization’s business needs, you can determine what your budget should be reserved for and what resources you will need for future projects.

As Medhurst put it, "It's very difficult indeed to estimate future needs in an industry that changes so quickly!" But he added, once you've evaluated your needs and researched existing and evolving solutions, you'll gain a perspective on your organization's short- to medium-term IT strategy.

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