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How Often Do You Need to Upgrade Your Network?

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EJ Phillips

As our business world becomes more and more dependent upon technology, ignoring your organization’s business IT needs and assets can lead to data loss, cyberattacks, reduced productivity, gaps in service, and a host of other issues. Having a clear picture of when upgrades are needed can help your business properly plan and budget for IT upgrades.

What to Consider When Upgrading Your IT

If you are the typical small to mid-sized business owner, if you can’t remember the last time you updated your network, then chances are that you’ve outgrown your current setup. You may not even be aware of how an overhaul would boost your productivity. This is particularly true if the equipment purchased five years ago was consumer-grade versus enterprise equipment. Can you even think back 5 years? Business mobility often meant laptops as opposed to desktops, whereas now, many mobile users function best on tablets or smart-phones. Not to mention increased reliance on widely available Wi-Fi. Up-to-date equipment is vital to keeping your business’ competitive edge. Other signs that your computer system is struggling are lagging uploading of web pages, crashing applications, and seizing documents. Failing systems have a direct effect on not only business continuity, but employee efficiency and customer service.

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Additionally, as you consider upgrading your equipment, be mindful of what you upgrade it with. There is a clear distinction between a consumer grade PC and a business PC. A consumer PC is built to a standard specification and often uses the cheapest internal components in order to deliver a low price point for the home user. These cheap components are less reliable, lead to instability, have a shorter life span, and decrease productivity. Purchasing items intended for business use, often through a managed service provider (MSP) that will stand by their warranties, is most often the wisest investment choice in the long run.

In general, a company’s IT assets have the following average shelf lives:

  • Software: Approximately 1 year. Every 12 months or so, software licenses tend to expire, with newer versions typically available. Working with the latest security software can keep you proactive against ever evolving cyber threats.
  • WiFi Network: 2 to 3 years. Wireless connections are getting faster than ever, and older WiFi networks can seem archaic, especially as networks expand. Furthermore, as you update software, you will want your WiFi network to be able to keep pace.
  • Routers and Switches: 5 years. This equipment will begin to show signs of wear and tear after about three to five years with reduced speeds, shorter range, and perhaps even signs of heat damage.
  • Wiring: 10 years. While wiring typically has a long shelf life, it is wise to upgrade your fiber optic connections when you are already planning for other network upgrades when you update your new routers and switches.

Your IT assets should be routinely checked to ascertain that they are always working at their best. This includes regular system backups, but it also includes security checks, scheduled software and hardware upgrades, staff training to properly identify and report problems, and regular maintenance so that equipment failures do not take down your entire network.

Out of Date Equipment isn’t the Only Reason to Upgrade

Other reasons that it may be time to invest in an updated network are:

  • Rapid Business Growth. When you are faced with new hires needing new equipment, perhaps new locations, or new departments, new technology can help you better manage it all. Scalability should be a priority and can often be handled by a MSP.
  • To Solve Operational Delays. If your equipment isn’t obviously out-of-date, this one may be harder to quantify. But if you see an uptick in service tickets to your IT provider for the same problems, chances are it is best to consider better IT tools. Consult with your MSP and get a network assessment and ask for as much feedback as you can get so that you can see where the problems lays.
  • A Change in Direction. Perhaps the growth of your organization now requires different technological needs. You may need to consider additional servers or new SaaS applications.

No matter the reason for your need to update, be it hardware incompatibility or failure, application obsolescence, or rapid growth, it is inevitable that at some point in time, your business will need to replace its PCs. Make sure that when you are planning your IT Budget, you take this eventuality into account. A wise investment is a solid commercial system that will translate into greater productivity and peace of mind. 

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