How to Avoid Unnecessary Hardware Refreshes

A detailed audit promotes an analytical frame of mind, but it must stand up against the sophisticated marketing campaigns designed to give the impression that new IT gear will alleviate every pain point.

When to refresh IT hardware is always a difficult question. No company can afford to fall behind the competition or business requirements by using inadequate data center equipment, yet no enterprise or SMB wants to waste money and invite the risk of an ambitious refresh without a compelling reason.

Today’s uncertain public health environment is causing even greater quandaries. Many organizations are limiting capital expenditures, and IT leaders are under increased pressure to balance budget concerns, maximize return on existing hardware investments, and trim total cost of ownership, all while ensuring performance and reliability.

With so many factors to consider, how do you determine if a slated hardware refresh is really necessary?

#1 Do an Audit and Consider Alternatives

First, determine what gear is deployed and what’s sitting idly by. Although this seems obvious, audits at premiere multinationals have caught hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of unused servers hiding in data center corners.

Avoid this mistake. Take the time to verify that the equipment inventory matches what’s actually on the floor. And make it useful by adding each model’s specifications, if not already listed. This information will guide the assessment of current hardware capabilities and unmet needs.

Such an evaluation should include options for repurposing existing equipment to fill any gaps. Also look at alternatives to new hardware outlays. For instance, the enterprise may be experiencing isolated transaction processing bottlenecks. IT planners in this case should weigh the differences between acquiring more powerful servers and purchasing public cloud “overflow” for elasticity during peak traffic periods.

#2 Don’t Believe the Hype

A detailed audit promotes an analytical frame of mind, but it must stand up against the sophisticated marketing campaigns designed to give the impression that new IT gear will alleviate every pain point. Following trends is for fashion, not efficient IT management.

It’s vital to keep in mind that deploying the latest hardware, as attractive as it may seem, has downsides. Early adopters often experience more issues with configuration, testing, and deployment and wind up serving as unpaid product testers for the manufacturer.

In fact, customer-identified flaws are a primary reason significant microcode updates are common in the first two years of product lifespan. Those who “buy in” later gain all the advantages of their experience, without suffering through the bug hunt.

This doesn’t’ necessarily mean that a refresh must be taken off the table, but there can be stability-related advantages to waiting.

#3 Secure Post-Warranty and Post-EOSL Support

If the first two tips can be boiled down to one essential—chart your own path—the results can raise support questions. What if the right refresh cycle doesn’t line up with the one the manufacturer recommends? For instance;

  • If a storage cluster is reaching the end of the initial warranty and the OEM will charge a fortune for renewal but discount support for a later model, doesn’t it make sense to upgrade?
  • If a server is now end-of-service-life (EOSL) and the manufacturer won’t provide troubleshooting assistance, spare parts, or break/fix any longer, isn’t a refresh mandatory?

The answer to both is “no.” Third party maintenance can provide IT organizations with greater latitude to manage the product lifecycle their own way by:

  • Minimizing support costs. Many third party maintenance providers offer better-than-OEM support for about one-third of the cost. The price is commensurate with post-warranty hardware and makes extended lifecycles more financially attractive.
  • Ensuring reliability. Some IT pros worry about component failure in older equipment, but the modest risk can be easily mitigated by high-quality maintenance. The best option is to seek out proactive hardware monitoring, which will oversee systems 24/7 and alert service engineers of any event at the earliest stages. With such a solution in place, uptime can actually increase in the later phases of the equipment lifecycle.
  • Longer lifespan. Third party maintenance providers will support most post-EOSL systems, helping IT organizations avoid a hard upgrade deadline and keep equipment as long as preferred.

Conclusion

The watchword for refreshes is value. Companies need to:

  • Maximize the return on the incredibly large investments they make in IT hardware
  • Reduce capital expenditures on new equipment, especially in difficult economic times, and schedule them to suit the business, not the OEM
  • Minimize the total cost of ownership, including mitigating maintenance costs
  • Plan smartly to undertake essential refresh projects when they can be organized and executed flawlessly and deliver immediate, positive impact

If the right choice is to slow the refresh cycle—and it often is—integrating appropriate support strategies, including third party maintenance, will help the IT organization ensure performance and reliability while waiting on the right time to upgrade.

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