Why your 2-year-old computer is making you unproductive

 In End-User Devices, Hardware

For years, organizations have worked on a 3- or 4-year hardware refresh cycle – a timeframe that has become the conventional wisdom. But that conventional wisdom may no longer be accurate.

Hardware fresh out of the box is quick to boot up, full of memory, and responsive. But after a few years, laptops and desktops alike are running well below optimal performance – hard drives are filled up, and boot times can be measured in minutes, not seconds. Plus, these older computers are probably running old operating systems vulnerable to security breaches and intrusions. Newer operating systems like Windows 10 include automated updates but aren’t suited for older equipment.

improve performance

Following the classic line of thinking results in hours of lost time – your employees’ time, and IT’s time – sooner than you might think. Here’s the new wisdom: Organizations should be conducting hardware refreshes every two years, a window that provides measurable productivity improvements for employees.

Naturally you might be skeptical when a company that sells hardware is talking about a faster refresh cycle, but take a look at the findings and consider the return on investment your own organization might see by speeding up the refresh cycle.

How faster hardware refreshes can unlock hidden work days

J. Gold Associates, an IT consulting and research firm, ran benchmark tests on two computers — a 2-year-old enterprise-class notebook, and a comparable new machine. The firm then put the machines through their paces to calculate the potential productivity gains and losses, and determine if a shorter or longer refresh cycle is needed.

The results are eye-opening: Employees in roles across the board would see nearly 10 percent improvements in productivity running a new machine instead of a 2-year-old device. That might not be surprising, but here’s why these productivity improvements matter.

The average office worker would gain 15 “equivalent work days” by using a new computer; the same is true for employees in other roles (web programmers, for example, gain 23 work days). Having new computers unlocks a “hidden workforce” that’s already in the building.

The report converted these productivity gains to a dollar value using average annual salaries for six positions in a typical organization (office worker, engineer, administrative professional, business analyst, web programmer, and IT staffer). The report estimates a PC costs $1,000 and about $1,040 to migrate and deploy. Using those figures, the average return on investment across all six jobs was 391 percent in year one, and 782 percent in year two. Engineers had the biggest individual ROI: 1,285 percent after two years.

The reality of the 2-year refresh bucks conventional wisdom

New devices are more durable, their chips faster, internal technology improved, and boot times quicker than most devices 24 months old. Not to mention, new hardware will require less maintenance, which reduces employee downtime due to broken devices and frees up IT to focus on other goals. Increased employee and device uptime allows for better collaboration among employees, as well.

There will be some hurdles to overcome in deploying new IT assetssetting up machines and installing the proper security controls, for example, do take time. However, in the long run, refreshing laptops and desktops every two years will limit downtime from security failures or bugs and improve hardware performance – e.g., faster load times. Plus, faster refreshes mean shorter learning curves for new hardware and software.

Don’t get stuck in the slow lane

Maximizing employee productivity while limiting unnecessary expenses and downtime must be a top goal if you want to stay ahead of the competition, whether you’re a mom-and-pop store with five machines or a large company running a 5,000-device environment. A shortened hardware refresh window – 24 months instead of the conventional wisdom of 48 – unlocks employee productivity, reduces maintenance needs, and improves security, all of which amounts to a substantial ROI.

What do you think about a 2-year hardware refresh cycle? Leave us a comment below.

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  • John

    There are numerous other interventions including memory upgrades, SSD drives, regular reimaging, and updates that address security and performance issues. “Plus, these older computers are probably running old operating systems vulnerable to security breaches and intrusions” sounds like they wrote this to address Windows 98 or XP, which are far more than two years old.

    Two year refreshes are a waste of organizational resources for the vast majority of users. Buy decent equipment above the current task requirements, keep them updated, and improve hardware or reimage when needed, and you’ll keep end users happy.

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