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Technical timing: How to know when to upgrade your technology

By Josh Linton

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, May 24 2013 8:45 a.m. MDT

The three-year window is simply the average lifespan of computer and technical equipment. For me, the best indicator of deciding if it’s time to buy new equipment is if employee productivity has dropped as a result of the equipment I’ve provided them.

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With the rapidly changing technology landscape, it’s difficult to know when it’s the right time to upgrade equipment and take advantage of the newer technology.

In my experience, the normal lifespan of a business class laptop or other equipment is about three years. This is consistent with what I’ve read in industry and trade publications. After three years, the cost of maintaining a laptop or a desktop becomes more expensive than buying a new one.

The three-year window is simply the average lifespan of computer and technical equipment. For me, the best indicator of deciding if it’s time to buy new equipment is if employee productivity has dropped as a result of the equipment I’ve provided them. If an employee is unable to work for a full day due to a computer issue, the day’s loss of productivity is probably going to outweigh the $1,000 or so to buy a new laptop.

Over the course of a laptop’s or desktop’s lifetime, there are a few simple things you can do to extend the life of a computer, including:

    Free up memory whenever possible: Every app or piece of new software you add takes up space and slows the computer down. As computer apps and software improve there seems to be a disconnect between these upgrades and the space they take on a computer. Newer apps and software always take more space. Managing memory will keep the computer running fast. One important thing to remember is that if you have an app or software you don’t use, remove it from the computer and free some space up that way.

    Re-image your computer: Every computer will pick up or maintain programs, software and apps that aren’t being utilized or are outdated. By re-imaging your computer, you create more space and optimize the computer’s performance.

    Rebuild or reinstall Microsoft: This can be challenging as it takes time and if not done properly can cause issues with your machine’s performance. Some companies will do this once a year to eliminate any old or unwanted documents or software to free up space. If you choose this route, I recommend only reinstalling once a year.

    Invest in new batteries: Battery life, especially in laptops, is critical. I recommend looking at new batteries about every year and a half or so. Batteries lose the ability to maintain a charge for extended periods over the course of time. A new battery will breathe new life into a computer and help increase or maintain a high level of productivity.

In every aspect of assessing a computer’s viability and the question of when to upgrade, I ask the question, how much is productivity worth? If productivity is down and it’s due to a questionable computer and the tips listed above aren’t helping the issue, then it’s probably time to buy a new machine.

If you’re coming up on a three-year anniversary of a computer’s lifespan and haven’t had issues, I usually start looking at potential replacement equipment at about the two-and-a-half year mark. If you can spread the purchasing out over time and do it in cycles, that will help save on the costs.

I’ve focused on laptops and desktops but I also get asked a lot about cellphones and tablets such as iPhones and iPads. In my opinion, iPads and cellphones are consumer oriented and are not designed to last more than a year. For the most part, people are buying them because they’re cool or for the “wow” factor. In these instances, you should expect to go through or to upgrade more frequently.

Josh Linton is the vice president of technology at VLCM, which is celebrating its 30-year anniversary in 2013. Josh manages the company’s technical team that provides tech support and services to its clients. Josh graduated from BYU.

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