How Often Should You Update Your IT Infrastructure?
Written by Chris Thornton
Maintaining your small business IT infrastructure is important - but understanding what to upgrade and when is part of the challenge...
As a small business owner, keeping track of every corner of your IT infrastructure is daunting. Depending on your IT deployment, you'll not only need to ensure desktop machines are updated, but personal mobile devices, laptops and tablets. Around 22% of SMEs consider outdated tech to be one of their top three challenges - and we're often told delays will affect competitiveness and security... but IT upgrades require time, effort and finances - resources which can be in short supply for small businesses.
Know your network
Changes in IT happen constantly. Anyone with even a passing understanding of their own IT infrastructure will understand there can be no hard and fast upgrade schedule for every piece of software or hardware in their network. Some upgrades can be regularly scheduled or even automated, while others arrive out of necessity to fix urgent security flaws, patch glitches or when a platform reaches its end of life (as we saw recently with Windows XP).
Hardware upgrades also form part of the bigger picture: while hardware won't, in theory, need replacing or upgrading as often as software, it's important to recognise when new tech will benefit your business. Whatever the size and shape of your IT infrastructure, you should aim to be familiar enough with it that you can address upgrade issues when they arise.
When should you consider upgrading?
The main upgrade issue for small businesses with growing IT infrastructures, is the worry they'll lose control of the process: sinking money and time into changes they don't necessarily need when they should be focusing on delivering services to clients. Fortunately, there are identifiable indicators of when it's time to consider an upgrade:
- Performance: Noticeable slow-down or crashes in the software platforms you use regularly are a good sign that your IT infrastructure is struggling to handle the demands placed upon it. If slowdown is the result of increased memory usage, bear in mind it could be the result of a cyber-security threat.
- End of life: Developers build end dates into their products' life-cycles, after which the software will no longer be supported by updates - and will become vulnerable to hackers or non-compliant with certain industry standards. The only way to ensure your business IT is protected from End of Life, is to upgrade.
- Innovation: When game-changing technology enters the market, incorporating it into your infrastructure often means a vital competitive edge. Money-saving, efficiency and productivity innovations, like VOIP, Apple Pay, and countless new cloud computing platforms, can make a huge difference to your business.
- Security & Disaster: Maintaining your business' protection against cyber-threats and disaster is too important to ignore. While virus software is often updated automatically, other security or safety upgrades should be considered regularly: is your disaster recovery plan still viable with your existing IT infrastructure?
Beware of support agreements
Whenever you choose to upgrade your IT infrastructure, it's worth spending some time assessing how the process will take place - and how you'll handle it. Many developers offer agreements which include 5+ years of upgrade support. Not having to worry about updates for such a substantial period may seem convenient at the outset, but consider just how long you anticipate using the hardware or software - and how vital that part of the infrastructure is to your operations.
Remember: in the modern computing landscape, small businesses have access to a vast range of impressive technological innovations which often serve to render existing platforms outdated or obsolete. If you're locked into a long-term agreement and decide the technology isn't the right fit for your company going forward, it's likely you'll end up wasting money on unused support or on the replacement tech.
A sensible upgrade strategy
Plan your upgrade strategy carefully - decide whether you need to update, upgrade or replace. Research the components you intend to incorporate into your IT infrastructure to make sure you're happy with their capabilities and the value for money they offer. A sensible upgrade strategy doesn't need to break the bank or tie up too much employee time - and you'll be all the more grateful for it as your business continues to grow.
Is your IT infrastructure serving your business well? Are you thinking about hardware or software? Contact us for advice and information...
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