"Is computer maintenance worth it? Can’t you just run over to Costco or call Dell every couple of years and get the latest/greatest new computer with all the newest bells and whistles?" I get this question now and then when I meet new people and tell them what I do for a living. It’s surprising to hear how many small businesses take this approach to their IT. They buy new computers and then never bother to maintain them properly. But is this a good strategy? Can it actually pay to NOT maintain your computers? Put another way: Is IT Maintenance Worth the Cost?
As you might expect, we’re a bit biased about our answer. But rather than just answering "Yes" and going on with servicing our other clients, we thought a more detailed answer would be helpful to you.
Your company relies on your computers and could not operate without them. If your work actually happens on a computer -- such as for CPAs, Attorneys, and graphic artists -- then that’s obvious. But even if your company digs ditches, you still need to invoice your clients, pay your bills, and file your taxes...and all of that happens on a computer.
Seven Reasons for Properly Maintaining Your IT
So given that you couldn’t run your company without your computers, let’s answer the question, "Is IT maintenance worth the cost?". Here are the seven great reasons for properly maintaining your IT:
- Software upgrades: Nothing stands still, least of all technology. Every day, the software that you use to run your business is being upgraded, either to add new features or to plug security holes that were created in prior versions. Microsoft updates Windows every month, and sometimes far more frequently, in response to bug reports and security threats. Apple updates their OS almost as often, and if you don’t keep all your software up to date -- whether it’s accounting, database, statistical, scientific, medical, or otherwise -- your software will become out of date very quickly.
- Hackers and Viruses: Those security problems in your software are holes that grow larger by the day if they are plugged. When a vulnerability in software is detected, hackers can roll out dozens, hundreds or thousands of viruses and trojan programs to exploit the vulnerability. This malicious software travels from computer to computer, network to network, looking for new victims. The more victims there are, the more likely that your out-of-date software will be attacked, too. If you’re not regularly patching security holes, you are leaving your company open to disaster. It’s only a matter of time.
- Productivity Decreases: Out of date software and virus attacks have a tendency to slow down computers and networks. Not only does the technology run slower, but the slow-downs and crashes actually suck the profit out of your company. A small slow-down in your computer network of just 10 percent can cause more than a 10 percent decrease in your employees’ productivity. Studies show that when someone at a computer has to wait for their computer -- especially for an unknown amount of time -- their attention wanders. Once the computer responds again, they need to remember what they were doing and regain their focus. The effects can be huge...potentially as bad as getting 30 minutes of productivity from your staff for every hour they work.
- Requirements Changes: Your business changes over time, and if your technology doesn’t change with it, you could be needlessly creating workarounds for tasks that could be simpler and faster with new technology or software. For example, you might have installed your computer network when you had 4 people in your office, and it’s grown to 7 and you’re adding an 8th. Someone needs to set this up, but you also need to make sure that your network, routers, firewalls and other infrastructure can handle the increased load. Of course, you need someone to manage those changes when they are needed, and if you don’t have someone doing that for you -- someone whose other tasks don’t need to be set aside to get the IT tasks done -- they won’t get done.
- Backups & Disaster Recovery: Yes, of course you have a backup strategy for your network. (You do, don’t you?) But when was the last time you tested your backup strategy? Have you tried to restore data from your backups recently? Have you figured out what you’ll do in the event of a fire in your building, or a natural disaster in your city? What about a regional power outage? If you’re not prepared for disaster, you’ll suffer even more -- potentially with the loss of your entire business. And if your part time IT Guy/Shipping Clerk doesn’t have time to get all the packages out, he likely won’t have time to properly configure and test your backups, either.
- Delaying New IT Investments: Good IT maintenance can extend the life of your computers, servers and other network equipment. Where an average desktop PC may last a year at peak performance, 2 years at reduced performance, and 3 years at poor performance, a properly maintained PC may last 3-5 years at peak performance, helping you delay upgrades and new equipment costs.
- Smart Upgrades: Of course, sometimes upgrades are not only required, but extremely helpful. When you need to upgrade, you need to upgrade wisely. We recently had a client with 6 servers, all of which he had under a maintenance contract with his former IT provider. We showed him how he could consolidate and eliminate two of his servers with a strategic new purchase. Not only did the new servers run faster than the old ones, but his IT maintenance costs were reduced substantially, too. Other clients of ours eliminate their servers altogether, and instead move their server functions to the cloud.
Of course, there are far more than just these seven reasons to properly maintain your IT. And once you’ve realized how worthwhile proper IT maintenance is, the next question is who should do the maintenance.
Who Should Maintain Your Business IT?
Some of our clients come to us after having someone in their office do the work for them as an add-on to their current tasks. The problem there is that the IT tasks often get delayed or neglected because of the employees’ primary responsibilities.
Some of our clients have a full-time person or a small staff of people maintaining their equipment. What we find in these cases is that while these individuals are often well-intentioned, they usually do not keep up with the latest information, trends and techniques in our industry. And when you add on the cost of carrying an employee on your payroll -- including salary, benefits, office space, and all of the related costs of having employees -- the costs skyrocket.
Noted businesses expert, writer and lecturer Peter Drucker used to say “Do what you do best, and outsource the rest.” This is our perspective as well. If your company’s business is not IT maintenance, you are better off leaving those IT maintenance tasks to an outside company whose primary focus is entire IT maintenance.
That is why so many small and medium sized businesses like yours hire us to make sure that their business IT runs well all the time. Whether it’s standard IT, network security, disaster recovery, regulatory compliance, or anything related to all of this, our clients rely on us to handle the things that they just cannot do as well. They have asked themselves "Is IT maintenance worth the cost" and have answered with a loud YES.
We think you will do the same. If you would like to talk with us about outsourcing your IT to a company that is passionate about making sure your company can always do what it does best, call us now at 818-913-1335 or contact us here.