The following was published in the September 9, 2018 edition of Fosters and Seacoast Sunday.
Do you have a plan for managing your computer assets? If you don’t, you should. Why? Productivity and employee satisfaction, that’s why.
Let’s think about this a bit. Your computer takes minutes to start up in the morning. You could practically go for a leisurely walk around the building and come back to your desk before it’s ready for you to actually do some work. Or how about you’re in the middle of an important project and your computer locks up or your software greys out and stops responding? Sound familiar? These are just some of the tell-tale signs of a computer that may have outlived its usefulness.
I see it all the time: Computers in use for years beyond their productive lifetime. To be fair, computers purchased in the last few years may have seemed like they are far more powerful than you would need. But then the companies that make the software you rely on to do your work upgrade their applications to take advantage of the newest computer hardware. That computer that seemed more powerful than you would ever need, is no longer so.
Many laptops, especially thinner, lighter weight laptops are now completely sealed devices. Meaning, they don’t have removable drives of any kind and the batteries are not replaceable. If an internal component fails or the battery stops holding a charge, you may only have one option. Replace the laptop.
This is why it’s important to maintain an accurate and up-to-date inventory of your computer hardware, including purchase date and warranty expiration date. For most out of warranty computers, it just may not make sense to expend any time and expense on trying to repair any hardware issues. You may be best decommissioning what might seem like a good computer and replace it with a new one. Believe it or not, this is often the less expensive route.
What is better is having a planned rotation schedule for your computers, so that you stay ahead of these trouble spots. Instead of waiting for a computer to act up, which will always happen at the worst possible moment, wouldn’t it be better to have a rotation schedule that you can plan and budget for? In my experience, this is always the better plan. Your co-workers will think so too. Most business class computers have slightly better electronic components that are designed to run nearly continuously for the life of the computer. This will often also mean internal cooling capabilities that are better than most consumer products, to help maximize the life of the computer.
Business class computers almost always come standard with a three-year manufacturer warranty, to protect you against any hardware failures. The manufacturer will send one of their employees to your office, or wherever you are located, to replace a failed component, at no cost to you. Most manufacturers also offer upgraded warranties that extend coverage to four or five years, for a slight upcharge at the time of purchase.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a plan that rotates computers as their warranties expire, so you amortize the purchase over three, four or five years? With most standard office computers costing less than $1,000 these days, think about how this works out. This equates to $333 over three years, $250 over four years and only $200 over five years.
When you think of this in those terms, this is not a lot of cost, per person, to ensure maximum uptime, productivity and employee satisfaction. Especially when compared to the cost of downtime, lost productivity and frustrated employees.
As the fourth quarter approaches and we begin to think about our year end planning, there may also be tax advantages through provisions like Section 179. Obviously, you should consult with your tax professional on something like this, but you may have options that make this time of year financially advantageous to establish a clear plan for managing your computers on an ongoing plan. At the very least, it’s worth discussing with your internal IT team or outsourced IT partner.