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How to push the PC lifecycle to its limits

Effectively managing PC lifecycles can lead to significant cost savings via prudent distribution of high-performance hardware and purchasing new devices only when it is critical.

The longer IT professionals can extend the PC lifecycle, the more bang for their buck they can get from their hardware.

It's simple math. If administrators can make a PC last five to seven years rather than three, for example, they will get a lot more value out of that device and save money by not having to buy new hardware.

When choosing a PC lifecycle length, IT pros should look at warranty and support options. They can purchase original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or third-party maintainer (TPM) support, but these programs can be expensive.

They should also remember that different users have different needs, and some simply can't perform their jobs on out-of-date PCs. Further, some old machines will require a refresh to increase memory, improve processor speed or upgrade the hard disk to continue working.

IT pros can also forgo support after a certain period of time and take over management and maintenance themselves. However, doing so does open them up to risk because they have to rely completely on themselves.

The longer IT pros go without support or a warranty, the more risk they take on. And they have to remember that, eventually, the PCs will stop performing the desired functions, which could cause major productivity issues.

How to decide who uses what devices

Not every user needs a new laptop or PC. By determining who gets new hardware and who can survive on old devices, IT can get the most out of its PCs and laptops.

High-priority users, such as executives and sales associates, need reliability and minimal risk. A company can't have the CEO running into disk drive failure during a stockholder's meeting. As a result, they should follow a stricter refresh cycle and work with newer devices.

Lifecycle management for PCs
Six different lifecycle management options for PCs

Lower priority users, however, can work with hand-me-downs after the warranty expires and use low-cost support options. IT can bump up the memory and give the laptops a new solid-state drive so the low-priority users will be able to maintain productivity.

In addition, engineers typically require high-performance hardware and need a refresh about every three years to keep up with the latest computing technology. Repurpose those machines after three years to support staff or office personnel, because even a three-year-old PC has more power and performance than those users need.

The idea is to prioritize new hardware and get the full value of each device, thus saving money that would have otherwise been spent on new hardware.

How to extend the PC lifecycle

Older client machines with sufficient disk, processor and memory can run virtualization software --especially with Windows 7 or 10 -- and host a server image for development or training labs. Add a little memory and more disk space and the machine is useful again. These add-ons usually save money and eliminate additional budget requests down the line.

IT can work around a lack of vendor support after a warranty expires by finding replacement parts on eBay or similar sites. Purchasing parts from non-vendors isn't always reliable, however, and the new parts might not get IT any further with software and OS support.

Ultimately, IT pros must know how to determine when a laptop or PC lifecycle has run its course.

IT pros cannot solve all their problems with a hardware purchase, however. In those cases, organizations should opt for OEM and TPM support. These services aren't a cure-all for machine support because they typically don't support legacy devices, but they can extend the lifecycle of devices that IT may have given up on.

Ultimately, IT pros must know how to determine when a laptop or PC lifecycle has run its course. The answer to this dilemma is simple: When the cost of replacement parts and support is prohibitive, or if the hardware's performance makes the user unproductive, it's time to move on from that PC or laptop. IT pros should also replace PCs with high failure rates and frequent service tickets.

To support or not to support?

Regardless of which PC lifecycle option IT chooses, it must choose a support plan. Again, the options will be driven by the IT budget and the business risk the organization is willing to take on.

Self-maintain. If IT pros can provide support on their own, they can avoid paying a vendor. Some OEMs have self-maintainer programs that provide discounted parts and direct access to L2 support for the tough problems the IT staff can't handle. This is typically an option for larger organizations with a support staff already in place.

Log repair. This option calls for support as needed and charges the organization by the support call. It is more expensive per call, but it's cheaper overall because it eliminates the monthly charge for service that the organization might not use.

TPM. These are companies with highly skilled personnel who can provide support for a fraction of the OEM's cost. TPMs may not provide warranty service. Engaging a TPM may also violate warranty terms.

This was last published in April 2018

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