How Long Will My Computers Last?
The answer to that depends on what part of your setup we are talking about.
For computers, switches, routers and large printers it is probably longer, for workstations and software, less so. Of course, there is no real rule to follow. Computer network components become obsolete for reasons related to what they are, not the calendar. So, let’s discuss what is happening now.
6a - Category 6a Ethernet Wiring
This is the new standard and it is expensive. With 6a your wiring will be able to handle the up and coming higher internet, ethernet and wireless speeds. Cat 6 was only the standard for a short minute giving us reliable gigabit connections. If you have a Cat 6 wiring system with a Cat 6 patch panel and data jacks, you can put off upgrading for a while as the new 10 GB speeds are still new. Like all the upgrades before as we went from 10, to 100 to 1GB speeds, one needs routers, switches and wires to support it and one needs computer network cards that can make use of it. My guess is that by the end of the decade, the new 10GB speed devices will have become common and many offices will have had to upgrade their wires to the 6a standard.
The life span of Routers, Switches, Wireless Access Points, Network Attached Storage and Other Gadgets
Routers, switches, wireless access points, network attached storage and other gadgets are all coming up in speed. Gigabit is now minimum. All such devices are available in faster speeds. It makes a lot of sense to buy the faster speeds now even if your network will not make use of it yet. Good hardware tends to last a long time. We mostly take it out of service because it has become obsolete.
There are two good reasons to replace/upgrade a router today that has nothing to do with speed.
1. Security has Gone Up
The need for security has gone up. Ransomware is constantly upgrading and becoming more sophisticated. So are other types of intrusions. So, a more modern router that detects malicious software and break-in attempts has become a bigger need for smaller companies. Such a router should have intrusion detection software that updates the way anti-virus programs do.
2. Internet Fails
The other reason to upgrade your router is for when your internet fails. As we become more and more dependent on cloud software, file storage and email, many offices come to a complete stop if the internet service goes down. An answer could be to have two internet services, and a router that will guide traffic to one service when the other is not working.
And yes, there are many routers that give us the speed, the security and the failover. They do not give us a low price. They DO tend to last for a long time, so a router with faster speed options than you now use will probably stay in service longer as hardware gets upgraded.
While talking speed, security and long service life, look closely at any network attached storage for such features as not being visible on the network and the ability to handle its own, separate, password control. The speed is needed to run faster backups. The security is to keep ransomware from finding it.
Printer Life Spans
Large laser printers can easily last longer than the workstations that print to it. I recently gave a quality laser printer away because there was no driver for it that could run on Windows 10. Some companies support their equipment longer than others.
Software Life Spans
Software going out of date, including Windows, is probably one of the maddening and frustrating aspect of owning a small office computer setup. Many people were happy with how things were working with their Windows 7 computers along with their printers, scanners and MS Office installations. Microsoft pulled the final plug on Windows 7 in January of 2020 and many people wanted to resist the change for good reason.
One client had to update their workstations to Windows 10 only to find that their company wide estimating software did not run correctly on the newest operating system. There were parts of the software that did not display correctly and the automatic send to email was broken.
Software conflicts with an upgrade happen outside of the Microsoft world too. The most common accounting program demands an upgrade every 3 years or so. If you do not upgrade the connection to their own payroll function will no work. If you do upgrade you might find that the software that fed data to accounting package is no longer compatible. One product’s required upgrade could easily mandate one or two other upgrades, all expensive, before things get back to the way they were before you started.
Upgrading Networks, Hardware and Software All at Once
There is probably not much that can be done to protect yourself from the software planned obsolescence. On the other hand, bringing everything up to date at once can offer a longer period of normalcy before having to go through it all again.
Website Life Spans
Finally, your website gets old fast. They require regular maintenance to keep active in the every changing opinion of Google and other search engines. There are also security concerns in keeping a site on the web, and those concerns change as hackers dream up new versions of vandalism.
The part of a website that goes out of date the fastest is the style.
Websites change fashion trends about as quickly as French and Italian sleeve cuts. Keeping an eye on how the artwork feels is an important part of “updating”.
Rule of Thumb
So, there is no rule of thumb for how long a standard, setup, piece of hardware or a software package can stay in service before it needs to be renewed or replaced.
But be sure that it will all have to be replaced, and that probably at least once in the next 10 years.
Parts of it will be expensive.
So, budget for upgrades. Put them off as long as you can. Then upgrade as much as you can with software and hardware that is as modern as available. Hopefully you get 7 years on a setup.
Let East Bay Computer Services assist your business with navigating the next 20 years of changing technologies.
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