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  To Repair or not to Repair... that is the question - isn't it?

Nowadays the PC is almost indispensable to every business and often carries extremely valuable or sensitive information and when it goes wrong you can pay through the nose just to have a quick fix. Labour is often more expensive than the parts and (just like with a car) it is only a matter of time before something else goes wrong.

The important thing to remember when planning how to get the most out of your Computer Support/I.T. budget is that older equipment sucks money out of your company. Older computers require more time from your support specialist and so you wind up paying enough money on their time to have bought a new computer. At sircles.net we hear stories every day of computers that run and run and run and that is great to hear but we see computers with disks that fail after a year that were holding vital information which is now lost and this happens every day also. A good time frame to work on is 3 years for most I.T equipment and we would always recommend that you stick with medium cost devices and replace them often rather than expensive ones that you feel you should hang onto because of their initial cost.  

You can buy a decent Dell PC for 400 including Windows Vista/XP and a 17" flat screen that will last you well. As soon as it begins to approach 3 years old, think about replacing it with the current, equivalent model. This practice is a reasonable one because you know that the PC has been thoroughly tested because thousands will be sold and Dell cannot afford to be told by the market that their latest business class Optiplex PC stops working after a weekend. And here is another remaking of the same point. Don't go out and buy a Dimension for 300 including flat panel because the disks fail, the software drivers fall over and the case is not upgradeable enough. 400 is a reasonable sum to be spending on a business PC with LCD in 2007. For that you can have a Celeron D PC (it's acceptable as it's a dual core but the proper Pentium is always better) a DVD-ROM (if you're not backing up to CD?DVD it's all you need) and a decent LCD screen and mouse and keyboard. The PC will be fast enough for most business/accounting procedures and you can install whatever version of Microsoft Office you purchased or (for a fee) have the new version pre-installed with a license.

And to follow the car analogy a little further, we see the same kind of thinking in car engineering also. Labour is fast becoming the most expensive commodity and so the car engineer will only investigate so far. If it's a gearbox problem on a current model of car then there is only so long you can spend time time trying to fix the gearbox before it becomes cheaper to replace the whole gearbox than continue investigation. This is a truth that we find to follow in I.T. also. If you have a current model of PC then we can replace a component by ordering from the supplier and showing up to perform a quick replacement. If it is an 11 year old Olivetti laptop, then we must go to a specialist supplier (because most likely Olivetti themselves no longer have the part - it doesn't make financial sense to keep making it-) and the procedure is unfamiliar and time consuming. If the PC is has truly had its day then replacing a three year old desktop is not a big deal - we can replicate the installation or use 'imaging' techniques to fire a new copy of what is required straight onto the disk. If it was an old PC with Windows '95 and lots of software that doesn't work with Vista or XP, then we must find out if there is a current version and track it down and install it - all at cost to the user-.

And so where does this leave us? Well it leaves us with a requirement for a decent policy about your hardware. We cannot afford to waste your money because you won't come back. We must help you help us do a decent job. We can help each other by agreeing on hardware that is reliable and maintaining a consistency in the hardware you are going to use. We can keep a spare PC on site for you that is almost configured with only a few finishing touches needed to be ready for someone to use and we can add these finishing touches remotely across the internet at a moments notice. So we are beginning to take everything into account now. The cost of ownership, the cost of support and the cost of your staff sitting there unable to work. I think we might be on the way to an agreement.

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