4 Things to Consider When Planning a Hardware Refresh

4 Things to Consider When Planning a Hardware Refresh

“Everyone knows” that you should refresh your hardware on a three-to-five–year basis. However, many are beginning to challenge that commonly held view for a variety of reasons. For one thing, IT budgets don’t grow on trees (as much as we all wish they did) and management isn’t always interested in upgrading when things seem to be working just fine. At the same time, other business units are screaming for better performance for the apps that drive their departments.

It’s one of IT’s biggest pickles.

Upgrade too soon and you’re potentially burning budget for no reason. Refresh too late and you can risk your company’s systems and slow up production (leading to upset company execs).

The three-to-five–year model, is at best a rough guide. Depending on business and user needs, your server can be functional for much longer than that. In other cases, even three years can be too slow if requirements, such as big data processing or overall business growth, are more than your system can handle.

1. Ensure you have a solid understanding of the capabilities and specs of your current system.

IT audits are standard fair at most companies, but never assume (You know what happens when you do.) that the audit is current. Double check to ensure that you have clearly spelled out processor power, memory, I/O and bus speeds of your server hardware. Only then can you get a feel for how much additional server power and capability you’ll need and begin to calculate the costs. A well-planned audit also can help you identify areas where you can keep older equipment in service.

2. Make sure you know your business needs, including application, storage and processing requirements now and moving into the immediate future.

You and your team know there must be a convincing IT as well as business reason to do a major server hardware upgrade — certainly more than just the passage of time. What are you looking to gain with this refresh? Improved reliability and availability? Capacity to support more advanced applications? Better cost-per-performance metrics? In addition to your hardware audit, understand the business and growth needs of your business outside of the server room.

 3. Be sure to reconsider your server environment choices.

Don’t keep blinders on when considering the overall server environment and make those options part of the plan. Should you maintain your own data center, split servers between your own location and the cloud, or go to the cloud completely? These choices and ultimately the decisions will impact how your department views and plans their upgrade. Generally, it is easier and cheaper to access latest technology through a cloud partner. It’s their business to stay on the cutting edge. If you are planning to keep servers running beyond typical refresh cycles, owning your own hardware maybe the best way to amortize costs.

4. You are not alone in your upgrade — vendors and your peers are working cycles of their own.

Like many things in life, server hardware refresh cycles are all about timing. Everything from upgraded applications to new-generation OSs to next-generation server architectures (such as the move from 32-bit to 64-bit or the evolution from rack-mount to blade server hardware) can all have a major impact on that timing. Knowing what all your enterprise-wide plans are will help you understand what the timing should be. Vendors also have plans of their own. Keep in mind that the server industry depends on server refresh cycles. When your vendor comes pushing new hardware, make sure you consider it on your terms and needs, not theirs.

Your Hardware Refresh Cycle and You

Yesterday’s three-to-five–year server upgrade cycle has become a thing of the past. Savvy IT departments today don’t look to the calendar to plan their server upgrades. They rely on a sharp understanding of their own IT environments, the needs and plans of all the major parts of their organization, as well as the trends and breakthroughs in the overall technology industry, and evaluate all of that as part of their planning.