Driving up to a potential client's office, I notice their parking lot is filled with sports cars, large SUVs, and 4-wheel drives. I park, and step into a brand new brick building with lush furniture. His assistant directs me to wait until he is ready.
After a few minutes, one of his employees calls my name and asks me to follow him to the office. We walk through a hall full of beautiful prints and oil paintings along the way. He opens a door, and I am escorted into the owner's office. Mr. Owner greets me, and motions for me to sit as he takes his own seat in a high-back leather chair, behind a mahogany desk.
We discuss the various needs that Mr. Owner has, and what his business needs in order to be competitive. He has an impressive list of things he wants his particular systems to do, as well as some custom software written that will securely link to their offsite cloud-based system. Once I confirm that we have done this type of work several times before, and that it is well within our talent pool, he asks The Question.
“What will something like that cost me?”
Most times, I will spend hours developing an itemized quote with explanations for each line item, and how they work to accomplish the overall company goals. However, because of the number of times I have written and performed this exact task, I do know how much it will cost. I quickly calculate the amount based on the numbers of computers and the customization of an existing script that will accomplish what they need.
The customer seems perplexed. “Why does it cost so much?” he asks. Then he follows it up with the kicker: “We don’t need state of the art computers.”
I ask to look around, so that I can get a better understanding of his organization in order to make a more accurate quote. The computers that his staff uses are 6-7 years old with a mix of older and newer components, while he has the very latest in hardware. The printers are well over 10 years old, and they use the older, slower cat5 cables. The wires are all pulled to a single unventilated closet with wires hanging from the ceiling. The server has the side of the case off and a box fan blowing into it. It's very clear from just a quick check that he simply does not have quality tools in place for his staff, and they are struggling as a result.
Invest in Tools for Your Business Growth
Why do organizations spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on furniture, buildings, and vehicles, yet want to use the cheapest computers?
The average user checks email, creates documents, builds spreadsheets, and runs industry standard software on any piece of equipment that they use. All of these will have additional hardware requirements, as software companies improve and add features. These features come at a cost of cpu cycles and memory usage. Even cloud-based software will require power and affect the performance of your machines.
Companies who continue to grow understand that their computers are valuable business tools. Computers are expendable commodities that have a lifetime, and these companies budget for their replacement.
Quick Guide to Hardware Life Cycles
- Workstations have about a 5 year life cycle. Macs usually remain usable on additional 2 years.
- Servers last 4 to 5 years, depending on the hardware and use. If you buy the top of the line server, it will last longer (this principle applies to most pieces of hardware).
- Firewalls, spam filters, routers, and wireless devices will last approximately 5 to 7 years.
- Company phones follow a 3 year replacement cycle.
You can extend the life of your systems by upgrading the memory and the hard drive, but you will not get the performance increase that a new system offers. It can also be a good idea to have your older equipment re-purposed to serve as a NAS, backup storage, or archive. The right hardware and systems should maximize your productivity, save you time, and make you money. If you make the smart decision to invest in the right tools at the right time, you are on the right track for continued growth.
Mr. Owner did not see the value of investing in the right tools for his business. It's a common error that many well-meaning business owners make. Unfortunately in this case, one of his competitors did see that value. I heard that Mr. Owner eventually went out of business around 2 years after our conversation. While this may seem like an extreme example, it happens every single day. Don't let it happen to you. Treat your business tools as investments for continued growth, if you expect to actually grow.