Ageing PCs let users beat upgrade fatigue

Australian IT managers have overcome upgrade fatigue by extending the lifespan of their PCs from three years to five.

Shrinking IT budgets forced companies to review PC upgrades and new machines introduced in the past four years last longer. This is why lifespans are being extended to suit, said System Administrators Guild (SAGE-AU) president Andrew Hennell who canvassed the group's membership base to find out how often organisations replace PCs.

"[Earlier] machines had to be turned over at three years or less because they couldn't handle the newer software in terms of CPU, memory or storage, so upgrading was not cost-effective compared to replacement; but newer machines can remain cost-effective for up to five years," Hennell said.

While most support problems are related to software and operating systems, Hennell said the use of thin clients can greatly reduce total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to PCs.

"But there are hidden costs in the newer PCs. Faster CPUs run hotter, consume more power and place higher demands on airconditioning systems," he said.

A number of SAGE-AU members reported costs as high as $100 per annum per machine or over $1000 per server rack.

As a result, a slower-speed machine with coolest CPU that could still run all the required software was seen as being more cost-effective than the fastest PC.

Tomago Aluminium IS functional leader Christine Cameron has a four-year cyclical replacement program.

Cameron said a guaranteed replacement program was implemented three years ago to shore up funding commitments.

However, she said most support problems are not related to software but to end users.

"They often generate problems by fiddling with something we haven't yet locked down, particularly on laptops," Cameron said.

"We have a strict policy though to replace both the hardware and operating system at the same time to reduce the effort involved in an upgrade."

The IT manager for a national television broadcasting network who requested anonymity agreed that user-implemented applications and the hidden costs this brings to the organisation are a "big issue".

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