All technology, from steel to stereos has a natural lifecycle. Understanding the lifecycle of technology can help with planning for replacements and also allow you to understand when keeping an older piece of kit is no longer effective.
Laptops, desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets, all have relatively short lifecycles, because of the nature of how quickly the software and technology that they rely is updated so quickly. This is partly driven by consumer demand but also in part driven by the technology companies themselves, who create this demand.
From the point of view of the user, all technology can be seen as going through four distinct phases, which I’ll outline now.
The first part of the lifecycle is about identifying your requirements and sourcing the right equipment. At this point, it’s important to understand the life of the product itself. This usually starts when it’s launched and ends when the maker ceases production or stops providing support. How long a tech product stays on the market is often down to the complexity and the degree of innovation it represents when it’s launched. Generally speaking, software products tend to have a longer shelf life than hardware and peripherals such as monitors and keyboards will have a longer life than PCs and laptops.
Most businesses tend to shop around when buying new kit and if you are looking to buy in quantity then it’s usually possible to negotiate a better deal than if you are buying individual systems. In many cases, suppliers will offer additional services such as maintenance plans which need to be considered in terms of the overall deal.
Once you’ve acquired your new kit, the next step is to roll it out. This involves unpacking, installing any software needed and then installing it in its final home. This will include making any network connections, setting up user accounts and so forth. Businesses often choose to have a standard set of applications on all of their machines and this can be installed as an image so that all machines are identical.
Of course, once the kit is installed, the job doesn’t stop. It’s important that software is kept up to date with the latest patches. This is essential to ensure that it stays secure and continues to work reliably.
Increasingly, businesses are installing smart devices that are connected to the internet (or Internet of Things). It’s vital that these are installed properly too. Default passwords need to be changed and software kept up to date to ensure that they don’t introduce a backdoor route into the network.
Support and Operation
This should be the least problematic phase of any equipment’s life cycle, but as we all know, things don’t always run smoothly. Support needs to be in place to fix or replace the kit if it fails. In firms that have a lot of devices, it’s often useful to have spares that can be swapped in quickly in the event of a problem. Here again, the idea of having a software image so that machines can be easily deployed comes into play.
If you are outsourcing support to a supplier, it’s vital to ensure that they have the spares and expertise available to be able to get you up and running again quickly in the event of a problem.
It’s not unusual for technology to require an upgrade at some stage during its lifecycle. This might involve adding more memory or a larger disk drive, adding the capability to use a newer USB or network standard and so on. It’s always worth looking at the cost of an upgrade and weighing it against the cost of replacement to make sure that it is going to represent good value for money.
Updates to new operating systems are something else that needs to be taken into account. You need to be sure that a new release will work without mandating a further hardware upgrade.
End of Life
Eventually, all kit reaches the end of its useful life and needs to be disposed of. There are plenty of options to recycle your old tech so there’s no excuse for leaving it languishing at the back of a storeroom or dumping it in a skip.
Before you dispose of any technology, however, you need to make sure you are not giving away more than you should. The hard drives of computers should be securely wiped – deleting or formatting isn’t enough – and any equipment such as routers or smart devices that contains passwords and network logins should receive a factory reset.
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