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How to create an effective PC lifecycle policy

For IT to master enterprise PC management, it must weigh the productivity needs of its organization and employees against the costs of purchasing new PCs.

When it comes to a PC hardware lifecycle, the math is simple: the longer the lifecycle, the greater the cost s...


Extending the PC lifecycle is easier said than done, however, because older hardware may not meet the performance standards of an organization's users, leading to lost productivity. The challenge is to find an effective balance between lowering costs and maintaining productivity.

How long should a PC lifecycle last?

Every organization has its own PC lifecycle needs. If every employee requires high-functioning hardware, then the lifecycles will be shorter -- three years or so.

If some employees don't require as much processing power or speed, however, IT can use older PCs to extend the lifecycle to five to 10 years.

Lifecycles of this length can lead to occasional performance issues with older PCs, but the cost savings of not purchasing new PCs can balance out any lost productivity from old hardware.

How should IT distribute its PCs?

Once IT establishes its lifecycles, it must distribute the PCs appropriately to truly strike a balance between productivity and cost savings. For example, executives and other key staff should work with the newest PCs to ensure optimal performance, while employees who perform less resource-intensive tasks, such as data entry, can get by on older PCs.

In fact, when the executives' PCs start to slow down, IT should replace their PCs with new hardware and redistribute the older but still functional PCs to the employees performing less essential tasks. This helps squeeze a few more years out of a device that could not perform to the standards of high-priority users.

Sometimes, older PCs do require a hardware tuneup to increase processor speed or memory. Tweaking the PCs should result in a longer lifecycle, and it's cheaper to replace a single hardware component of a PC compared to buying a whole new device.

Should IT purchase support after the warranty expires?

IT also has to consider warranties and support when establishing the PC lifecycle. IT can rely on the original manufacturer's warranty as a safety net if something goes wrong. Warranties don't last forever, however, so IT has to consider post-warranty support from the manufacturer or a third party as well.

Even though some PCs might not meet the standards laid out by one organization, they might perform well for other organizations.

Post-warranty support ensures that the organization has reliable PC support to fall back on after the warranty expires. IT can set the support to last as long as it wants the PC lifecycle to be. Support can be pricey -- often more than a warranty -- but it can extend the length of a PC's lifecycle far beyond the typical warranty length of one to three years.

IT can also forego external support and maintain its PCs in-house. This approach adds to IT's workload, but can save considerable money. If IT chooses the self-support route, it may need to add more IT staff to handle the heightened workload.

IT can mix and match these options as it sees fit. For example, organizations with a five-year PC lifecycle could purchase a one-year warranty, three years of support and one year of in-house support. If IT cycles its PCs properly, it would only be providing support for 20% of its PCs, which makes the workload more manageable.

Manage PC lifecycles
A variety of PC lifecycle management choices

What should IT do with hardware that has finished its lifecycle?

Even though some PCs might not meet the standards laid out by one organization, they might perform well for other organizations. As a result, organizations with shorter lifecycles can sell the PCs in bulk to other organizations when the devices meet the end of their lifecycles.

Alternatively, IT can strip a PC of any useful components at the end of its lifecycle and either recycle the parts or sell them. Even on a faulty device, some of the hardware can still hold value.

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