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Three PC lifecycle management options IT should consider

IT pros can use PCs and laptops until they stop working, or they can set up a lifecycle management plan that retires them after a certain period of time.

IT professionals should make time to examine their enterprise PC lifecycle management policy to determine how to...

balance the need to refresh PCs and laptops with the need to save money.

Even within the desktop administrator community, there really is no single best practice for a PC lifecycle management plan. Instead, the policies run the gamut of possibilities, but can be boiled down to three main options.

PC lifecycle management options

One of the keys to an effective PC lifecycle management policy is determining support. The question comes down to whether IT should buy new machines more frequently or continue to support the old ones. IT pros also have to decide how long they will support PCs and whether they will pay for outside support at all.

When deciding a plan of attack, it's important to note that, for the most part, hardware failures typically occur in the first year or two of a product's lifetime, making it more important to have support in the early years of a product's life than later. It sounds backwards, but all the bugs usually work themselves out in the first couple of years, and the machine actually becomes more reliable over time.

In addition, IT can purchase support from third-party maintainers rather than from the original equipment manufacturer at considerable savings.

There are several ways to approach support.

Purchase warranties for an exact length of time. IT pros can purchase warranties for the specific length of time they need for their lifecycle. For example, for a three-year lifecycle policy, IT would purchase a three-year warranty, and then decommission the machines and purchase new ones after that time period elapsed. As a bonus, IT could then sell the old machines to a recycler and generate revenue.

This option guarantees support for all the machines and eliminates the more expensive out-of-warranty support contracts. This can be expensive in the long run, however, because it requires IT to purchase new hardware every time the lifecycle ends.

Purchase support after the warranty expires and keep the PCs. For example, IT can get a three-year warranty, and then tack on two years of support for a five-year lifecycle. The support is more expensive, but the devices last longer.

Do not purchase support after the warranty expires. In this scenario, IT keeps the PCs and uses them until they give out. Dropping support after a three-year warranty can save a lot of money, but it comes with some risk. If a machine goes down without support, IT has to figure out how to fix it on its own.

IT pros should use the warranty and post-warranty support they require to build a cost-effective policy.

Any delays in the repair process can lead to lost productivity for users. Even if IT gets the user another machine, it takes time to set it up and load all his files. IT can mitigate these problems by having a device ready for use with a fast method to restore the files and get the user up and running quickly. IT can then repair the broken device and turn it into the next ready-to-use device.

IT may be able to find other creative ways to repurpose machines, such as turning them into thin clients to extend their lives.

Mapping lifecycle and support length

Figure A shows several PC lifecycle management options and how support compliments them.

PC lifecycle management
Figure A: The different PC lifecycle management options

IT pros can make the length of the lifecycles as long as they want, and they can mix and match the support methods for a wide variety of options.

When designing a PC lifecycle management policy, IT pros should use the warranty and post-warranty support they require to build a cost-effective policy. Remember that these are just PCs and laptops -- not servers -- so IT can get away with relying on self-support.

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