What’s the smartest way to extend your technology life cycle?

If you’re like most businesses in this economy, you’ve probably been hunkering down and putting off buying new technology equipment. Maybe you’re into your fourth or fifth year on equipment that’s usually replaced in three. Is this a good idea?

Sometimes, yes. Leapfrog thinks extending your technology’s life cycle can be a great idea. Other times, no way! You’re sabotaging yourself.

How do you tell the difference? It’s all about use, performance and available options. Answer these three questions to get an idea of what’s best for your company:

Use: How hard are you working your technology? If you’re in manufacturing and use computers primarily for entering orders or only use computers for clerical and administrative purposes, you’re not putting much demand on your equipment, especially if you’re keeping it in a cool place that’s dust-free. On the other hand, if you work with video, graphics, drawings, CAD and other sophisticated, demanding applications, your computers are working hard. As with most mechanical things, the harder you work them, the quicker they wear out.

Performance: Does faster / bigger / better really matter? Absolutely, if you leverage technology to push your business forward. Go three years without an upgrade in an industry that relies on technology and you can get left behind. Same goes with technology for your top performers. Highly productive employees need faster machines, bigger capacities and tools that are as good or better than the competition’s.

Available Options: Is there new technology you can use without having to buy it? Cloud computing, virtualization and “thin client” solutions all let you stretch your technology investment. With cloud computing, you use technology that’s owned and maintained by someone else. With virtualization, you use less hardware in more efficient ways. And with thin client you use servers instead of computers to do the heavy lifting. These options can be complex, however, and may or may not be right for your organization.

To help plan what to replace and when, start by making a graph of your employees’ computers based on their usage and performance needs — it’s unlikely everyone will need new equipment at the same time. To understand your organization’s technology life cycle in its entirety, you’ll want something called a “usage analysis study.” Sounds exciting, we know, but when you know exactly when to invest and in what, you get the most bang for your buck and usage analysis becomes music to your ears!