Business IT: When is it Time to Upgrade?

Every business’ technology needs are different. Some companies are heavily reliant on their computer equipment and need increased performance while others can get by longer with more of the same. Some need cutting edge equipment and have the budget to burn while others get by with hardware from a few generations ago, waiting for a price break or a Dell or HP Discount to upgrade. Sooner or later, however, upgrade time comes to all companies. When that occurs depends on several factors.

End of Life

Every piece of hardware has a prescribed lifespan that takes into account normal wear and tear, the typical cycle of new technology and the demands of the environment. When that “best practices” lifespan ends, it’s time to replace the hardware. These are the general rules of thumb:

High-end hardware in a heavy-use environment:

  • Laptops: two years
  • Desktops: three years
  • Servers: three to four years

Lower-end hardware in a non-technology-intensive environment:

  • Laptops: three to four years depending on wear
  • Desktops: five years
  • Servers: four to five years


There are times when a business’ computer equipment should be upgraded before the end of the typical lifespan. The first of these is capacity.

Regardless of how well the IT department tries to “future-proof” its technology, increasing demand can lead to hardware reaching capacity before its end of life. Unexpected company growth or increased usage can lead to greater demand on servers, for example. The server that did the job well a few months ago is now underpowered because it’s being utilized more than expected. Laptops and desktops, likewise, may turn out to be not good enough and unable to meet performance demands.

User demand on client-side, server and even network equipment can easily drive a company on its upgrade path sooner than expected. The first step is usually to upgrade existing equipment with more memory, increased storage or even a better operating system. These upgrades often turn out to be temporary fixes, though, especially in high-demand environments. Eventually a full replacement, ahead of schedule, may be necessary.

New Projects

Another upgrade driver is new projects. It’s hard to tell what a business’ needs may be in the future when computer equipment is purchased today. New initiatives may be rolled out that necessitate upgrades long before the expected replacement date.

Businesses are always evolving and technology is sometimes called upon to evolve with them. Maybe the file server now needs a document management application. Perhaps the sales team can’t get by without a dedicated CRM package. It’s even possible that the company’s web servers now need to be brought in-house. Any new initiative like these could require new hardware or upgrades to existing hardware. New projects, like capacity and typical lifespans, drives a business’ need to upgrade its computer equipment.


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