We’ve all been bitten by the bug before. You get in to the office and notice Stewart in HR has 2 brand new wide screen monitors sitting at his desk; “It increases productivity by 30%!” he says justifying the purchase. Though there is some truth to the gains from dual monitors and other technical upgrades they can also serve as the catalyst for what I like to call “Tech Creep”. It’s easy to see the new shiny gadget your co-worker gets but it’s not long until everyone in the office is requesting their upgrade and complaining about how slow their computers are. Though many of these upgrades may be completely warranted it’s good to cover a few points before opening the ol’ pocket book and shelling out for the latest tech.
Is the upgrade needed?
Though the IT guy/gal/department may be the last to hear about a technology need it’s great to have an opportunity to assess the situation and identify whether this is a need or a want. If the system is running slow and under 5 years old it’s likely that it needs some maintenance rather than a complete replacement. If the user is requesting a tablet or other mobile tech ask why they believe it will be a good fit for their needs. Remember, it’s not our job so say “No!” but we have technical insight they may not have and a responsibility to be good stewards with the resources we have been blessed with.
Is this an urgent request?
Is this something that can be put off until it’s due for an upgrade/replacement? Is a user or department dead in the water until the situation is addressed? This isn’t often our call to make but the burden of cost can often be shared with another department if the situation is truly dire.
Can the system be upgraded rather than replaced?
Never underestimate the power of a system rebuild or upgrade. On many systems they do not come with the maximum amount of memory installed and often have slower spinning disk hard drives. Note: there is no more significant upgrade to a modern system than installing an SSD (Solid State Drive). By upgrading the memory, installing a SSD and doing a fresh install of the operating system you can effectively add several years to the life span of just about any computer you’ll use.
What brand/model best fits the need?
If the upgrade is needed it’s then time to pick a brand/model that best fits the role it will be used in. Many brands are simply left up to personal preference and you don’t see that anywhere more than in the Mac vs Windows debate; for the majority of uses it simply doesn’t matter. Use the best tool for the job. That said buying big, shiny systems can be one of the biggest enablers of tech creep. There are many aspects of value to take in to consideration when it comes to hardware but it’s a call best made by your environment.
In the case where you are the lone tech guy/gal who has zero input on what is purchased or “have no budget” to get anything other than the cheapest system to fit the role I’d recommend checking out my Unprogrammed video on “Budget Hardware” where I cover specs and brands to look for when purchasing new systems. It may not be our responsibility to keep tech creep at bay but we can use our expertise to help guide the purchase in a direction that may make more financial sense.