A while back, my wife and I had a problem with our dishwasher. It was nine years old and It still worked, but many dishes had to run twice and even then didn’t get as clean as we really liked. Nothing didn’t work - technically. It just wasn’t performing as well as a dishwasher CAN perform. Maybe if we replaced all the parts, we could have gotten it to work 80% as well as when it was new. But no amount of money would get it work like a new one. So even if we’d gone through all the time and expense, it would still be a nine year old dishwasher. The technology in your company is very similar - with more far-reaching consequences than you’d think. The old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” has it’s place, but with regard to technology that’s a completely flawed belief system. The perception that the longer you keep computers, printers, and networks, etc., the more ‘bang for the buck’ ignores some significant costs that far exceed any perceived savings. I’m going to discuss two areas where you will most acutely feel the “costs of slow” - Financial and Cultural. And we’ll look at ways you can avoid a “perfect storm” causing a large all-at-once expense.
The Cost Of Slow
It sounds so simple. If you can increase your company’s productivity, you increase your profitability. Yet time and again, we visit companies who cling to old Macs, run outdated versions of Microsoft Office or Creative Suite, and touch the world through an internet connection that hasn’t been fast since 2006. Today’s fastest consumer CPU is more than three times as fast as the fastest processors available five years ago. As storage has moved from platter-based drives to solid state, the improvements are even more dramatic. All told, the experience of a new Mac is definitely a lot different than five years ago. That time spent waiting for Word or InDesign to launch, or the time spent waiting for a computer to start up and log in? You’re paying for that. If a modern computer saves someone just 10 minutes a day that comes out to 2400 minutes - or 40 hours - a year. On average, what’s the fully-burdened cost of one week of payroll? Let’s take $25/hour as a very conservative example; which adds up to $1000 per computer per year. This doesn’t take anything else into account, like feature enhancements that make it easier for your team to do tasks they do dozens of times every day. Designers know when their equipment is holding them back, but their job is not to tell you their Macs are old and slow and need to be replaced.
Can Old Technology Kill Your Culture?
We’ve been working with Mac-based companies for over 15 years. Along the way, I’d like to think I’ve seen some of the attributes that separate successful from the struggling. The best companies have created a culture that unites the team with a common purpose. A sense of ‘this is who we are, what we do, and how we do it’. When your company has a group of awesome people who get to do exciting and challenging work for engaging clients, you don’t even have to ask them to buy in. They’re already there. But. . .you need to empower them and give them the tools to do the awesome work you’re expecting from them. When you have your staff working on old and underpowered computers - making everything they do take a lot longer than it should - you’re putting up roadblocks that drain their spirit. When your staff - or worse, your clients - have to wait a lot longer than necessary for files to download because you haven’t upgraded your internet connection since 2005, you’re creating roadblocks. Stacked on top of each other, these roadblocks will negate all the work you’ve done to foster a creative culture. When you have a free moment, take a walk through your office and look at it from the perspective of a person you’re looking to hire. Because when they look at your company, they want to know if they can do great work there and whether they will be able to grow their skills as a designer/AD/CD/etc. Are you investing in your staff’s ability to be great? Or are you investing in their ability to be mediocre?
How Old Is Too Old?
Well. . .the answer will vary depending on which piece of technology we’re talking about. Here are the basics -
• Macs - desktops and laptops
We get asked a lot, when is it time to replace a machine? Our answer has very little to do with time. We feel that you should replace a workstation (desktop or laptop) when a new one will increase the user’s productivity enough to justify the cost. That may be after 6 months or that may be 3 years. It depends on what the user does in their day-to-day. That said, we recommend replacing your systems every 3 years, and never more than 4 years. The world just moves fast enough that after 3-4 years a new machine will always be a dramatic improvement. And historically, failure rates go up dramatically after year 3. And by the time the machine’s been discontinued for 5 years, Apple won’t even supply replacement parts.
We recommend replacing servers every three years. It’s a central mission-critical piece that touches everyone in the company. To go more than 3 years is to dramatically increase your risk of it failing at the worst time. Better to proactively replace it and avoid the surprise downtime.
Like everything else, what once was fast (i.e. T1) just isn’t acceptable today. While adjustments should be made for the number of users and specific needs, we feel that in today’s market your internet connection should give you download speeds of at least 50Mb/ second and upload speeds of at least 5Mb/second. And stick to cable or fiber, with AT&T only as a last resort.
If you’re still running your own on-premise PBX, you really should consider moving your phone system to the cloud. We’ve found that cloud-hosted PBXs are easier to manage, scale better, and are less expensive over the long term. In most cases, we’ve also found them to be a lot more secure than on-premise systems.