How to Know When It's Time for a Hardware Refresh

What is a Hardware Refresh?

A hardware refresh refers to an IT overhaul that involves replacing equipment with new technology system–wide. This can also be broken down by type of equipment — so for instance, a server refresh refers to replacing servers, a storage refresh deals with replacing storage equipment and a network refresh, predictably, is talking about new network gear such as switches and routers.

Challenging the Status Quo

Some companies have policies that do an automatic hardware refresh every 3-6 years. And others choose to keep their IT assets as long as they are still functioning the way they should. If you’re in the same situation as many businesses, evaluating the spend in your CapEx and OpEx budgets has become a necessity. Challenging the status quo and avoiding the rut of “things have always been done this way” is an exciting and challenging obstacle to take on.

Revisiting Current Hardware Refresh Policies

Taking a look at your company’s hardware refresh cycle (or coming up with a strategy if you don’t currently have one) can be a great way to find new solutions.

This isn’t just about stretching budgets further. It could mean saving jobs, adding to company profits and a new way of thinking about IT assets and budgets. There’s rarely a one size fits all answer to IT solutions, and that holds true for how and when hardware refreshes should happen. Weighing the factors can help determine what is right for your business.

Naturally, manufacturers will push towards hardware refreshes. Sometimes that’s the right decision, particularly if your company has technology or growth initiatives or is working on resolving IT pain points that can be best solved with new equipment.

Companies that provide hardware support will generally point you in the opposite direction, giving you alternatives that involve making the most out of your current hardware and keeping it running smoothly for as long as possible. This might involve TPM support and/or upgrading devices with additional memory, storage, or other parts. There are times when this might be the best solution for your company, particularly when budgets have been restricted and new inventory is more difficult to obtain.

What to Consider Before a Hardware Refresh

By evaluating your IT needs and ensuring your hardware refresh projects and policies align with your company goals, you can make the best possible decision for your company. Let’s take a look at some factors that might impact your hardware technology refresh.

Status of Current Equipment

The status of your current hardware will be an important factor in your hardware refresh strategy. If your equipment is functional and performing the way it should, there may be less need to replace it. However, if you are experiencing failures or performance metrics are indicating that things aren't quite up to par, you might need to consider replacing the devices or upgrading components. Performing regular audits that test performance on things such as input/output speeds, processor power, and load testing can help you get a clear picture of what is going on. Chances are good you probably already know when things aren't working the way they should.

Environment & Technology Needs

Beyond the performance of the equipment, a broader consideration will include company goals and the needs of the environment as a whole. The alignment of data center decisions with company goals makes for a smoother IT plan. Perhaps the company has plans for expansion and needs to increase capacity by a significant amount. Maybe technology initiatives inform the hardware refresh strategy calling for automatic refreshes to ensure up-to-date technology. Or perhaps budgets have been reduced and alternative solutions have to be considered.

There are also times where manufacturer decisions coincide with company objectives bringing unplanned results. For example, a data center that has been successfully using Dell SC (formerly Compellent) devices will likely know by now that the Dell SC line is going EOL/EOSL in the near future. A company planning for expansion will now need to consider whether replacing their Dell SC equipment for the more expensive and powerful Dell Powerstore line will be a good choice for them. Since they will no longer be able to purchase Dell SC equipment new from Dell, they will need to weigh the technology and features of the new line against the expense. They could purchase second-hand devices through a reputable supplier if the final consideration, budget, is their top priority.

Your Budget & the Hardware Refresh Cycle

It can be tricky to find the right balance between optimizing your budget and ensuring that your IT equipment is running smoothly. Every company will have a different formula and interpretation of that ideal balance based on their unique needs, their industry, and of course, budget.

Many companies have recently found the need to reduce budgets, look to alternative IT solutions, and revisit their current hardware refresh cycle. OEMs often recommend a server refresh every five years. By this time, the manufacturer warranty has expired, and issues might be happening more frequently. However, there are many times when the equipment is functioning perfectly fine and a refresh seems like an unnecessary drain on your budget. There are a few options that come into play.

Hardware Technology Refresh Options for Post Warranty Assets

Replace Equipment
New Technology Expensive
Comes with OEM Warranty Can take 3-6 months or more
Software Support Available Not taking advantage of current working devices
Upgrade Current Equipment
Possibility to improve capabilities Equipment may no longer be under warranty
Usually more cost effective (compared to buying new device) May require expert help (certain storage devices)
Support Equipment
TPM support contracts cost less (than buying new or renewing OEM warranty) Existing equipment may lack features and benefits of the new technology releases
Devices are supported in the event of a failure Capability issues will still be present in existing equipment (compared to upgrading parts and components)
Extending the life of older gear Lack of software support

Choose One or More — Replace, Upgrade, Support

Good news! These hardware refresh options aren't mutually exclusive. You could replace certain equipment, upgrade others, and make sure you have hardware support (whether through the OEM or through a TPM provider or both) across your data center.  Building a solution that makes the most of your budget AND fits your needs and situation rarely will fit all into one category.

Replace Equipment

Sometimes the best option is to replace your devices. This may be especially true if you have company policies in place that call for automatic refreshes. Often industries that feel the pressure to stay on the cutting edge of technology, have plenty of money in their budgets and/or want to have the latest and greatest fall into this category. This is usually the most expensive option, especially if you are doing a full system-wide refresh.

Equipment that is experiencing regular failures or isn't able to meet capacity demands also might warrant a refresh. The good news is that there are ways to make your hardware refresh project a little easier on your budget. Replacing key devices with a targeted goal such as those with issues or that are part of a more critical environment rather than a full hardware refresh is one way to save some money. Another option is to add additional used or refurbished devices from the secondary market.

If replacing the equipment is the best option, you may be able to get some value from them by taking advantage of ITAD services.

Hint: Make sure you buy from a reputable source and keep in mind compatibility requirements to ensure your equipment all works together the way it should.

Upgrade Equipment

If a full hardware refresh isn't on the books for one reason or another, upgrading the components and parts in your current devices is another great option. This can help solve a myriad of issues including needing more memory or storage, sluggish transactions, swapping out processors, adding more devices to your network, and other capacity issues. Some companies build out redundancy plans with extra parts, components, and even full devices (refurbished devices would be great for this application!) to be used in the event of a failure.

Upgrading certain components on some devices (especially storage devices) may require expert skill, which can add additional costs to the upgrade. But usually, upgrading components or parts is a more cost-effective solution than replacing the device. (There are situations where some components can cost almost as much as a new device.) Hardware support is also essential because upgrades could still leave devices vulnerable to failures.

Hint: Look for knowledgeable and reputable sources for parts and components, too! We've had to help customers who have gotten into a jam buying dodgy parts on eBay that weren't configured correctly.

Support Equipment

You can still ensure things run smoothly and minimize potential downtime with hardware support contracts. Manufacturer warranties generally last up to three years, often with the potential of renewal after the expiration. However, if your equipment has gone past its EOL, EOS, or EOSL dates, you'll need to look for alternative hardware support options. Third party maintenance support can be a great solution.

There might be certain environments that need a customized solution that includes a hybrid maintenance strategy (both OEM & TPM support). For instance, a project may require a server refresh, but the storage devices are still fully operational. The newly purchased servers will likely come with an OEM warranty, but the storage devices might need alternative support.  Also, for the devices that you decide to keep and put under TPM support, you can upgrade components and add an expansion shelf.

Many TPM providers like M Global can offer solutions that incorporate new and existing hardware as well as sourcing parts and offering installation services.

Hint: Make sure you know what you are getting with your hardware support contract. Understanding the fine print of your SLA can make all the difference when you run into an issue or are experiencing failures.

Let M Global Help

Whatever you decide – M Global can help make it happen. If you are doing a complete refresh or even a targeted model-specific refresh, we can put you in the care of one of our trusted partners that can help you build the system that is right for your needs and budget. If you are upgrading parts and components and need a reliable source, we've got it covered. We can even install the parts with our Smart Hands services. And last but not least, we can offer hardware support for your devices (new and old).

As always, we're not about pushing you into any situation that isn't a good fit. We want to work with you to find a solution that incorporates the elements of your unique environment. Give us a call or fill out a form to find out how we can help with your hardware refresh strategy!

Angie anime

Author Note:

Written by Angie Stephens with contributions from M Global team members including SMEs, management executives, and more.

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