Tuesday, 16 December 2008

When to Upgrade Your Computer Hardware

Computer consultants build entire careers around advising

businesses when to upgrade their hardware. Should you go with the latest and greatest, or stick with tried and true? As with all business decisions, it comes down to a question of cost vs. benefit. But quantifying the costs and benefits of hardware can be difficult. Here are some factors to consider when you are agonizing over whether to upgrade.

The hidden costs of upgrading. The price tag of your new system isn't the only cost ? there is also the time, energy, and money to migrate your information to your new equipment.

If you're thinking of upgrading just so you can have the latest gear loaded with all the bells and whistles, stop. Unless you have a solid business case for upgrading, your money will be better spent elsewhere.

Stopgap measures. If it's bells and whistles you want, maybe you can add them yourself. Adding additional RAM ? or Random Access Memory, which is the memory that allows your computer to perform its tasks ? is a great way to speed up your system, and it's really simple, even for neophytes. Most RAM retailers, such as Crucial and TigerDirect, have online configuration calculators to tell you exactly which RAM your system needs. Once you get the right RAM, it's simply a case of opening your computer case and snapping it in place.

You can also add additional devices, such as CD drives and burners and additional hard drives, but these are a bit more complicated than the memory upgrade described above. If you can't perform the upgrade yourself and need to hire a professional, weigh the costs carefully. Once you factor in the cost of the parts and labor, you may be better off buying a whole new system.

When to upgrade. The rule of thumb should be this: Upgrade when the cost of not upgrading exceeds the cost of upgrading. New hardware should help you work faster and more efficiently. Or maybe you need to upgrade your hardware to run new software applications that will improve productivity. If that's the case, upgrading is your best bet. Similar situations include a broken PC, one that crashes regularly, or otherwise keeps you from doing the work you need to do. Clearly, in each of these cases, it will cost you more to put off the upgrade than to go ahead with it.

If you've crunched the numbers and find you really do need to upgrade, don't rush out to buy the coolest, fastest, priciest computer on the lot. The best way to put off the inevitable obsolescence of your next computer is to make sure it meets all your business needs.

Take a look, not only at your current computing needs, but also at what your future requirements might be. Will you need a full-featured database program in the future? Will you run memory-hogging graphics programs or other special applications? Doing a little research at this stage may just save you a lot of money down the road.


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