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SMBs cling to older PCs and hefty repair bills

11 Oct 2018

If your work PCs and devices are more than four years old, you might be spending more money on maintenance than you would spend on buying an entirely new device fleet.

Older computers are costing small business owners an average of NZ$4000 each on maintenance costs according to new research from Microsoft, but PC updates could result in significant cost savings.

Despite those savings, many businesses hang on to older computers, says the Pan-Asia SMB PC Study.

That study also says the optimal PC age is no more than four years old, beyond which the cost of repairs and lost productivity actually proves to be more expensive than replacing them.

The study found that 70% of surveyed SMBs in Asia Pacific have at least one older PC.  A PC that is more than four years old is 2.7 times more likely to need repairs, which results in 112 hours of lost productivity.

Older computers are “more than twice as likely to experience issues like being slow to boot up, batteries depleting too soon, disk drive crashes causing data losses, application crashes and network connectivity problems. The total cost of owning a PC that is four or more years old is enough to replace it with two or more newer models”.

When asked why businesses keep older PCs, reasons ranged from a fear of compatibility with internal business applications, believed their computers weren’t running applications they thought were critical, and they were concerned about cost.

Microsoft Asia vice president of Consumer and Device Sales Bradley Hopkinson notes that PCs power most SMBs across Australia and New Zealand, where they rely heavily on devices for day-to-day tasks.

“With budget constraints being the number one IT challenge among SMBs today, business leaders should seek to adopt a device modernisation strategy so that they can maintain costs, while safeguarding their organisation from newer digital risks.”   SMBs do realise that older PCs will eventually need upgrading, but only 24% of ageing PCs are likely to be replaced in the next year. 

Meanwhile, SMBs will continue to battle with slower PCs and the older operating systems that run them.

More than 40% of PCs are still using older versions of Windows such as XP, Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8, despite the first two operating systems no longer receiving security updates and technical assistance. The withdrawal of support for Windows 7 has been announced for 14 January 2020 as Microsoft focuses on newer technologies and innovations.

Microsoft New Zealand chief technology officer Russell Craig points out that older PCs come with security risks.

“Regularly updating PCs and hardware can greatly help businesses combat security challenges as well as boosting performance of business applications. Security isn’t just a software issue – newer PC hardware incorporates modern security architectures and features that simply don’t exist in older machines,” Craig says. 

“Every business, no matter what size, should take the security advantage of newer PCs seriously. It is far cheaper than dealing with the aftermath of a security breach.”

While some SMBs may be wary of purchasing a fleet of new PCs outright, PC as a Service (PCaaS) and leasing may provide a welcome alternative.

The study found that around half of all businesses with more than 50 staff will adopt PCaaS to reduce IT support and to speed up new technology adoption.

Microsoft says hiring rather than owning PCs also allows businesses to transfer infrastructure costs from CAPEX to OPEX, freeing up capital for other investments. 

“What the research shows is the need for even the smallest businesses to refresh their PCs at least every four years or adopt a PCaaS model, to help protect their businesses from security breaches and to ensure their productivity and ongoing costs are kept at their optimal level,” Craig says.

“I encourage businesses to think of this as like buying insurance that also delivers increased business performance.”

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