Gradually returning to full recovery after a recession and the dot-com bust, companies of all sizes are once again starting to invest in new technology. This year, corporate budgets for information technology are expected to grow approximately 8 percent as firms shore up funding for new networking, technology services, and hardware, according to findings by Gartner Inc., a research and analysis firm for information technology headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut.
As businesses consider investing in new servers and workstations, however, advance planning and analysis is essential to ensure hardware investments last and remain productive for as long as possible.
"You should consider several variables when deciding whether to upgrade or replace your business computer systems," says John Stroozas, director of engineering at Crucial Technology, a division of Micron Technology with U.S. headquarters in Meridian, Idaho. "You have to look at the memory needs not only of the software you use today, but also of the software you expect to use on your workstations in the near future. The same thing applies to how many users you have connected to your server: Do you plan to add headcount in the next year? Any of these things could tax your system beyond the life extension that a memory upgrade can provide, which typically is about a year."
And while that may mean additional capital expenditures today, experts say it will provide significant savings in the long run.
Eduardo Bedoya, purchaser for EBC Computer Corp. based in Salt Lake City, recommends companies buy new PCs with processors of 3 gigahertz (for Intel chips) or 3000+ models (for AMD chips) or higher. Although they may be faster than current needs require, these CPUs will be better equipped to handle more power-hungry applications that the business might need in coming years.
Trying to save money by buying a slower CPU will cause a "domino effect" of costly upgrades if PC upgrades are required later, Mr. Bedoya says.
Experts also suggest considering the expandability of the PC: the number of PCI slots and drive bays. Some less-expensive computers have only one or two PCI expansion slots, which may be insuf-ficient after two or three years of company growth. Similarly, the maximum amount of RAM the motherboard will accept also is important: The business might not need a PC with 2 gigabytes of RAM right now, but it may need it in the future.
Large hard drives also are solid investments. While 200 to 300 gigabyte hard drives may provide more capacity than the average office PC needs, they cost just a few dollars more than smaller drives, which are easier to outgrow if the company expands. A new type of hard drive interface – the serial advanced technology attachment (SATA) – is now available on higher-end PCs. While SATA is faster than older-style drives, Mr. Bedoya says users won't notice a speed increase. Instead of spending extra for SATA, he suggests, "Use that money to buy a bigger hard drive." SATA is a better investment choice for database servers, web servers, and other disk-intensive applications where speed is crucial, experts say.
Many also note that as a company incorporates new hardware, old hardware often can be donated and listed as a tax deduction. Share the Tech-nology (sharetechnology.org) can help locate nonprofit organizations and schools
that can use older computers.
But no matter where your old hard drive is headed, experts warn, be sure to completely erase all the data it contains. Simply moving files to the "Recycle Bin," or even reformatting the drive, is not enough: data still can be recovered. Instead, a program that will completely erase the hard drive – such as AutoClave (for a free copy, go to staff.washington.edu/jdlarios/ autoclave/) or CyberScrub Pro (http://cyberscrub.com/) – is highly recommended.
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