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Goldilocks and the Three Wares

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Goldilocks and the Three Wares

There are three ‘wares’ in the IT world: hardware, software and the often-forgotten, firmware.

  • Hardware – The physical machines that you use such as your PCs.
  • Software – The applications that run on them such as Microsoft Office or a browser.
  • Firmware – The software that runs your network routers, firewalls and also starts your PC.

If you want your systems and solutions to be as efficient and effective as possible, all three need to be kept up to date and ‘just right’.

1. Hardware

If there’s one thing that frustrates me more than any other, it’s business leaders who are determined to get by with old hardware, be that a PC, a server, printer or anything else you might have.

The argument against an upgrade is typically driven by the decision maker looking at the price tag and drawing the conclusion that the item in question is expensive.

And it may well be from a purely simplistic cash perspective. But, when we consider the cost of the employee whose life is made miserable by the substandard tools they get to use, it’s most certainly not.

Not only are they far less productive than they could be, their job is made harder and more frustrating, significantly increasing the chance of them looking for a new job. And that’s something worthy of note given the cost of replacing them.

The reality is that the older a machine becomes, the less efficient it is and the more likely it is to fail. How old is too old? That depends, but a general rule of thumb is no more than 4 years for a PC and 5 years for just about everything else. Anything more than that, and you’re starting to push your luck.

2. Software.

Updating software versions, whether you like it or not, is something that should be done sooner rather than later.

Why? Because they deliver fixes and new features, the latter of which are often used by other software vendors.

But just as hardware often isn’t upgraded, software suffers the same fate, typically because of a perceived impact on productivity, or the risk that something suddenly won’t work. However, the reality is that what you have today is more likely to cause you trouble than something new.

This is particularly relevant with reference to viruses and ransomware et al. WannaCry was successful in 2017 because it used a security flaw in Windows that had been patched by Microsoft, but not installed by the majority of its victims.

So, new versions of your anti-virus and operating systems are supplied by vendors for a reason, and regularly servicing your software should improve stability, performance, security and may even give you new toys to play with.

Sadly, despite their best efforts, vendors get things wrong from time to time, so upgrades and service packs can occasionally be a pain in the rear. But then so are car services, fire drills, machinery maintenance and the many other tasks that we tolerate to ensure our assets continue to deliver value rather than slowly falling to pieces.

Software updates then are a short-term pain for a longer-term gain, and a failure to use them puts your business at increased risk.

3. Firmware.

The forgotten ware. This is just software, so it’s subject to the same vulnerabilities as anything else. But given that it runs your network router and firewall, and keeps the bad people out, you should make sure you have the latest and greatest.

If all of the above isn’t enough to convince you to keep up to date, there are two more reasons that should tip the balance:

  • The first is, that if it all goes wrong and you have to play catch up, it won’t be planned, won’t be convenient and it will be far more expensive to get back on track.
  • The second, and this should be the clincher, is that your competition will be upgrading. They want to have the best tools, keep the best team on board, and be as efficient and productive as possible so that they can offer the best possible service. And looking after their clients will make them far more than they’d ever spend on upgrades.

So, are regular updates part of your daily IT life, or do you put them off until tomorrow?

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