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Summer 2012
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Don’t Forget the Hardware

With so much attention focused on software upgrades, hardware issues sometimes fall through the cracks.

Software vendors are always working on their next release. With so many new versions, new features and new functions continually being introduced, service centers must spend a great deal of time staying abreast of all the software upgrades. Indeed, companies often are so focused on their software that they forget about their hardware, which is a mistake. After all, even the best software system is only as good as the hardware that runs it.

Hardware upgrades are commonplace among individuals who are heavy into gaming software. Gamers have long known the secret for keeping their hardware in line with their increasingly sophisticated software. A small RAM upgrade can go a long way toward improving the speed and function of the latest game. The same concept holds true for companies using business systems. As the business applications are being updated, the hardware running the application needs to be updated as well to keep up with the software.

The first step in determining whether a company should consider a hardware upgrade—or in many cases a complete replacement—is to evaluate the current system. Companies should regularly clean up their systems to try to speed up the application processing. To reach optimal performance, unneeded history should be deleted, outdated job logs and operational messages should be purged, and disk capacity should be reviewed to ensure there are no extraneous folders or files taking up valuable space. It is surprising how fast capacity on a system is eaten up. Many a user has thought they would never run out of disk space, only to find themselves receiving warning messages as the free space diminishes. For more information on PC upkeep try this link: http://pcsupport.about.com/od/maintenance/u/maintain_your_computer.htm.
 
To upgrade or to replace?
In the world of computer hardware, the term “upgrade” often is used interchangeably with the term “replace.” An upgrade could represent an addition to an existing system, such as more RAM or memory, but it also could refer to the actual replacement of a part or component. When memory inside a desktop PC or laptop is upgraded, many times it is actually removed and replaced with a completely new and larger-capacity chip. The same holds true for hard drives, CD/DVD/SSD drives, video cards and other components. If the main server of the system, also known as the CPU, needs to be upgraded, the system typically is completely replaced.

There is a great difference between PC/laptop upgrades and system server or midrange system upgrades. Different considerations will come into play when looking to upgrade the main system server in your company. One such consideration is a review of the yearly maintenance plan of the server. Newer machines traditionally include lower maintenance fees, since less actual maintenance is expected. As a system ages, the maintenance fees may increase. A company should monitor a system’s yearly maintenance fees and compare the costs to those associated with an upgrade or new purchase. This comparison should be a required part of a service center’s cost review plan.

As a software vendor, Paragon is also an IBM business partner providing sales and support to our customers for IBM products. When we looked at hardware activity for the last six months, we found a distinct trend when evaluating hardware maintenance renewals. The older the system, the closer the maintenance fee was to the purchase price of a new system (see chart). Since IBM midrange systems include three years of hardware maintenance, the cost to renew an old system’s maintenance was almost the same as purchasing new. Therefore, consider your options carefully before renewing a maintenance agreement. You may be surprised to find it makes more sense to buy new equipment.

When it comes to system servers, server consolidation is a key consideration. One of the most effective ways to reduce IT costs while upgrading and improving hardware is to consolidate multiple servers into one hardware platform. Because most software is licensed today by core, consolidating into fewer physical boxes will reduce the number of cores and thus reduce software and maintenance costs, all while improving hardware performance.

When you purchase a new system, what should you do with the old one? Many hardware vendors offer recycling programs and will dispose of the old system for you. Be aware, however, that if the vendor does not take the hardware, there are governmental rules regarding electronic waste that require specific steps for its disposal. For more information on recycling and disposal of computer parts see the article at: http://compreviews.about.com/od/general/a/PCRecycling.htm.

Editor’s note: This article was contributed by the experts at Paragon Consulting Services Inc.
Paragon Consulting Services Inc., Baltimore, Md., provides integrated software solutions for the metals industry, including Metalware, Metalware Express, MetalNet and Metalweb. Paragon’s customers include full-line, flat-roll, pipe and tube, specialty metals, toll processors and fabricators of all sizes. For more information, visit www.paragon-csi.com.
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