Recently, a customer wanted to know about the labor cost to replace some PCs. When I told him, he said, “That’s more than I paid for the computers!” Conversely, I often hear people say, “PCs aren’t worth fixing: You can buy a new one for what it would cost to fix the broken one.” The flaw in that logic is the assumption that the new computer will simply be dropped in place of the old computer and start working right away. In 99% of business environments, that’s not possible. Replacing a computer does cost money, beyond the price of the hardware and software:
The hard cost is the labor (whether in-house or outsourced) to install and configure the PC. A good estimate for this is the cost of the PC itself. If you purchase a $500 PC, you should expect to pay roughly $500 in labor costs to install it. If you’re buying extremely inexpensive PCs, you’re going to pay more than their value in installation cost. If you’re buying high-end PCs, you probably won’t pay quite double to install it, but high-end PCs usually have more—and more sophisticated—programs, requiring more time to install and configure.
The soft costs include downtime of the employee who is getting the new PC: There’s downtime while the PC is being set up; there’s downtime while the employee learns any upgraded features; there can be downtime if all of the programs from the old PC weren’t installed on the new one, or weren’t fully configured.
How to minimize your costs
Here are five suggestions for reducing both hard and soft costs for PC replacements.
- Standardize: Make sure all of your employees are using the same versions of software. Having a standard PC configuration can save loads of time. Of course, there will be those programs that are used by one or two people, but don’t let people install whatever they want on their computers. Make sure the programs they need are approved and documented.
- Organize: Make sure you have all of your software and license keys in one place (with backups in another place). Buy volume licenses where you can, so you don’t have hundreds of license keys to keep track of.
- Get on a Windows domain and use domain credentials: The biggest benefit of a Windows server is Active Directory: This is a centralized database of logon credentials and other information. Using a Windows server, much of your desktop PCs’ configuration information can be automatically and transparently backed up to a network location. This includes application settings, desktop icons, contents of the My Documents folder, and many other items. With a Windows domain, replacing a computer goes from a grueling process of finding and transferring files to one that’s almost plug-and-play.
- Move applications to the cloud: With Web-based applications, all the configuration and data are stored in the cloud. There’s usually nothing to configure on the PC, and all you need is the URL to launch the app.
- Get on a managed IT service plan that includes PC refresh: Clocktower’s Global Technology Management program includes the service required to replace one-third of your PCs every year at no additional cost. Of course you’ll also get help with the other four items as well.