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However large or small your business is, it is necessary to regularly assess the tools you use, and plan for how to keep them relevant for the coming years. Computer hardware is a relatively easy example. For most reputable computer manufacturers, a business class PC will come with something like a three-year warranty with options to extend. We can assume that we will get four good years out of a PC assuming its components are of optimal quality and the environment isn’t abusive (dust, heat, moisture, etc.). Server hardware is much the same, although the components themselves are typically of higher quality to facilitate 24×7 hours of operation for every week of its life. Software is another matter. It does not “wear out” like hardware does. Software is just as happy running on a system now as it will be in 10 years as long as that system stays healthy. However software is not devoid of technical maladies either. Bad code or an unpatched vulnerability are just as destructive as a bad sector on a hard disk or blown capacitor on a motherboard. So, just like hardware, we need have a plan for when the software becomes obsolete.
At aCOUPLEofGURUS, we evaluate software life-cycles very much like how we evaluate hardware. We always advocate having vendor support for software. No one knows the product like those who make it, and having that level of knowledge available is invaluable. We also work to ensure that we meet the system requirements, whatever they are. For example, we recently migrated a client’s email from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2013. We wanted to install the new server on Windows Server 2012 R2, however Exchange 2013 was not supported on 2012 R2 until Service Pack 1 was released. We therefore waited until it was released before executing.
A good Managed Services provider will work to take stock of their client’s current systems to assess their remaining life. We call our method “Resource Compliance”. That is, we have a baseline of what we want to see in a network and then compare the actual infrastructure to our baseline to determine its level of compliance. We then meet with our ConstantCare clients on a regular basis for a Quarterly Business Review in which we present the “State of the Union” as it were, and offer our recommendations for keeping an infrastructure compliant. Most of the time it simply involves ensuring hardware is kept up to date and covered by warranty. However, there are instances when a line-of-business application is not supported on a modern operating system – or modern hardware – and keeping it up to date becomes a serious issue. Perhaps the vendor no longer exists, or simply isn’t developing any longer. Perhaps they only offer à la carte support. In these cases we work with our client to research potential replacements for the software in order to ensure that the infrastructure as a whole remains healthy and compliant.
The nice thing about the world of I.T. is that if there is a business need for a software to provide a solution, then someone will probably have developed such a solution. We want our clients to discover and love the potential of technology for their business. Sometimes the computing world can seem chaotic and full of ambiguity, but if we employ a level of professionalism and strategy in our solutions, then we can create something elegant and useful. When end users have tools that are elegant and useful they become happier. When end users are happier they become more productive and that is the entire point of using technology in the first place.
That is why we plan.