- Obsolete technology, including outdated hardware and software, can stall a business’s growth and progress.
- Upgrading technology – digitizing paper files, for example – can boost your company’s efficiency and productivity.
- Your team needs access to reliable, high-speed networks to achieve maximum uptime.
- This article is for business owners and managers who are thinking about investing in new technology.
Small business budgets are tight, which means smaller companies don’t always have a lot of funds to invest in information technology (IT). But technology upgrades can pay for themselves quickly by improving IT performance and boosting productivity.
We’ll explore how focusing on your IT assets and making necessary and proactive upgrades can result in business efficiency, robust security, happier employees and other improvements to your business.
Why updating technology is important
Businesses are only as efficient as their infrastructure. When it comes to technology, holding on to old or inefficient business software and hardware can have profound ramifications.
- Diminished security: Out-of-date hardware and software can compromise your business’s cybersecurity. You could expose your company to ransomware attacks or malware damage that requires expensive rebuilds.
- Frustrated employees: Computers and outdated technology tend to run slowly and are plagued by glitches. Employees may grow frustrated as they wait for files to open or rendering to be completed.
- Inability to use essential technology: Modern software often requires up-to-date hardware. When your hardware can’t support the software you need to run your business, you won’t be able to serve your customers and keep up with business best practices. For example, you could miss out on features such as cloud backups, video conferencing and QR codes.
- Loss of customers: As you deal with antiquated technology, your competitors who have upgraded their tech may gain an edge in reputation and steal your customers. This is particularly true if you’re in a tech-powered industry such as web hosting, where high-speed servers and minimal downtime ensure a better user experience.
Tip: If you’re not tech-savvy, consider hiring a chief technology officer (CTO). A CTO can manage your current tech solutions and monitor new technology that fits your company’s overall goals and direction.
4 best practices for upgrading technology
Fortunately, upgrading technology is often surprisingly straightforward. Tech upgrades can even save you money in the long term compared with the costs of inefficiency and downtime.
Here are four technology upgrading best practices to ensure your business’s infrastructure stays functional and up to date.
1. Update hardware.
Computers, peripherals and printers become outdated over time. Technical support is withdrawn, and these devices move into what’s known as the legacy class. You might have difficulty finding drivers that support new operating systems and applications, leading to compatibility and reliability issues. The latest software won’t work on older hardware, and new equipment won’t always be compatible with legacy programs or apps.
One solution is to maintain the legacy software already installed on older hardware, but this can lead to competitive disadvantages and everyday inefficiencies. For example, legacy computers often contain inadequate amounts of RAM, a computer’s main memory source. Insufficient RAM can cause enormous frustration for users. Modern web browsers consume a lot of memory, and error messages will begin to flash up if RAM is insufficient and the browser is forced to close.
Extending the life span of old equipment might seem cost-efficient, but older technology requires more maintenance than new equipment in the form of upgrades and repairs. Waiting until a PC or server crashes before replacing it is risky, as it could lead to a loss of data, productivity and, potentially, revenue.
Consider a three-year upgrade cycle for computers, or more often if you can afford it. New hardware tends to come with the latest software preinstalled, combining upgrades into one cost.
Tip: On a PC, open Windows Task Manager and browse the Processes list to see how much memory a browser consumes. If your employees use browsers constantly and their computer has insufficient RAM, it will increase frustration and kill workplace productivity.
2. Run the latest operating system.
Older operating systems, like Microsoft’s Windows 7 and Apple’s Mac OS X, have potential security flaws that leave them vulnerable to hackers, malware and cyberattacks. Antivirus software isn’t protecting your business if your operating system has security holes, especially with new cyberattacks being launched daily.
Microsoft’s latest OS is Windows 11, which increasingly blurs the boundaries between desktop and mobile use. Windows 11 should be compatible with any PC hardware purchased within the past three or four years. The OS requires a 1GHz processor, 4GB of RAM and 64GB of free hard disk space. PCs currently running Windows 8 and 10 should meet those specifications already, while many Windows 7 machines are also compatible.
While Macs haven’t had as many security issues as Windows PCs, older operating systems may not get the security updates and patches current macOS versions receive. It’s best to update to the latest macOS version your Mac can support.
Upgrading to the latest operating system, whether it’s for a PC or a Mac, lets employees take advantage of various new apps and programs that boost productivity, creativity and output. In Windows 11’s case, this includes integrated Microsoft Teams, compatibility with Android apps, and better support for virtual desktops.
Did you know?: Because Windows 11 runs on smartphones and computers, employees enjoy a consistent user experience on any device, even when they’re using the best Android apps for business and Android apps to plan a workday.
3. Digitize and centralize documents.
Paper documents are often inefficient, thus limiting accessibility and reducing efficiency. Do your business a favor by scanning and uploading paper accounting, sales and project files to a document management system. Ensure that documents are available on a local intranet or via the cloud. They’ll be instantly searchable, easy to attach to outgoing messages, and at no risk of being destroyed by fire or floods.
Cloud computing-based online storage is inexpensive, and documents are accessible 24/7 from any computer or device. Another plus is that you don’t have to maintain backups yourself. Cloud service providers back up client data automatically, and rescuing data that’s been accidentally deleted is much like fetching files from the Windows Recycle Bin.
Security is assured, as well. With proper folder organization, you can set simple user and group permissions to prevent users from accessing documents they shouldn’t see. [See our picks for the best document management software and systems.]
4. Maintain a reliable, high-speed network.
A high-speed network connection enables organizations to run modern applications that might tax older or slower networks. Employees will appreciate an optimized network connection that allows them to complete work faster using office productivity suites and CRM software.
Crafting a technology-refresh plan is one way to support your organization’s mission, goals and strategies while keeping employees working productively.
Another crucial benefit of a reliable network is collaboration. Online collaboration tools let your employees use voice or video applications to meet one-on-one or in teams, helping to keep remote employees engaged and involved with the rest of the office.
The ability to archive previous discussions and search through them removes the need to take copious notes during meetings or share minutes via email. It also ensures large electronic documents can be shared digitally instead of bogging down a network as they’re laboriously uploaded and downloaded.
Kim Lindros contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.