As an SMB leader, you know the challenges of budgeting and forecasting all too well. Certain areas of your business are trickier than others, too, with complicating factors and uneven or spiky costs.
IT hardware spend is one of these challenging areas for many SMBs — especially those that keep all their IT planning and procurement in-house.
Whether you’re going it alone or working with a managed IT partner, check out these strategies for simplifying and managing your annual hardware budgeting process.
1. Know What’s Due for Replacement By Planning Out Your Hardware Lifecycle
If you’re like most business leaders, you’re used to a steady stream of complaints about hardware. Sometimes those complaints have to do with training or other issues, but sometimes the problem really is that the person’s computer is just too old and slow.
But how do you keep track of what to replace when?
By planning out your hardware lifecycle in advance. For most businesses, this means replacing every employee’s computer every three to five years.
You can’t get out in front of device refreshes until you plan out your hardware lifecycle. But once you’ve done so, you’ll know what’s due for replacement in any given year, and you can budget accordingly.
Long term, it could be valuable to stagger these replacement costs rather than replacing everyone’s devices in the same year.
2. Evaluate Anticipated Growth
Next up is evaluating your anticipated growth over the next budget year. If you’re increasing headcount, you’ll need to purchase additional workstations or mobile devices. IF you’re doing so in significant numbers, you may also need to bolster your networking equipment or other on-site infrastructure.
If you’re adding a new service area or in some other way extending your capacity into something you don’t currently do, those moves could also require additional hardware spend.
For example, if you’re bringing on a new business unit, will they require software that needs more computing power than your standard-issue machine? Or, if you’re expanding your hybrid or remote work program, will you need better quality headsets or other videoconferencing tech that your in-office teams didn’t used to need?
Whatever growth you’re expecting, think through the hardware implications and adjust budget to match.
3. Consider the Risks of Device Failure
Letting your people get work done efficiently (rather than staring at loading screens) may be the most obvious reason to upgrade your device fleet, but it actually isn’t the most important. Even more crucial is the risk of device failure or compromise.
Hardware fails all the time — it’s just a fact. And the older the hardware, the higher the odds of failure. So take the time to consider the risks associated with a particular device’s failure.
Issuing a new laptop to a typical employee isn’t hard to do, and as long as crucial documents weren’t stored locally, a standard laptop failure won’t cripple your operations.
But certain high-value employees or critical infrastructure devices could. These are the ones to pay closer attention to.
4. Consider the Risks of Device Compromise
Security risks are another concern here. Older devices — especially those no longer supported via firmware updates — are one of the most dangerous sources of vulnerabilities that can lead to breaches and hacks.
Take Log4j, a recent and extremely serious zero-day exploit. Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have already patched their operating systems and firmware. Others are still scrambling to do so. But that old, deprecated server or network switch that’s no longer supported? It’ll remain vulnerable to this exploit until you physically pull the plug.
Anything that’s no longer supported by the manufacturer should be on your list for annual hardware expenses, with few to no exceptions.
5. Work with a Trusted IT Partner
Ultimately, the safest and simplest way to work out your hardware budget is to work with a trusted IT partner like us who can think through these and other considerations for you. All you’ll need to do is sign off on a hardware budget and lifecycle plan, and we’ll do the rest.
Ready to worry less and focus more on what you do best? Let’s chat.