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March Newsletter...

"Keeping Up-to-Date"

What part of the life cycle is your computer hardware or software system?

Some recent problems at different client locations have highlighted the need to understand the “life-cycle” of software and computers. In normal times, companies are usually replacing computers on a regular basis and keeping their software current. With the economic cutbacks of the last few years, this regular pattern of renewal has not happened and we are seeing a sudden increase in system failures.

Not only are we faced with a peak in computer system replacement, but the new replacement systems are often incompatible with the software on the older existing systems. When the replacement cycle was continuous, these incompatibilities were only minor inconveniences. However, when a lot of minor issues need to be addressed, the project becomes a major issue.

Just as it costs more to keep us healthy as we age, computer systems are exactly the same. Most computers have a life of 4 years and battery backups usually are not reliable beyond 3 years. Just because a battery backup is physically in place and connected to your computer does not mean it is actually working properly, protecting you from an outage or a surge.

A simple test to perform before hurricane season

Since we are approaching the summer storm season, I have a simple request to make -- test your battery backup! It's simple. Close all the software programs on your computer. Keep the computer turned on. Unplug the battery backup from the wall socket. Time how long the computer stays running. If the computer does not stay on at least 10 minutes, then it is time to change the battery. Unfortunately, in this throw away society, it is often cheaper to buy a new unit than to get a replacement battery and have it installed.

It is not practical to do this test on the backup batteries for your servers, so realistically, the batteries should be new or replaced every 3 years.

Keeping your software current

Software also needs to be kept current. Is it better to buy a new version every 5 years (typical software cycle), or should you pay annually for maintaining a current system? Today most vendors will only support current products and many require some form of maintenance agreement.

SouthWare has announced a new upgrade / maintenance plan. Rather than develop new features and release them all once (typically July), they have decided to release the improvements as they are completed and tested. So, instead of getting Revision 16 in July, you can get on the maintenance plan and get the benefits of the new features starting now and lasting all through 2010. We have included a detailed document  which explains the new plan and includes incentives for those in need of becoming current. This plan will be explained in more detail over the next few months.

Please review all your systems that are over 3 years old. Now is the time to consider a budgeted plan for the computer systems since emergency replacements are always far more expensive and stressful than a planned upgrade.