04:08 PM

Smart Advice: Consider Using SLAs To Manage Outsourcing Vendors' Performance

Service-level agreements can help determine whether outsourcers are meeting metrics if your company plans to outsource long term, The Advisory Council says. Also, when replacing PCs, go for units that can handle software upgrades and pay back the investment; and prepare for the resurgence of B2B by getting systems in order now.

Question B: After several years of tight budgets, we're now planning a major wave of PC replacements. What level of technology should we be looking for?

Our advice: The biggest challenge in addressing this question lies in the fact that there is no "one size fits all" when it comes to the "level of technology" in PC replacements. It really does depend upon a number of factors. Our recommendations are based on industry best practices. However, note that these are generalizations and what applies to one company may or may not work for you.

Why Replace PCs?
Let us begin by understanding the drivers (no pun intended) behind PC replacements. There are a number of reasons why companies choose to replace PCs. Some of these are:

  • Outdated technology
  • Lack of vendor support
  • Unable to support job functions
  • Doesn't meet security requirements
  • Nonavailability of software; and
  • High-maintenance costs
  • .

    In general, companies use a three-to-five year PC-replacement cycle, with the current wave being delayed due to tight budgets over the past few years.

    How To Replace PCs?
    Once the decision to replace PCs is made, the next question is "what to do with the old ones?" Considering that it costs about $100 to get rid of an old PC, here are some alternatives to keep in mind before you "junk" them:

  • Don't dump old PCs, monitors, etc. in landfills and dumpsters as they contain toxic substances. Doing so can result in regulatory fines and bad publicity. Take them to a local Electronic Equipment Recycling Center.
  • Consider donating your PCs to employees and to charities (with appropriate legal waivers).
  • Sell them as used equipment to second-hand PC dealers.
  • Regardless of which alternative you choose, always remember to first sanitize (completely wipe out) the hard drive for privacy and confidentiality reasons.

    Related Links
    Justifying Replacement of Windows 98 PCs

    What To Replace With?
    The decision is a multifaceted one, and depends upon a number of factors, including:
  • Size and mobility of the workforce
  • Speed and performance desired
  • Dependence on internal staff versus PC vendor support
  • Experience and expertise with certain vendors and technologies, e.g., Windows versus Linux
  • Organizational culture, and whether it's pro-technology or technology-averse
  • Desire to be "leading edge" (sometimes, "bleeding edge") versus "trailing edge"; and
  • Expected time until this round of purchases will be replaced.
  • Depending on such factors, the technology considerations include:

  • Desktop versus notebook versus tablet PCs
  • High-speed wireless networking
  • CD or DVD burners
  • Minimal "virtual PCs" versus fully configured PCs (thin-client versus fat-client); and
  • Windows versus Linux
  • According to several sources, the trend is clearly toward better, faster, and cheaper PCs. However, does that mean that all the "jazz and pizzazz" is really justified? Not necessarily.

    Depending on your expected replacement cycle, one should plan on current PC purchases supporting software upgrades at least to Microsoft's Longhorn release (unless you use Linux), and possibly to its successor. This implies:

  • Intel Pentium 4 2.6-GHz, Pentium M 1.5-GHz, AMD Athlon 2600+ or faster processor;
  • 256 MB RAM, upgradeable to 1 GB or more; and
  • DVD-ROM to accommodate increasingly large software distributions.
  • Although we consider 32/64-bit processors premature for other than "bleeding edge" PC buyers, we expect that to change within the next 12 months.

    Don't indulge in widespread PC replacement just because everyone else is doing it. Use prudent judgment and an ROI analysis based on tangibles and intangibles to determine whether or not to do it, and should you choose to do it, which blend of technologies is likely to pay dividends for the longest period of time.

    --Sanjay Anand and Peter Schay

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