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Obsolescence Management for IT Managers


Technology can never last forever – IT managers must remain vigilant and take action when necessary.

Paul Holding, Solutions Architect at Ripley Solutions, explores the keys to effective obsolescence management for IT managers

According to a study by IHS Markit, the average age of a vehicle on the road in the United States is now 12.1 years. The lifespan of cars may increase but, as they age, when is the right time to replace parts or even the whole car? Weighing these options can be a challenge in our personal lives, and for businesses, the need to plan proactively is essential if unplanned downtime is to be avoided.

Technology rarely lasts forever – critical components such as batteries, sensors and other components degrade over time. To combat this, some hardware and software vendors have end-of-life policies for products, indicating when the technology will reach the end of its expected lifespan. Companies can then invest in newer and improved models to continue production.

While upgrades are easy to get to, we often find that companies want to stick with what they know – just like how you might be more likely to use your current phone for a bit longer. because you know how to use it, even though the battery life is much shorter than it once was. However, if this equipment fails, it is not always easy to find replacement parts, especially when manufacturers discontinue a product and its parts or no longer provide safety and maintenance services.

The impact of obsolescence

The technology may perform beyond its stated lifespan, but if companies use the technology after that point, they should consider its impact on day-to-day operations, especially in more complex IT systems. Once a part becomes obsolete, maintenance costs and total cost of ownership increase as replacement components become harder to find.

Using outdated equipment also increases the risk of unplanned downtime and cyberattacks. If critical IT or operational equipment fails unexpectedly, it can lead to costly downtime where businesses can struggle to find support quickly. Additionally, if older computer equipment is no longer protected by manufacturers, hackers could exploit the vulnerability and infect computers with malware.

Equipment also rarely operates in isolation – one faulty piece of equipment will impact the rest of the operation. Similarly, when upgrading older equipment, businesses may need to upgrade other systems to ensure that all equipment is compatible.

Plan ahead

Obsolescence will always be a byproduct of continuous technological advancements. The best way to improve cybersecurity and reduce the risk of downtime is to prepare effectively and take proactive steps to manage obsolescence. With a proactive obsolescence management plan in place, such as a cloud-first approach, companies can track the lifespan of products. This ensures that IT and operational technologies are always protected, improving productivity and reducing costs.

To plan for the future, midsize businesses should conduct an assessment of the current infrastructure to understand the components of the operational IT and technology landscape and how these systems interact. Vendors often publish end-of-life dates for hardware and software at least twelve months in advance. IT managers need to review how much they are already spending on maintenance and whether downtime has ever occurred.

Understanding the risks can also help companies make more informed decisions about their equipment. Companies must consider the impact of hardware or software component failure on operations, costs and reputation, and determine if the equipment is compatible with the rest of the system. Also, if the equipment is very old, the only people trained to maintain the equipment may have left the company, making it more difficult to repair an unexpected breakdown.

Once companies understand this, they can mitigate the risks. IT and operational equipment rarely operate in isolation. Companies should therefore always be aware of the impact of a change in one area on the rest of the infrastructure.

Upgrades can be expensive, so companies shouldn’t assume they have to invest in new equipment every time a component reaches the end of its life. By evaluating the role of the component and its availability, companies can choose to purchase spare parts in advance so that they can repair the system or replace them in the future.

Effective obsolescence management can be a full-time job, requiring careful attention to ensure all parts are working efficiently. Midsize businesses can use dedicated IT resources to ensure they have better insight into the lifespan of their hardware and software. The complex computer systems found in midsize businesses can make managing obsolescence more difficult because there are more components to consider. Companies should focus on maintaining accurate data on equipment life, parts availability, and software updates that protect cybersecurity. These companies can also benefit from working with a specialist who has the IT and operating technology expertise to successfully develop obsolescence management and digital transformation strategies.

Once cars reach a certain age and need regular repairs, you often have time to choose between repairing or replacing them. Unfortunately, if a part breaks for a business, it can cause downtime and significantly increase costs. Integrating obsolescence management into maintenance plans allows companies to anticipate breakdowns, limit downtime and reduce repair costs.

Written by Paul Holding, Solutions Architect at Ripley Solutions

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