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Should You Replace Hardware or Do A Complete IT Network Upgrade?

by John Ciarlone on January 1, 2014

There's a tough choice in front of an increasing numbers of CFOs and IT administrators these days: "When it's timeit network for major network upgrades, should I do them all at once or slowly upgrade over time?"

From a financial standpoint, it seems fairly easy to answer: You're going to get the best discounts from a vendor when buying multiple pieces of equipment at once, so if you have the budget, buying all at once is going to save you money.

That said, it still leaves the question of deployment. After all, you can install your new upgrades according to whatever time frame you wish, even if you purchase them in bulk. There are several considerations worth weighing, when deciding how quickly to implement IT network upgrades.

Read our Guide on How to Create the Best Wi-Fi Network 

Questions To Ask Before Implementing Major IT Network Upgrades

1. How old is the network?

4-5 years is about as long as most network hardware can remain useful. Past that point, older hardware will increasingly become a bottleneck when paired with newer, faster equipment.

If you're installing your upgrades slowly and not getting the expected performance enhancements, a more rapid deployment may be the only solution. In all likelihood, it's the older hardware dragging everything else down.
Cisco Refresh 2. How much network downtime can your departments withstand?

Practical considerations may be the main deciding factor in your rollout scheduling: Who can afford to be taken offline, when, and for how long?

When dealing with a larger firm, we recommend doing major changes on a department-by-department basis, so start by consulting with your division heads on their current network usage to plan a schedule. Start with a department that has minimal revenue impact, to reduce disruptions should the upgrades take longer than expected.

3. How serious are the current problems you're having?

If your network is currently affecting productivity or sales, sooner is almost certainly better than later when upgrading. If your communications difficulties are hurting revenue, it may be better to suffer a day of downtime across your operations than allow problems to continue.

A cost-benefit analysis is also beneficial here, in mapping out the potential costs associated with an outage vs the current losses.

4. Will the upgrades boost productivity or morale?business it network

If your network upgrades are largely aimed at offering new services to your employees, such as Unified Communications collaborative tools or telecommuting options, look to a faster timetable. All else being equal, a quicker rollout means getting those improvements in place faster and significant long-term productivity benefits.

There's also the morale issue to consider: Once one department is bragging about how much easier their jobs have become, everyone else will want in ASAP. Hastening the process prevents resentment from sapping productivity among the rest of the workforce.

5. What are your goals for the next five years?

Many of the long-term goals companies are making for themselves today - multiple offices, or perhaps a global presence - ultimately rely on modern networking technologies to work. To a large extent, your ability to grow will depend on having the network infrastructure in place necessary to support it.

Staggering your upgrades to coincide with the expansions they enable can be an effective strategy, especially if you need a cost-effective plan for installing hardware over time.

Plus, keep in mind that five-year hardware lifespan. Staggered upgrades now mean you can continue to stagger the upgrades as time goes on. Otherwise, your network will be nearing the end of its life as you're nearing your five-year goals.

Hardware Upgrades Are A Strategic Decision

The key takeaway here is that your network touches virtually every part of your business, and changes to it need to be made in a large-scale, situationally-aware environment. A broad, future-focused viewpoint is essential for long-term results.

And for any other advice or a free consultation on your network upgrade options, just tell what your business needs!  

IT Equipment

Topics: Networking