IT Upgrades: Systems Life-Cycle & CRT vs LCD Monitors

IT Upgrades: Systems Life-Cycle & CRT vs LCD Monitors

Systems Life-Cycle

Every small business owner faces the challenge of Systems Life-Cycle. All of us attempt to squeeze every penny from our IT infrastructure, often times in ways that exceed responsible return on investment and can actually have a negative impact on our business.

As we move in to 2011, and for many First Quarter, a quick review of Systems Life-Cycle goals is prudent before expending capital budget for new equipment.

Those familiar with PMI standards will recognize the SDLC waterfall. System Development Life Cycle [SDLC] is a graphic representation of the process businesses use to refresh their equipment.

Business owners need to evaluate the actual cost of ownership for their equipment. The cost of purchasing a desktop PC may be only $1,200, but, kept for four years, the total cost of ownership (TCO) could be as much as $5,867 per year, according to Gartner, Inc. However, if the company’s PCs are well managed, the cost per PC per year can be 42 percent lower at $3,413.1

‚ÄúThe emergence of alternative client architectures provides the opportunity to reduce client computing TCO, but requires new measurement methodologies to evaluate them,‚ÄĚ said Michael Silver, research vice president at Gartner: ‚ÄúOrganizations should select the right technology for their users based on need and should consider TCO as one criterion. Complexity is an issue that organizations need to keep in mind as they select their computing models and devices. Too many architectures could increase TCO, especially in smaller organizations.‚ÄĚ1

A quick review of industry standard life-cycle expectations is a helpful baseline when evaluating the need to refresh your office systems.

Category Description Expected Useful Life
Desktop Hardware This category encompasses all PC and MAC desktop and laptop systems and includes the CPU and monitor as a single combined unit. In addition PC servers also fall under this life cycle range. The industry standard now projects a 3 year useful life for PCs. 2 – 3 years
Network Hardware and Desktop Peripherals These two categories are distinctly different in function but are grouped together here based on a similar expected life cycle. Network hardware includes repeaters, routers, switches and other communication devices that are used to connect desktop systems to the network. Desktop peripherals include: printers, scanners and other media equipment such as laserdiscs or VCR. 4 – 6 years
Cable Plant and Physical Infrastructure The copper and fiber optic wires that connect data stations together and comprise your network infrastructure are the components identified in this last category. 8 – 10 years

An important consideration when refreshing your office: can this hardware be repurposed? An example of repurposing would be the desktop computer purchased in 2006 for $1,500. The unit included a CRT monitor, runs Windows XP, service pack 3, with MS Office 2003. That computer is most likely a 1.8 gHz processor that has been upgraded to 1 GB of RAM and a 20GB hard drive. It is also the most likely source of frustration during your business day.

Instead of spending another almost $2,200 for a new PC (without monitor) and updated office software, consider updating the current unit. The old PC has the hard drive memory, processing and RAM capability to be wiped and installed with Windows 7 and Office 2010. A capital outlay of approx $640 vs. the $2,200 for a completely new system (without monitor). To add a flat screen monitor , update your capital expense to approx. $900.

There are technology updates that are impacted by this type of repurpose. An example would be and older system with hardware USB 1 ports vs. the faster USB 2 ports on systems today. There are benefits and drawbacks, but for the small business looking to remain competitive and updated while pinching pennies, an operating system install is often a less expensive investment that can extend PC life by another 2-3 years.

If your business drivers require completely new systems, order them directly from the manufacturer. It is much less expensive to custom build and have shipped a new desktop system than to buy one at a big box store.

All computer manufacturers have the ability to custom build and order systems from the web. Recently I assisted a client with a systems refresh. Ordering custom built systems directly from Dell saved the client $3,200 over purchasing the same systems sold at a big box store. Another plus to custom builds: the new computer only has the software chosen during the build with no additional trial software (bloatware) to clog up your system.

Whether custom ordering or repurposing, there are several options available to small business owners that can deliver a greater return on investment than that trip down to the big box electronic store.

CRT vs LCD Monitors.

If you have not already done so, replace your old tube-style monitors (called a cathode ray tube or CRT) with a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD), like those on laptop computers.

CRT monitors are those bulky, tube-television looking monstrosities that steal desk space have been proven to cause Computer Vision Syndrome. (CVS) is a very real problem for many people who spend hours daily in front of a computer screen.

According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) nearly 88 percent of all CRT monitor users will develop CVS at some time in their lives. Eyestrain is the number one complaint of office workers, with the more time spent working at a computer, the more likely the report of problems with eyestrain. Operating a CRT will lead to visual, muscular, and mental fatigue, loss of productivity, and cause some people to need corrective lenses to avoid eyestrain and headaches.

LCD screens are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface. Old fashioned CRT screens can cause a noticeable “flicker” of images on the screen, which is a major cause of computer eye strain. Even if this flicker is imperceptible, it still can contribute to eye strain and fatigue during computer work.

Flicker is not an issue with LCD screens, since the brightness of pixels on the display are controlled by a “backlight” that typically operates at 200 Hz. If you see a lower refresh rate (e.g. 60 Hz) noted on an LCD screen, don’t worry ‚ÄĒ this refers to how often a new image is received from the video card, not how often the pixel brightness of the display is updated, and this function typically is not associated with eye strain.

Finally, choose a relatively large display. For a desktop computer, select a display that has a diagonal screen size of at least 19 inches or greater.

For more information on CVS visit the American Optometric Association’s website, www.aoa.org.

1Taken from Gartner Report: Desktop Total Cost of Ownership.¬† The Gartner Group, Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT), is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior IT leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms Gartner is the indispensable partner to approximately 60,000 clients in 10,000 distinct organizations.