Technology with a Touch of Gray: The Case for Upgrading
November 17, 2010
By Chad Paalman is Vice President, NuWave Technology Partners. From Focus on Small Business, SBAM’s member-only magazine.
Midway through 2010, you send an email using Office 2000 on a PC that proudly announces its compatibility with Windows XP, call your customers on a telephone system that’s older than your high school age children, and prefer to avoid thinking about the longevity of your office server.
Just when you convince yourself to hang on a bit longer, you get more bad news: Microsoft will no longer support Windows XP after April 2014 (at the ripe old age of 14).
To upgrade or not to upgrade? That is the question many business owners will wrestle with this year.
70 percent Move to 7
This year, Windows XP turns 10 years old, decidedly geriatric in the software world, and even seriously long in the tooth for durable goods such as household appliances.
Is it worth it to upgrade to Windows 7? Well, yes.
According to a survey conducted by Computer World earler this year, 67 percent of IT professionals declined to upgrade from Windows XP to Vista. Windows 7 is another story.
The new operating system loads quickly — especially compared to Vista — is more stable, removes intrusive user access control pop ups, improves on document sharing, and makes remote access to corporate networks far easier.
From the standpoint of IT support, the operating system streamlines user configuration management, delivers better device compatibility, supports legacy programs, and affords improved integration with Windows Server 2008. The same Computer World survey reported that 70 percent of IT managers plan to upgrade to Windows 7 within the next year.
Finally, the recent arrival of Office 2010 may seal the deal. For small businesses in particular, it may be especially cost effective to purchase hardware preloaded with Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010.
Cost Saving Convergence
For those on the fence about upgrading their telephone architecture, the key selling point comes down to the convergence of voice and data communications — commonly known as Unified Communications (UC) — that integrate voice, messaging, instant messages, conferencing and CRM systems.
By bringing together these services on a platform such as Microsoft Office Communications Server 2008 software, UC can significantly reduce travel, telecom and IT costs, leaving your business leaner, greener and more efficient.
For employees, UC integrates email inbox, voicemail, fax and IM platforms in a single environment, eliminating the redundancy of having separate tools, networks and support teams for each service. For customers, UC provides unparalleled access to key employees whether they’re in the office, working from home or on the road.
Beyond the added capabilities, implementing an IP based phone system can significantly reduce business phone service expenses, especially if you operate several offices or need to add phone lines.
Virtual Office, Virtual Servers
Since the purchase of your office server back in the halcyon days of the Bull Market, server technology has come a long way. Today’s servers are far more efficient in power usage and resource utilization, all because of a cutting edge technology: server virtualization.
Translation: Today’s server hardware supports multiple installations of server software, unlike old servers which can only support one installation. That means, a single server box can mimic several servers: each can host a variety of operating systems (Windows Servers, Linux, etc), Microsoft Exchange servers, SQL servers and Web hosting.
Since one server is doing the work of several servers, you will use less electricity to operate the server and keep it cool. Then, use your existing server as a backup for your new server.
All things being equal, the biggest obstacle to upgrading your legacy systems may be money. The good news is manufacturers of unified communications hardware — such as Cisco and AVAYA (formerly the manufacturer of NORTEL telephone hardware) — have attractive lease and purchase programs. In many cases, the savings achieved by moving to a unified communications platform will cover the cost of the new software.
It’s been said that a recession is the ideal time to invest in your business. Those who make the right decisions will be best positioned to take market share as the economy turns around.
Still, before you make the decision to upgrade, look out your office window, count the number of ten year old cars in the parking lot, and ask yourself this tough question: Do you really want your business communications architecture to depend on equipment that’s older than the car you drive?