As much as you and your clients might dislike the fact,
computers do not last forever. Even the fastest system will seem
slow after a few years of operating system upgrades and growing software requirements.
It is in your best interest, and of your client’s, to insure that the
computer systems under your care are keeping up with user’s needs, while
still watching the bottom line. Learning to balance computer needs against
financial concerns is an important part of any high-tech career.
When to upgrade
Sometimes it is clear when you need to upgrade a user’s system. Perhaps
they recently started using Adobe Photoshop on a regular basis. Maybe they
have started developing web pages or large documents. It only makes sense
to monitor the work that is happening so that you can start the upgrade process
as soon as possible. It is already too late if the user has started appearing
at your door every day, complaining about the speed of their computer. Procuring
a new system can take weeks and that means you are going to have to face that
user every day until something is done.
Beyond the basic maintenance and troubleshooting of computer systems, you
should also be aware of how the systems are being used. Are presentations
the order of the day and PowerPoint standard-issue software for everyone?
Have user’s email needs bloomed dramatically? Are audio and video editing
creeping into everyday use? As you make your rounds, take a few minutes to
notice how the computer environment may be changing.
Being aware of your environment is especially important if you plan on migrating
older systems down through various levels of workers before you retire them.
For example, a system might be fine for basic word processing or other regular
tasks, but can’t handle the applications needed by a particular employee.
That machine should be moved into a position where it can still be useful,
but not negatively impact productivity. Of course, this increases the complexity
of your job, as you have to not only install a new system, but also prepare
the old system for its new task. You can add one more level of work if you
are also moving the second system to a different employee or dedicated task.
As you can see, such complicated moves require as much lead time as possible
in order to insure that everyone gets the system they need in a timely manner.
In most cases, being aware of your environment grants you the necessary time
to keep an office working well.
In some cases you can stretch the life of an existing system without replacing
it entirely. If a system has sufficient processor speed the addition of memory
or hard drive space could extend its life for a few more months. In my experience,
though, if the processor speed is significantly lower than current machines,
the addition of memory will not help you much.
You have probably already faced the situation such as this; a high-level executive
has decided that he or she needs the latest, greatest computer system, with
all the bells and whistles, even though they generally only check email and
browse the web. If you are like me, you cringe at such situations since you
probably know many people who could make better use of the machine. That said,
you can at least plan for the eventual replacement of that machine so that
it can be re-assigned to a more productive area.
Another way to combat problems such as this is to develop systems that carry
a bit of flash while not breaking the department budget. In the Macintosh
world an executive user might be more than satisfied with the cool new iMac
LCD instead of requiring a PowerMac G4 tower with Cinema display. If you have
some options for the user you might be able to get the G4 into the hands of
someone who can make better use of its power. While not an ideal situation,
it can provide some flexibility in a no-win situation.
The next time you are looking at a listing of your computer inventory (you
do have one, don’t you?) take the time to see where systems could be
added, shifted or upgraded to better serve your user’s productivity.
Keeping user’s happy and productive is yet one more way to enhance your
job and your high-tech career.
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about this column.
Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant
in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with
other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on
Douglas' web page at: http://www.welchwrite.com/dewelch/ce/
He can reached via email at email@example.com