Keeping Up With Technology… Is it time for you to upgrade your computers and software?


When I was working toward my engineering degree, the beater I had owned for a few years gave up the ghost. I needed a “new” car. I was working at a fast food restaurant at the time and a car came around the drive-through lane with a for sale sign on it. I had a thing for old cars, still do. This one was a 1960 Olds Dynamic 88. And it was black. The price? $800! I bought it.

It was an awesome car. It seated eight pretty comfortably. The speedometer was not a needle… it was called a redline speedometer. It changed colors as you accelerated. It had a massive V8. In short, this purchase seemed like a brilliant move.

Shortly after I bought it the water pump went out. Where do you go to get a water pump for a 1960 automobile? This proved to be a challenge. I found one and was able to put it in myself. It required installing a spacer of sorts to get the belt to line up with the pulley, but it worked.

A few months later I was pulling into a friend’s driveway and as I made the turn the steering wheel simply spun and the car didn’t turn. I ran into, and over, a tree my friend’s dad had recently planted in their yard. I had two problems. My friend’s dad was pretty upset and I did not have the funds to have the car towed to the shop. I had to leave it there until my next paycheck. Basically, both of my problems were that my friend’s dad was upset.

Now reality set in. I couldn’t find parts for the steering system. I didn’t have the resources to be a car collector. My cool car was turning into a money pit. In the end I was forced to sell the car to a person who had the means to take care of it.

You may be finding yourself in the same boat relative to your current software and hardware. When things changed quickly in 2008, most of us went into survival mode. Now, as the storm seems to be letting up, we find ourselves taking stock of our current situation and wondering… what should I do next?

Many chose to stretch the hardware and software they were using in 2008 for the past six years. But six years is a very long time when it comes to technology. For instance, there were no android phones until late in 2008. In Q3 of 2013, over 200 million android smartphones were sold worldwide. No one was talking about the Cloud back then. The Kindle was simply an e-reader. There was no iPad. You get the picture.

If your PC or laptop was already starting to show its age six years ago, it probably seems like it is time to replace it. Or maybe it is slowing you down to the point where keeping it is not really an option. Maybe you see this six times a day. This is not good news.

What should you buy? What are the ramifications of buying a new PC? We talk to people every week who just went out and bought a PC and got Windows 8 as the operating system. Then they realized many of their old programs are not supported for Windows 8. What seemed like a simple purchase got complicated. Before you buy, check your core programs and determine what your true costs of upgrading will be.

For a short period of time, Windows 7 can still be available. Depending on your core systems you may want to consider whether or not this may be a good choice. Windows 8 does have a learning curve and this can be a hidden cost to your organization in addition to the cost of the PC and required software upgrades.

The operating system is just one consideration. If you are running CAD (AutoCAD or IntelliCAD), you definitely want to invest in RAM when buying a new PC. CAD programs need RAM to operate effectively. Many complaints about CAD programs crashing can often be traced to a lack of this much needed component in your system. Crashing loses time and losing time loses money. More RAM not only equals less crashes but also speeds up processing time.

The PC may be the least expensive aspect of your technology upgrades so be careful not to let it drive your decision making.
What about software? If you stretched your software for the past six years, it is likely much has changed. Software is intended to give you a return on your investment. Now would be an excellent time to evaluate the return you are currently getting against a return you could get by upgrading or changing. Just upgrading without this consideration could be a very costly choice.

Field hardware has also changed significantly in the past six years. GPS in particular has gotten better and less expensive. There are more choices than ever in Total Stations and Robotic Total Stations. Handheld computing in the field is now often set to take advantage of connecting to the internet. The areas for cost savings can depend on how well all this equipment works together from the field to the office and back to the field.

What is the best course? We would suggest talking to someone you can trust to help you look at your technology decisions holistically. Painting yourself into a corner in this area can be like owning a money pit car. Every time you turn around you have to spend more money. Making a plan and evaluating the costs ahead of time will help you get the most for your money.


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