Keys to Hardware Management: Upgrade or Refresh? (Part 1 of 3)

One of IT’s most difficult conundrums is hardware management: whether to upgrade or refresh and how to execute whichever option you choose. In the first of this three part series, we discuss how to make that decision and the trade-offs. In the following two posts, we will provide tips from our resident experts to plan your next upgrade or refresh cycle.

Hardware Refresh

While many people use “refresh” and “upgrade” interchangeably, a hardware refresh typically means replacing all of your current data storage hardware with the newest version of your equipment to prevent any capacity or performance issues due to growing storage and application performance demands.

Alternately, if you are operating in a specific industry with certain regulations about equipment, you might also opt for a refresh. But most common, companies choose to refresh their hardware when they have reached milestones where the OEM will no longer support their equipment.

Generally, a refresh is appropriate when:

    Your current hardware is outdated. Meaning it has reach a milestone where it is no longer supported by the OEM or third-party providers or it is badly outdated.
    You have a lot of data to store. Massive storage needs – especially in a large and/or growing business – typically indicate a refresh would be optimal in order to stay abreast of your company’s needs. Enterprises with large budgets who need the latest data storage hardware often opt for hardware refreshes over upgrades.
    You need to upgrade to adhere to industry standards. Some industries, like healthcare and finance, require companies to refresh their hardware at regular intervals in order to protect their valuable data. IF your industry makes such demands, you will have to refresh as opposed to upgrading.

Hardware Upgrade

A hardware upgrade consists of adding drives, DAEs, and disk shelves to achieve more capacity and performance objectives without undertaking a full hardware refresh. In our experience, just because your equipment reaches an end of life (EOL) milestone, doesn’t mean it no longer has value. It is possible to continue supporting your hardware, thus increasing your return on investment. Upgrades from the secondary market are typically more cost effective and allow you to add capacity and performance to your existing infrastructure.

It is generally safe to opt for an upgrade when:

    Your current hardware is sufficient for your storage need. Just because hardware has passed it’s official “end of life” date, doesn’t mean you can’t continue using it. Does it meet your needs? Can you still support it? If you answer yes to both these questions, you might be able to wait and save some money by upgrading for now.
    You don’t have the budget for a refresh. Sometimes small businesses simply can’t afford a refresh. For these enterprises, an upgrade that increases storage capacity and functionality may be sufficient.
    You want to maximize the ROI of your current hardware. Even if you technically have the money in your budget to do a refresh, you might prefer an upgrade in order to maximize the use you get from your existing hardware before scrapping it, provided it is still working smoothly!

What to do?

While most OEMs recommend refreshing hardware every three to five years, we see that as a rough guide that doesn’t always hold. As you can see from our guidelines above, it is important to take into account your business’ particular situation. Don’t want to worry about this question at all? More and more cloud computing options are becoming available, as is Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), where enterprises outsource equipment ownership to a service provider.

We recommend consulting with an MSP or your internal IT team to evaluate your storage needs and assess where you stand on the spectrum of refresh-to-upgrade requirements… or whether you can take advantage of one of the other solutions available to avoid the whole question!