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Posts Tagged ‘upgrade’

The Cost of Memory: Trends to Impact Your Upgrade Cycle

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017


Computer memory market trends could play a role in your business’s decision on when to upgrade or replace employee computers. According to PC World, the technology research experts at Gartner predict that prices for both RAM and Solid State Drives (SSDs) will start to decline in 2018—and then crash in 2019.

Unlike the typical technology price trends that drop as devices age, memory components have more volatile prices that rise and fall for the same productsIT consulting services can help your business take advantage of trends to replace or upgrade devices when the market bottoms out.

What Memory Means for Productivity

Computer RAM and storage devices like SSDs increase productivity by making computers complete tasks in as little time as possible. Having more of either than the user actually needs won’t make them more productive, but having too little can dramatically slow the work process.

  1. RAM: The computer’s main memory determines how many active applications the device can run simultaneously. When there’s enough memory, the user can quickly switch between programs with minimal load time. If the computer is low on memory, it will have to use the Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or SSD to augment the main memory, which limits the number of active applications and increases the time it takes to switch between them.
  2. SSD: SSDs offer significantly faster performance than HDDs. A computer running an SSD will boot faster and load programs much more quickly than one with an HDD. The major barrier of entry for SSDs to replace HDDs is the cost-per-gigabyte of storage, with SSDs of similar capacity costing up to four times as much.

Taking Advantage of Memory Pricing: Upgrading Old and Buying New

There are two main ways your business can take advantage of the forecasted memory price drops:

  1. Plan your upgrade cycle to coincide with the 2019 price drops.
  2. Plan to upgrade existing system RAM and SSD storage in 2019 to extend device lifespan.

Hypothetically speaking, if a small business has 12 computers coming in to an upgrade cycle in 2018 that are still performing adequately, it is probably worth waiting to see how memory prices fluctuate in 2019. If the SSD and RAM prices drop as expected, your business will get much better devices at the same price point.

Alternatively, your business can take advantage of the lower price points by upgrading in-use devices in 2019. Switching to an SSD and upgrading the RAM are two of the most cost-effective ways to breathe new life into an aging system. Well-timed upgrades can extend a computer’s viable lifespan and push back the upgrade cycle by a year or more.

Other Devices and Price Points

While dropping memory costs mean less expensive computers and cheaper upgrades, other device classes used in business probably won’t see a drop. The tablet and smartphone markets cater to specific price points, as opposed to offering the same devices at decreasing prices. If those devices are going to receive a boost, it’s going to come in the form of more storage at the same cost. However, the industry is showing signs of lowering price points, with the new iPad listed at $329 instead of $500.

If your business is looking to upgrade its computers at ideal intervals to balance productivity and cost, MPA Networks’ desktop management services can help. Contact us today to find out more.

Android and IOS: Is the Device Just Old, or Is It Obsolete?

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017


When trying to determine if a piece of technology is simply old or completely obsolete, keep in mind that there are different criteria for Android and iOS devices than for desktop and laptop computers. An employee stuck using an obsolete device is likely, after all, to argue that replacing it would increase their productivity.

On the flip side, replacing functional devices too often can spiral out of control into unnecessary expenses.

An IT consulting firm can help your business understand how long a device should remain in use, a safe time range for buying older models, and how to plan upgrade cycles.

When Does A Device Become Obsolete?

The general rule is that a device becomes obsolete about four years after its release. This means that trying to save money by purchasing older devices on the cheap may not work out well, as they are unlikely to receive updates as long as a newer device. Usually you can buy only the most recent and second most recent smartphone devices new, but older refurbished devices are readily available.

Performance Issues with Old Devices

Determining if a device is aging vs. obsolete is pretty straightforward: If the employee can still complete all necessary work with the device, it is not yet obsolete.

However, older devices often have performance issues; notably, they may operate slower than the latest models. Older devices using Android often receive updates late, too, so users won’t receive security and interface improvement patches as soon as they’re available.

When Does a Smartphone Become Obsolete?

Forbes paints a pretty grim picture of aging devices, declaring that smartphones have about two years before they’re obsolete. Still, users can typically continue on without any major problems for an additional year or two.

Once obsolete, however, many devices are prone to disruptive conditions:

  • Security updates are no longer provided.
  • Vital applications are no longer compatible with the operating system.
  • The web browser ceases to display web pages correctly.

When Does Apple Consider Devices Obsolete?

Officially, Apple considers any product more than five years old obsolete, meaning the company tends to support their devices for a little longer than Android distributors. Apple usually supports iOS devices with the latest operating system for about four years. At this point the device will not receive updates, but it will still likely work for a while longer.

The device typically hits the obsolete category when it no longer runs the most recent version of iOS. If you buy an iOS device that’s already been on the market for two years, you’ll have to plan to replace it in another two years. A one-year-old device will be good for at least three years.

How Long Can Android Users Expect Operating Upgrades?

Android devices have a two-tier obsolescence system in which system updates stop coming and applications stop working. Android is a much more difficult case to gauge because updates need to come through Google, go to the manufacturer, and then reach the phone provider.

Android users can expect operating upgrades for two years after the phone is released, and a few additional months of security updates; both are soft obsolescence moments. What finally ends an Android device’s life (or, at least, its usefulness) is application incompatibility after about four years, which is dependent on the developer. Most try to support the oldest version possible, but this is not always the case.

If you want to make sure your employees are using up-to-date devices that increase productivity, MPA Networks can provide an IT and productivity assessment. Contact us today.

This Is the End: Microsoft Takes a Hard Stance on Phasing Out Older Windows Versions

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017


If your business hasn’t already made the switch from Windows 10’s predecessors to a new operating system, it’s time to make the initiative a priority. While your IT staff doesn’t need to upgrade every computer in your office, it’s necessary to make sure all vital software is compatible with Windows 10 because new replacement devices won’t fully support older Windows versions.

According to ZDNet,

computers running Intel’s 7th-generation Core CPUs and AMD’s Ryzen CPUs will no longer receive operating system updates for Windows 7 and 8.

Without updates, you are likely to experience IT security issues.

The Writing Is on the Wall

The change does not affect computers built and purchased before the last few months of 2016, but it matters for any new computer running new hardware. Back in January of 2016, Microsoft announced that new CPUs will only be compatible with Windows 10, so anyone looking to buy new hardware and put an older version of Windows on it is out of luck. However, Microsoft will continue to support Windows 7 and 8, with extended support for security updates through 2020 and 2023 respectively.

Plan Your Transition: Business Continuity Concerns

This change in policy means that moving over to Windows 10 will eventually be the only option. Your business should begin to develop a migration strategy with the help of IT consulting services to phase in Windows 10 devices as you replace older systems running incompatible hardware. Also, if your business plans to look into other options like Macs and Chromebooks, this is the perfect time to do it.

Make sure to consider these issues in your transition away from older versions of Windows:

  • Run a pilot Windows 10 system to ensure continuity for your existing work environment. Test your employees’ daily workflow on this system.
  • Install all the software your business uses on this system and see if it works with Windows 10. Your tests may identify legacy software that’s no longer supported but that you’re currently using for important operations. This can lead to expensive, painful transitions to replacement software.
  • Adjust your upgrade strategy to accommodate your findings. This could involve changing the schedule to allow more time for employees that run incompatible software to work out a solution. It’s most efficient to plan to upgrade to Windows 10 upon device replacement; however, if your tests don’t find any problems, you may opt to upgrade existing systems early. Note that the Windows 10 free upgrade period ended in July 2016.

Legacy Software Concerns

Your company may find that some of the software you’ve been using for the past 15 years without any problems will not work under Windows 10, which puts your business in a difficult position. Replacing software that’s vital to day-to-day operations can be a very disruptive process. Managed services providers can help your business devise a contingency plan to keep the old software running, but it’s a best practice to migrate to a contemporary solution eventually. There are a few options your company has to keep those older systems running so you can keep using the old software, including upgrading/repairing the old systems and running older versions of Windows through a virtual machine.

The experts at MPA Networks are ready to help your business find its best OS solution to balance productivity with security. Contact us today.

Breathing New Life into Middle-Aged Computers

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017


Your employees’ computers may not be up to speed anymore after two or three years of use, but in many cases your staff can upgrade or tune up these devices to keep pace with work demands. Upgrades can often be purchased and installed for under $100 a system, offering an inexpensive way to extend the life of a desktop or laptop computer.

Talk with your IT staff or your IT managed services partner to learn more about your options for addressing the classic employee complaint “My computer is too slow.”

Upgrade to Solid State Drives for Faster Loading

Outside of cost-per-gigabyte storage rates, Solid State Drives (SDDs) are a comprehensive upgrade to traditional hard disk drives. If your employees are complaining about long load times when opening programs or accessing files, an SSD upgrade can make a world of a difference. According to the manufacturer Crucial, SSDs are more durable, faster, lighter, and more energy-efficient than their disk-based predecessors.

A few years back, the opportunity cost may have been prohibitive, especially when it comes to your entire staff. But now that prices have dramatically dropped, going SSD makes financial sense.

RAM Upgrade

While CPU upgrades are usually impractical, a computer’s other main performance component often represents a simple, far-reaching upgrade option: RAM. The RAM, or the system’s main memory, handles all the active applications on the system; when it runs out, the computer has to fall back on the far slower HDD/SDD storage. However, the law of diminishing returns applies to this upgrade, and adding more memory than the computer utilizes at a maximum won’t improve performance. Your business may be able to upgrade a few computers’ RAM for free by pulling compatible modules from decommissioned, broken, or unused machines.

Newer Laptops = Fewer Upgrade-Ready Parts

Desktop computers are still the kings of upgrade-ability, but their portable counterparts can’t say the same. The industry is trending toward integrating parts together instead of in a modular configuration, so the RAM and storage may not be upgradeable on some devices. For example, as of 2015, Apple started using soldered RAM and proprietary SDDs, making upgrade-ability and repairs extremely difficult (if not impossible).

Backup and Reinstall Windows/Other Software

This tip applies specifically to Windows devices that are approaching the middle of their lifespan: Back up all important data, nuke the main hard drive, reinstall Windows, and restore all useful applications. Because of the way Windows operating systems work, a part of the code called the “registry” is changed over time with newly installed/updated applications, leading to slower performance. While newer iterations of Windows aren’t affected as badly by this problem, it still exists—and the best way to fix it is to reinstall Windows.

If you’re looking for ways to ensure employee devices keep up with workload demands, the IT experts at MPA Networks are ready to help. Contact us today to get started.

Internet Explorer: Upgrade Your Relationship or Break Up?

Thursday, February 25th, 2016


The end is here for all versions of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer outside of the most recent version. If your business is still using older versions of the browser, it’s important to switch to a different browser—or upgrade to maintain the latest in security and support. According to Microsoft, support for IE10 and prior versions ended on January 12, 2016.

As recently as fall 2015, Internet Explorer still accounted for around 17 percent of all desktop computer web traffic. ZDNet reported that somewhere around 30 to 40 percent of in-use Microsoft web browsers are lower than IE11. So there’s a good chance some of the older systems your employees are using are running an older version of IE. Situations like this are problematic because the security updates help prevent hackers from infecting and infiltrating your business’s systems.

Why should I care?

Microsoft dropping support means that employees using older versions of Internet Explorer will experience security risks for any unpatched vulnerabilities in the browser’s code.

While the mobile web has commanded more than 60 percent of all Internet media viewing time since May of 2014, the traditional desktop web still accounts for a substantial 40 percent of all traffic—and it is still an important productivity platform for many businesses.

How do I upgrade?

If a computer’s operating system supports IE11, updating to IE11 can be as straightforward as running Windows Update and selecting the browser from the update options list. However, if the computer is not cooperating with Windows Update, users can manually download IE11 for Windows 7 from Microsoft’s download page. Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 users are already running IE11 and Edge by default, so the upgrade is unnecessary.

What if my OS is incompatible with Edge or IE11?

The only way to run IE11 or Edge on a computer with an incompatible operating system (like Windows XP or Windows Vista) is to upgrade the computer to Windows 7 or an even more recent iteration. The newest operating systems tend to be the most secure overall, providing additional benefits outside of Internet Explorer. Microsoft is offering a free upgrade to Windows 10 for a large portion of Windows 7 and Windows 8 users, which will move computers to Edge, Microsoft’s newest browser.

A Compromise

Some businesses may encounter problems with older website code that does not work on newer web browser versions: They are stuck choosing between dropping support or continuing to run a security risk with an older browser. However, you can maintain legacy support situations like this while using a modern web browser on the same system by installing either Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome. These browsers support modern web and security standards, so employees can opt to open Internet Explorer only for legacy support on older services while using a modern web browser for all other purposes.

Not sure how (or when) to upgrade? Get in touch with a local Managed Service Provider who can talk you through it.

Upgrading to Windows 10: Why You Should (Still) Wait

Thursday, February 11th, 2016


We were as optimistic as anyone about Microsoft’s long-awaited release of the Windows 10 operating system. As we discussed last May, we looked forward to real improvements—chiefly a better desktop interface—over its widely unloved predecessor, Windows 8.1. At the same time, we hoped Microsoft had learned from its troubled history of Windows upgrades and delivered a finished OS which would leave most users thankful, pleased, and productive.

So much for wishful thinking.

You probably don’t need us to tell you Microsoft’s ambitious free online upgrade to Win10’s initial “RTM” version (“Release to Manufacturing”—or perhaps rushed to market!) hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as anticipated.

Of over 100 million worldwide users who clicked an icon and expected a clean, hassle-free install, an overwhelming number experienced a gauntlet of frustrating issues, such as:

  • Continuous stalls, reboots, or cryptic “Something Happened” error messages during the Win10 download.
  • Confusing instructions about locating and entering a new Windows activation key.
  • Incomplete new features (Mail, Edge browser, Cortana voice input, revived Start menu) which proved not-ready-for-primetime.
  • Displaced software apps or compatibility issues with existing hardware drivers that left upgraded computers much less functional—if not totally disabled (or “bricked”).

Many exasperated upgraders were left to that dreaded last resort—a wait in the phone queue of Microsoft tech support. Or they simply threw in the towel and reverted to their previous version of Windows (which Win10 allows within 30 days of upgrade).

Microsoft’s first attempt to correct the early flaws in Windows 10 was the November release of Version 1511, also referred to as Threshold 2—or what Microsoft once called a Service Pack update. While most of those clunky new features generally perform better, the problem of disappearing apps and utilities remains (as discussed in this Reddit thread). For casual users who wouldn’t consider themselves “computer nerds”—and even many who do—upgrading to Windows 10 on their own has been just short of a nightmare.

Where We Stand on Windows 10 Today

  • If you haven’t already attempted upgrading your computers to Win10, we recommend resisting as long as possible—until most of the bugs have been fixed. The current deadline for the free upgrade is July 29, 2016—but we wouldn’t be surprised if that date gets extended, given the massive number of hiccups so far.
  • If you’ve stuck with Windows 7 all along, you’re using a tried-and-true OS which many IT experts actually consider superior to the current Windows 10. Microsoft has pledged extended support for Win7 until January 2020—long after you’ll probably consider your current PC hardware obsolete.
  • We expect Windows 10 to be, eventually, a terrific, reliable user experience. But the first-of-its-kind online download/install—of an entire OS—has been difficult, considering every PC is its own unique combination of hardware and software. It’s hardly a do-it-yourself project… but we can help.

Playing It Safe with Windows 10: Upgrading or Maintaining Your OS with Minimal Pain

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015


Now that the dust has settled around the release of Windows 10, your SMB may be looking to increase productivity by upgrading your OS. Still, you should proceed with caution.

The latest version of the operating system offers a more secure computing environment, better disaster recovery options, and an improved user interface that can optimize your operations. However, if it turns out that the software your business relies on doesn’t work with Windows 10, the downsides to an upgrade will quickly outweigh any upsides.  

Before diving in for a full upgrade, test the waters to ensure that:

A) Your existing software still works, or
B) There are compatible, convenient alternatives.

Identify Problematic Software

SMBs often have older software propping up the backbone of their business. Because that software is proven and reliable, dumping it isn’t a move to be taken lightly. Switching to an inferior but compatible product can kill productivity. An IT consulting service can help manage problems like decreased system performance and insufficient hardware to run the new OS by upgrading or replacing systems. If the software doesn’t work in Windows 10, there’s not much you can do to fix it.

It’s a good idea, then, to select one computer, upgrade it to Windows 10, and test all of your usual software before ordering a mass upgrade. Best case scenario, your software will work in Windows 10 as well as it did in the prior version.

If a program doesn’t want to start, there’s a tool at your disposal (included in Windows) that might save the day. “Compatibility Mode,” which can be accessed from the Properties menu located on the program launch icon, resolves many of the software conflicts that prevent older programs from running on newer platforms. You can select which version of Windows you want the computer to try to replicate to work around problems.

However, “Compatibility Mode” is not guaranteed to work—and if it doesn’t, your last option is running programs through virtualization (creating secondary instances of operating systems that run within the main one). Virtualization may work in a pinch for one-off situations, but running it on every computer is far from practical.

Find Compliant Replacements to Balance Security and Functionality

Sticking with older operating systems in favor of new ones becomes an increasing security risk over time, which can put any SMB in the difficult position of choosing a more functional or a more secure solution. A managed service provider can be an invaluable asset when finding software alternatives to replace programs that no longer work on modern operating systems. The OS turnover may provide a great opportunity to switch to a Cloud-based software alternative that’s platform-agnostic—and can put the “upgrade decision” to rest, permanently.

Changes Ahead for Windows: A First Look

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

New version of Windows is on its way in 2015: San Francisco, San Mateo, San Jose.

It was about a year ago that Microsoft officially ended support (most importantly, automatic security patches) for Windows XP. Particularly for business users, running a computer on XP after April 8, 2014, became about as wise as leaving keys dangling from the front door.

Many XP die-hards stuck it out until the very end, refusing to “upgrade” to the notorious nightmare that was Windows Vista or the radical changes in Windows 8—an operating system that was aimed primarily at the notebook/tablet market, yet made nobody particularly happy.

When Microsoft finally pulled the plug on XP, most of the remaining XP users settled on Windows 7 (even downgrading new computers from Windows 8), with its familiar Start menu and minus the “tile” interface which most longtime Windows users simply found too confusing.

But if you were one of the last XP refugees to settle upon 7, don’t get too comfortable—Microsoft has announced the final cutoff date for extended support of Windows 7: January 14, 2020. Generally, Microsoft commits about ten years of support for every version of Windows (as opposed to Apple, which follows no fixed timetable and may halt OS X support in as little as 4 1/2 years). While 2020 is still just under five years away, we know how time flies by.

It’s not too early to plan your next OS migration and look at a few of the changes Microsoft has in store.

From Windows 8 to … 10?

Oddly enough, Microsoft has decided there will be no Windows 9, skipping directly to Windows 10. Scheduled for release midway through 2015, Microsoft touts Windows 10 as a “ground up” reinvention of Windows, optimized for a traditional keyboard-and-mouse as well as touchscreen devices. The revamped user interface includes the welcome return of the Start menu ( YES!!), as well as the addition of Cortana, Microsoft’s answer to Apple’s voice-activated “digital assistant” Siri (we wonder, though, how comfortably business users will verbally communicate with their PC in the middle of a workgroup).

Another major advancement in Windows 10 is biometric authorization—replacing typed passwords with users’ fingerprints or iris patterns. Though enterprise-level biometric security will likely require upgraded cameras or scanning peripherals, we see this as quite possibly a strong line of defense against password-hacking and the pandemic of cybercrime we’ve talked about.

Free for You … but Not Your Company

In an obvious break with tradition, Microsoft intends to initially offer Windows 10 as a free upgrade for current users of Windows 7 or 8—most likely as a “make-good” for the poor reception of Windows 8. However, business users of Windows Enterprise editions can still expect to be charged for upgrade licenses and support during the “transition” period to 10. Perhaps the good news here is that legions of home users will uncover Windows 10’s inherent early bugs before most business customers choose install it.

Windows 10 remains in beta testing and we won’t fully know its overall pros and cons until its official release. Let’s hope Microsoft learns from past mistakes and delivers a product that leaves customers thinking “change is good.” In the meantime, look ahead to your company’s next OS upgrade and avoid the last-minute headaches that came with the end of XP.