For many businesses, coming up with an appropriate IT support budget is easier said than done. The technology you use every day is the backbone of your company. Needless to say, it’s important to keep those systems running smoothly.
Unfortunately, it’s common for companies to underspend. It’s easy to deprioritize your IT needs and focus on your overall bottom line to save money. While it may seem like you’re getting by just fine with the bare minimum, you are accumulating technology debt. The concept of tech debt can lead to a slew of issues in the future. In fact, you may cost you both time and money.
What Is Technology Debt?
One easy way to think of tech debt is to look at it as a credit card. Your initial investment in your equipment and IT services acts as your original balance. Chances are, your company has continued to accumulate more debt for years. Technology is constantly changing, and it’s important to invest in the resources to keep your digital infrastructure in good shape.
When you cut corners or underspend to maintain your equipment, you’re essentially only making the minimum payment on that debt. Sure, you’re saving now, but what’s going to happen to that debt over time? It will continue to balloon, making it harder and harder to get out of.
This issue is more common than you would think. Most businesses don’t even realize how much tech debt they have until it’s too late and they’re faced with critical failures or significant upgrade costs. The problem with tech debt is that it’s difficult to see the effects of underspending from month to month. However, if you look at this debt on a grander scale, the effects of underspending stick out like a sore thumb.
This is because changes happen slowly. Think of the last time you bought a new phone or computer. When you boot up your device for the first time, you’re running a clean operating system in optimal conditions. It’s a perfect device that, in theory, should serve you well for many years to come.
The truth is that things will start to slow down. Once you start adding security systems and resource-heavy software and go through a few dreaded Patch Tuesdays, your system will incrementally slow down. Sure, those few extra seconds won’t seem like much at first. But that wasted time waiting for your system to respond will add up.
How Does This Debt Accumulate?
There are several ways tech debt adds up. The biggest contributors to your tech debt are upgrades and cutting corners on quality.
Upgrading your equipment and software is necessary. Every piece of technology, whether it’s physical equipment or software, has a lifespan. New versions of software come out regularly. It’s recommended that computers and network hardware be upgraded every three to five years. Servers should be replaced every three years.
When you’re looking at those upgrades on paper, it can seem costly. As a result, many businesses put those upgrades off in an attempt to save money. The longer those upgrades are put off, the more wasted time you will experience. This can lead to decreased production and, ultimately, lost revenue.
The same goes for investing in the wrong equipment. Making those necessary upgrades won’t do the business any good if you choose to cut corners and get cheaper gear. Buying low-quality equipment is like transferring the tech debt to another card. It’ll buy you some time, but you’ll be back to where you started in no time. This issue is fairly common with network upgrades. To truly tackle that tech debt, you need to invest in robust gear that meets today’s communications standards. That means replacing the cabling as well.
What Happens When That Debt Gets Too High?
If your tech debt ceiling gets too high, you will be forced to make upgrades at some point. The higher your debt, the more difficult this process will be. Let’s take, for example, outdated software. A software version typically reaches the end of its life in three to five years.
If you have chosen to forgo updates, your IT support team will have a difficult time bringing you back to the current version. You may be forced to perform multiple upgrades at once, which is a lengthy process. In some cases, you may be forced to reinstall a new version entirely. Furthermore, finding help to make all that happen can be a nightmare. There are fewer people who are familiar with those older versions; thus, you might have to shell out several hundred dollars an hour for dedicated support.
In the event that you’re forced to make those upgrades you put off, you may also find that your options are limited. For example, the current version of the software your team uses no longer runs smoothly. So, you decide that it’s time to get back up to the current version. After hours of upgrades, you come to realize that the new version doesn’t run on your current equipment. Thus, you have no choice but to buy new computers. It’s a vicious cycle that could have been avoided.
How Technology Debt Affects Your Company
Tech debt doesn’t just affect your budget. As mentioned earlier, your IT infrastructure is the backbone of your business. When you don’t invest in IT and you accumulate tech debt, it’s your employees who deal with the consequences. If your employees can’t do their jobs, how do you expect them to stay happy? Underspending on IT can lead to a significant reduction in overall productivity and high turnover rates for key positions in your company.
Businesses that spend more on IT typically experience better results from their employees. Good equipment and smooth-running software lead to higher morale, increased production, better employee retention and a boost to your bottom line.