Hardware Purchase and Replacement

By Paul Ticher

When buying ICT equipment you need to think both about your needs and consider your budget.

Your decisions on software will determine your hardware strategy: you must have machines which can run the software you have selected. But few organisations are in a position to standardise their computers.

They usually buy them one or two at a time; models change every few months; and the specification of the standard office PC continues to escalate. This leaves most agencies with a range of different models.

This should not be a problem. Most PCs are very standard and will work in the same way, even when they are from different suppliers.

However, it is still very important to keep a detailed record of each machine, including the manuals, and details of components like hard disks, network cards, and CD drives that came with it. This information could be vital if the machine breaks down or needs upgrading. You will usually find the most detailed description of your equipment on the invoice or specification you got from the supplier at the time of purchase.

You should also make sure to record in a safe place the serial numbers of both hardware and software.

Although your older PCs will go on working for many years, they will be overtaken by software upgrades and your rising expectations of how your computers should perform. In order to support your software policy and to avoid being dependent on obsolete equipment, you should budget to replace older equipment regularly.

A good basis is to work to a four year life for your hardware. This means budgeting to replace a quarter of existing equipment each year, in addition to any new computers you might buy for new members of staff or for new projects.

You also need to be careful when deciding whether to accept a gift of old equipment. The key question to ask is whether it fits with your software policy.

If you have decided to standardise on Windows XP then, however reluctantly, you would have to turn down, for example, an early Pentium PC which cannot run Windows XP. But if someone offers a Pentium III (say a 600Mhz) which can run Windows XP, then it may well be worth accepting - you'll need to budget for buying software licenses and possibly for adding extra memory, hard drive or a CD drive.


Most decisions on IT involve spending money. In the past, many organisations have not had an IT budget. They may have relied on fundraising for new computer equipment, or used year-end underspend when it has become available, or simply replaced equipment when it has broken down.

But as agencies become more dependent on IT this approach won't do. It needs to be replaced with a more planned system of allocating an appropriate amount for IT each year - and making sure that it really does get spent on IT. It is just as important a part of the agency's financing as rent, salaries and the photocopier.

It is also worth the Management Committee thinking about where it expects the money normally to come from:

  • Will it be a part of every funding application?
  • Can you build it into core costs?
  • Or will specific IT developments be funded as one-off projects in their own right?
  • Will developments which save money in the long run have any sort of priority?


Copyright © 2004 Paul Ticher

Helpful Advice from those Friendly People at DOT-COMmunICaTions