Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How Your IT Equipment Saps Your Productivity


By Thomas Kane, CEO  Keep IT Simple 

One of the most common issues our clients ask about is productivity and speed of their IT set-up. Their questions include:

• Why is my EHR running so slow?
• My computer has gotten so slow recently. Can you fix it?
• The internet seems so slow and it didn’t used to. What happened?
• Can I just upgrade or repair this computer instead of buying a new one?

Questions like this usually result in a conversation about hardware, meaning any IT device in your office (e.g., computers, servers, routers, wireless access points, monitors, keyboards, mice, etc.).

When it comes to hardware, the stage is rapidly shifting. Especially right now, technology is progressing much faster than we have ever experienced. Just in the last several weeks, you have been hearing about Windows 10, tablets, 2-in-1s, convertibles, and more. This rapid progress is welcome, however, it often leaves people confused. So here are answers to some of the most common questions we get asked about IT hardware.

“I paid to upgrade our speed, but the internet is still slow. What’s wrong?”

Often, slow internet speeds have everything to do with your provider. Here’s some hard-and-fast rules about things beyond your reach that affect speed:

• Cable internet is faster than DSL
• Suburban and urban areas offer faster speeds than rural areas
• Old cabling provided by your internet provider, both inside and outside the office, has trouble           carrying fast connections.

Most of these can be resolved with a few phone calls to your provider — or by simply changing providers.
However, you could still be bottle-necking the speed that you are paying for with your equipment. If your router is several years old, chances are very likely that it can’t match the speed of your modem. This results in your internet speed remaining the same even though you just upgraded your plan.

An older router may also send incorrect wireless signals to your new iPad or laptop, which will cause dead spots in the office. Upgrading your router can also drastically improve your ability to connect, as well as the speed after you’re connected, especially when using cloud-based software, where a fast, reliable connection is required.

You don’t need the most expensive router on the market, but you do need one capable of handling the internet speeds that you pay for.

“Can I just repair this computer instead of buying a new one?”

When a computer is damaged or broken, either by weather (lightning strikes, power surges, etc.) or by physical damage (spilled coffee, being dropped, etc.), the question will arise, “Can I just repair this one?” And sometimes, the answer is, yes, as long as the hard drive is fine and the computer is under warranty or the parts are available. Unfortunately, most of the time, the best use of your dime is to purchase a new one.

 A computer’s lifespan is about five to six years. After that, either the computer will start to malfunction, or programs, apps, or websites will require more than your computer has to give.

When discussing this with our clients, we always weigh the cost of the repair to how much lifespan that repair adds to the computer. If it will cost $400 to repair, but will still be slow and need to be replaced next year, it’s a poor investment. Spend the additional money to replace it, and you get another good five to six years of life.

If you are pushing the 10 to 15-year mark on your equipment — like we’ve seen tons of times — you may not have any problems until your software company issues a shiny, new update with all of the features you have been waiting years for. Now your hardware is too old to handle it.

This puts you in a tight spot. You really need this program update, but do you have the $10,000 to $30,000 or more needed to upgrade your entire office hardware? This is why hiring an IT company well versed in spotting outdated equipment can guide you in gradually replacing equipment, so you don’t face any surprises.

“How do I choose new equipment in a Windows 10 world?”

Purchasing new equipment creates another pickle right now. We are smack in the middle of a Windows 7, 8, and 10 world on office computers available for purchase.

The EHR and practice management (PM) software you are using is likely still stuck in a Windows 7-only world (Windows 8, if you’re lucky). So when your front desk computer dies, and you get that email from a big box store advertising a brand new laptop for $200, you buy it. The problem is, most of the new computers now come with Windows 10. And this could be a huge problem. Some EHR and PM software will not even install on Windows 10. So you take the computer back and get another one with Windows 8. Now your EHR works, but your PM can’t be installed because it requires Windows 7. In that case, you may need to make a special order to get a new computer with that old of an operating system installed.

So before purchasing new, upgraded hardware, know all of the requirements enforced by all the different software you use. And that list of software doesn’t just stop with your EHR and PM. You also must know the version of Microsoft Office, Quickbooks, task or to-do list software, time clock, etc. Then for each of them, you must ask if you have the disk from which to installed it? If not, do you have the activation key for granting a new download? Can the key be reactivated? What about that program for printing holiday card envelopes? What type of wireless is required for that new iPad Pro?

New hardware is an investment. Do your research, hire the help you need to get it right, and spend a little extra money where it matters. Then you can see your office productivity fly through the roof.

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