In a recent article, I discussed the Windows XP apocalypse. After it was published, I had quite a few people ask me how they should assess their systems as to which ones should be upgraded, replaced, or left alone. With my more than 20 years of IT experience, I have developed a method that will help you determine the course of action with your infrastructure.
The first step is to identify what systems are vulnerable to attack or exploitation. This involves detailing every workstation and server, including the current operating system and virus protection software patch status. Are they up to date? Are they even installed? Are they running firewall software? If you answered no to any of these questions, start here. Even one system on your network that is unpatched could compromise your entire infrastructure.
Having a system fail in a critical moment, such as when you are working with a client, is never fun. As systems grow older, the likelihood of these failures grows. However, an out-of-warranty system could cost you more than just the repair cost; it could also cause extended downtime for your producers while you wait for parts. When doing a system audit, find machines that are nearing or out of warranty, and choose to extend the warranty or replace them outright.
For the next step, you will need to talk to and observe your producers’ daily routines. How is the infrastructure hampering their job? Do they jump through hoops to do simple tasks like printing? Are they navigating a patchwork of systems that have been pieced together over the years? Does it take 15 minutes to do a task that would take five on a modern machine? These machines and related infrastructure are next on your upgrade path.
Picking the Right Hardware and Software
It is not always about picking the latest and greatest machines available. Choose a system that meets your current needs. If all of the tools you use, such as your rating and management system, are web-based, do you really need a fast machine with lots of storage? Maybe you should get a larger monitor and more memory with your savings. Memory makes things run smoother and larger (and/or more) monitors can increase producer productivity exponentially. Do you even need Windows on a traditional desktop? Could you use tablets or netbooks instead? Maybe this is the time to enable your producers to be more mobile.
In my years of consulting for insurance agents, the cost was always the biggest impediment to improving infrastructure. It is also the easiest to overcome. If you take a look at how much revenue these systems generate for your agency, it is eye-opening. To determine the daily value of your infrastructure, take your yearly revenue, divide it by the number of computers on your network, and then divide that by 365. That number represents how much each computer generates for your business day in and day out. When you take in account that the average lifespan (and depreciation period) for a computer is five years, the long-term value of a well-functioning machine is clear.
Today’s machines are less expensive than ever. When you realize that each computer represents hundreds of dollars a day of income, choosing to upgrade is worth the investment.
About the Author: Entrepreneur and technology consultant Laird Rixford is the president of Insurance Technologies Corporation (ITC). Founded in 1983, ITC provides marketing, rating and management software and services to the insurance industry, including independent agents and insurance carriers.
Rixford oversees the direction for each of ITC’s products while also leading the company’s sales and marketing departments. His philosophy is to become a strategic partner with agents and carriers instead of being just another vendor.