All hardware has a finite lifespan. Eventually, every device currently in circulation will stop working. But if you’re interested in saving money, or simply maximizing the lifespan of the hardware you do have, you should know that there are effective strategies you can utilize to keep even your oldest hardware running.

The Problems With Old Hardware

There are a few separate problems with old hardware, with some overlap, that you’ll need to keep in mind.

·       End of manufacturer support. The biggest issue for companies is the end of manufacturer support. Original equipment manufacturers (OEM) are constantly looking forward, developing new technologies and new products to sell. Accordingly, for the sake of efficiency, they must eventually stop producing, stop selling, and stop supporting their older devices and equipment. At a certain point, the OEM will no longer issue patches and updates, and will no longer sell components that you need to keep your electronics running. However, there may be some alternatives to get the service you need despite this. For example, you can get EMC maintenance for your end of life hardware long after EMC stops officially supporting it – as long as you’re willing to work with a third party.

·       Aging components. Assuming your device remains in absolutely pristine condition indefinitely, it can hypothetically continue serving you for decades. The problem is that most devices and equipment suffer from aging components; internal parts suffer wear and tear, even if they’re maintained properly, and most pieces of hardware ultimately have a finite lifespan.

·       Limited availability. Replacing components or replacing entire pieces of equipment can keep your infrastructure operational indefinitely, at least hypothetically. The problem is, after OEM support ends, the supply of these components is going to get smaller and smaller, while demand remains relatively high. It may be hard to find the parts you need, and when you do find them, they’re going to be much more expensive than they were in the past.

Upgrade Options

One option for dealing with your oldest hardware is to decommission it and replace it with something newer. Your business may be reluctant to do this for a variety of reasons, such as the desired preservation of your current hardware or budgetary considerations. Since this article is mostly focused on keeping your older hardware running, we will not explore this option in any further detail.

How to Keep Your Oldest Hardware Running

What can you do to keep your oldest hardware running indefinitely?

·       Pay attention to EOL and EOSL dates. End of life (EOL) refers to the date when an OEM stops producing and selling a piece of equipment. End of service life (EOSL) refers to the date when an OEM stops supporting the piece of equipment altogether, meaning they will no longer offer operating system updates, software patches, firmware patches, service plans, or other forms of support. It’s important for you to pay attention to these upcoming dates and schedules, so you can adequately plan your next course of action.

·       Work with your OEM as long as possible. Many businesses want to work with the OEM for as long as possible, out of a sense of loyalty or a desire for convenience. This is a legitimate strategy, but you’ll need to be strategic about how you approach it. Get extended warranties and maximize the duration of your service contracts for as long as you can.

·       Buy up spares while you can. You should have some time before EOL to strategically buy backup pieces of equipment and spare components, which you can use in your future maintenance efforts. You can reasonably count on prices rising after EOL and EOSL, so it may be prudent to make these purchases in advance.

·       Practice proactive maintenance. Proactive maintenance can keep even the most ancient electronic devices running beyond expectations. Adhere to a strict equipment maintenance schedule and identify potential issues early to prevent them from spiraling out of control.

·       Work with a third party. When the OEM is no longer available, your next best option is to work with a third party. Third-party IT support providers are capable of managing and maintaining your old equipment even beyond EOSL; many of these contracts provide you with 24/7 support, and they generally cost less than building an internal team to handle these responsibilities.

·       Tap your internal resources. As a secondary alternative, you could build an internal team and tap those internal resources to manage and maintain your outdated hardware. This can be expensive and challenging, but it may work in your favor in some cases.

OEMs will always stop supporting their devices and equipment at some point. It’s just the nature of the industry. Fortunately, there are plenty of options available to you if you want to keep your old hardware running long after EOSL.