Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Oh, Can I Relate to This!

Someone has finally quantified my qualitative disposition on the matter of how long to hang on to computers in the small office setting—and what to do about them.

I do know that small offices have budgets and I do know that computers are not free, but I see small offices with ancient Macs and appalling network hardware far too frequently. An article in The Networked Office that I wish a few former clients would read contains a few nuggets of wisdom. I'm really not out to just spend money for the fun of it, though. Honestly.

In my opinion only one thing is worse than hanging on to Macs older than about two and a half years in a small office, and that's to replace them with Mac mini's. I've seen architects laboring over six-year-old iMacs while charging clients the going rate for architects, then go out and replace it with a Mac mini. Hello? Is anyone home?

How much is your own time, and immeasurable aggravation, worth? To me whether one measures a narrow cost-benefit analysis or understands the more nebulous supposition that existence is a finite, limited resource, there's nothing more precious than time. Can you really not afford slightly better computer equipment? Maybe not this year. Money doesn't grow on trees, Mark. So noted, but if your business can afford it, choose a middle road between keeping your computers until they're good only as paperweights and buying every new model on the market.

You will benefit. Even if you don't want to do something nice for yourself, your employees will love you. The number one thing employees want from work is time off from work. After that, the second best thing you can do for them is to buy them a decent computer. If you buy them Mac mini's to produce architectural renderings, aren't you telling them something? "Sarah and Bill, you're such valued employees that I decided you can work on complex graphic design projects all day using sluggish Mac mini's with 17-inch fading monitors we've had since Sputnik." Hmmmm. Employee loyalty and esprit de corps cannot be measured by the bean counters. You'll have to use your heart to measure it in your business.

We shouldn't venture to speak about network hardware. Not just yet. Life is too short. I've got to find time for myself to write that Vietnamese student who is helping me connect to my past life as a teenager in Los Angeles during the Vietnam War—and losing my best friend at Quang Tri. I still love you, Doug.

Now, I just need to order a new computer. Come on, Apple, where are those new MacBook Pros, anyway?

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