The hidden costs of neglecting IT maintenance

With today’s economic woes on their mind, some business owners and managers are pushing IT maintenance to the bottom of the priority list – if it doesn’t actually fall off the bottom – viewing it as a non-productive expense that can be postponed until better times.

It’s easy to understand that if you don’t maintain your vehicles, they’ll break down at the side of the road. This is not only a major inconvenience, but it leads to expensive emergency repairs. Badly maintained computers and networks can actually cripple an operation, with the emergency repair bills mounting out of sight, and the risk of losing irreplaceable data.

When maintenance is built into the operations budget, it not only saves on emergency repairs, it also keeps an operation running at peak efficiency with real productivity benefits to your organization.

The following are true stories about problems experienced by my clients before they hired my IT consulting firm:

• A busy New England law firm was brought to a halt after the network’s inadequate security and poor firewall let a worm invade the system, compromising the server and making all computers ineffective. The cost of lost productivity ran into the thousands. Remediation and maintenance have proven a cost-effective program in the years since.

• The owner of a New Hampshire media production company did not maintain current anti-virus definitions on his computer – he just never got around to it. Unfortunately, his hard drive was badly infected by “malware” that gobbled his marketing collateral files as he watched, horrified. I could only console him while the data disappeared. I restored the data, at a cost of $1,000. The cost of setting up the regular anti-virus updates was $150, which preventing any further incursions. The annual cost for anti-virus updates is even lower.

Other preventable common problems that can cripple a computer network include slow computers, programs that hang up or don’t run, backups that aren’t working and disk drives on the verge of failure.

If computers go down for even five minutes, distracted employees lose even more productive time due to the interruption.

Benefits of IT maintenance

A New Hampshire components manufacturer cites his “on-time” model as a crucial factor in his success. He ships on time, his vendors ship to him on time, and his shop floor manufactures products on time using sub-assemblies kept in inventory.

To fulfill its on-time mission, the company relies on a material requirements plan, produced by its software every morning before the employees arrive.

“We can’t do anything on our production floor, we can’t even ship an order without the plan. We buy a lot of components from overseas requiring long lead times and our computers have to watch that,” this manufacturer said. “We’ve gone all out working with technology and it has paid significant dividends.” He cited an uptime increase of from 80 percent or 90 percent to 99.9 percent.

While it is difficult to put a number to employee satisfaction, it has been a noticeable benefit of this client’s regular IT maintenance.

“The employees are able to be more efficient and they’re motivated. Who wants to go to work with a broken computer? Who wants to work with a piece of junk on your desk? Who wants to come to work and find out in the middle of the day that your server’s down? Uptime is very important,” said the manufacturer.

Mark Aronson of MLANS Inc., Londonderry, is a business technology expert with expertise in networks and security. He can be reached at 603-432-1603 or