How much life does your computer hardware have left?

Blog / How much life does your computer hardware have left?

Waiting for computer hardware to break is bad replacement policy.

Although it’s rarely top-of-mind at the time, we all typically consider how long a product will last, even if we never calculate a precise time length or put it into words. That’s all fine and dandy for private life, but it’s a different story when businesses make purchasing decisions, particularly for hardware. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s a piece of computer hardware (like a laptop or server) or a piece of software; you should know how long you expect it to last and how you’re going to replace it. Far too often solutions are proposed without the necessary forethought into how long the solution and it’s components will last. From this perspective, not having at least a rough plan for replacing tools and equipment also means you’re planning to use that equipment forever, or at least until it breaks.

The problem with this philosophy is that things can be “broken” but still do their job. Take, for example, Barracuda’s recent hardware problems. Barracuda produces network appliances that, in this case, were being used for email scanning and protection. The details are in the linked article but the long-and-short of the incident is that attackers found a way to add an email attachment that, when scanned by the Barracuda, would then execute code giving the attacker persistent access to the device, which of course is usually located inside someone’s network, making them vulnerable to additional attacks.

Naturally once the bug was discovered Barracuda immediately released a patch. However, the problem wasn’t a bug in the device’s software, but rather with the hardware itself, which finally became obvious when patch after patch failed to fully address the problem. Now, Barracuda is telling clients to physically replace affected devices with new ones, even going so far as to offering free replacements for affected clients.

So, here’s the thing; depending on how you look at the situation, those vulnerable devices aren’t entirely “broken.” They can still filter and process emails just fine, as long as they don’t run into one of those tainted attachments. And although it sounds bizarre (after all, who would let such a thing happen?), similar situations, where equipment is damaged or vulnerable but still technically does its job and is kept in operation, are far too common. Whether doing so intentionally or just not being aware of the situation, running a Barracuda device with a vulnerability like this is akin to driving a car with a faulty transmission. It may still drive, but if the transmission’s broken it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing either breaks down or blows up. Yet because the issue is not immediately obvious, even just knowing to replace equipment can be difficult, let alone getting authorization to do so when the device appears to operating properly. Remember that as with all things, just because what you’re using isn’t causing problems doesn’t mean it’s not broken.

So remember to ask about (or at least estimate for yourself) the lifespan of any business purchase you make. As a general rule most computer hardware’s estimate lifespan is five years; using a computer for longer means you’re likely going to start running into issues with performance and incompatibility. Companies don’t support hardware or software forever, so monitor your vendors to keep track of what is still supported. Once it’s no longer supported, even if it “works,” it’s not a good idea to keep using it.

This week’s quote from Shakespeare is from the play Henry VIII; “Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, he would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies.”

For more information about computer hardware and estimating the lifespan of new technical projects, contact a TRINUS professional today to get yourself some stress-free IT.


Be kind, courtesy your friendly neighbourhood cyber-man.

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