It’s no secret that the global semiconductor shortage is impacting almost every industry and driving up prices. This shortage is an example of supply and demand that would make any economics teacher proud: Supply dropped when the manufacturing plants shut down due to COVID; at the same time, demand went up as people started working from home, kids attended school online and home entertainment became the only entertainment.
Of course, there are additional factors, and flashbacks to high school economics to be had, but the long story short is there aren’t enough of those little chips so essential to making things work.
So what does this mean?
It means that all the things we geek out about, such as computers, servers, printers – basically all things tech – are becoming increasingly difficult to get your hands on and, if you can, it’s probably going to cost you.
So what do you do?
First off, don’t panic buy. If you had no urgent technology needs yesterday, you don’t have a sudden need for all new tech any more than you needed to stockpile toilet paper and Jell-O. Unless you just spilled coffee on your laptop, don’t run out and buy new. And even if you did have major spillage, you might be able to save that device and yourself enough money to invest in some sippy cups.
Now is the time to approach things rationally and with a plan to ensure your company has what it needs to thrive through these shortages.
Protect what you have.
Protecting your technology is always important, but even more so given that it is much harder to replace failing devices right now. Review what levels of support you have on your devices and consider upgrading or renewing to ensure total coverage. Next-day support or accidental damage coverage can be pricey, but when you consider how much you could lose if your team can’t work, especially these days when it might take a while to get them new equipment, that upgraded support is well worth it.
Obviously, planning ahead is always a good idea, but with global shortages impacting stock levels, it’s even more important today. If you know you’re going to need to replace your server and had been planning on it in November, start working on it now. Lead times vary, but we’ve started to see ETAs listed along the lines of “sometime after February 2022”. And while anyone would be lucky to get a network switch for Valentine’s Day, you’ll want to make sure you put your order in today for it or you’ll be holding nothing but roses while all the pre-planners mock you with their connectivity.
And don’t forget software/applications in your planning. If your accounting program is hitting its end of life and you are planning an upgrade, be sure the hardware you have is capable of running it. An outdated server might not support a new program, which means you’ll need to factor in procuring a new one before you can roll out the snazzy new app.
Maintain your Standards.
It might be tempting to run out to your local box or wholesale store and buy up some shiny new devices, but be cautious of that approach. Although computers may be similar in appearance, most of what you see in your local electronics stores are not business-class devices. They may not have the power, capabilities, or durability that you want for your business. Additionally, buying a mishmash of devices may lead to issues down the road, ultimately costing you more in tech support costs than paying a little more upfront and being patient
If you are purchasing a device, factor in future use and growth upfront. It used to be a simple matter to order additional memory or storage space, but these items have also been impacted. Don’t get into a situation where your device is maxed out but upgrading is going to take weeks, if not months, to happen.
Consider a refurb.
Like with cars, used business-class devices can be a real bargain. Just tread carefully. You’ll want to have your IT team verify the device has been refreshed legitimately and that you’re procuring it from a reputable place. You’ll also want to make sure you add upgraded support. It might cost a little more than it would for a new device, but the amount you’re saving with the renewed device should more than cover the difference. One thing to note – because stock on these is also low, pricing has definitely gone up, so be careful not to get gouged because it’s the “last one in stock!”.
Don’t forget the little things.
“Little” things, such as ethernet or HDMI cables are so common even we tech nerds sometimes forget about them, but they are critical to operations. The trickle-down effect of these shortages is that even the seemingly small things are out of stock.
Train against threats.
Yes, we know we have mentioned Security Awareness Training so many times even Fluffy is onboard, but we’d be remiss not to bring it up here. A security breach might not lead to needing new hardware, but it will be costly in many other ways and cause your tech team to focus on risk mitigation rather than network expansion plans or scheduled maintenance.
And speaking of scheduled maintenance …
To extend the life of your existing technology, keep your devices happy by keeping them up to date. Patches, firmware, OS, and driver updates are all things that need to be done regularly. And please don’t assign this type of task to Betty, your over-taxed receptionist. Betty already has a list a mile long of daily responsibilities so verifying and applying updates is probably going to fall somewhere between “keep plants alive” and “replace plastic flowers in the bathroom” on her task list. If you need help, a managed IT service team can help make sure your devices are updated correctly and running smoothly.
Looking to the future.
The shortages won’t last forever, of course. Manufacturers around the world are ramping up, but it’s going to take some time. It’s anticipated that we’ll feel the shortages well into 2022, so mapping out your business’ technology needs, especially for the short-term, is key.
If you already have an IT Roadmap, give yourself a gold star! Then take time to review and modify to account for these shortages and increased pricing. If you don’t have an IT Roadmap, it’s time to become a tech cartographer. Don’t worry, we can help. Stay tuned for tips for creating your own IT Roadmap.