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APAC SMEs still hanging on to older PCs

A majority of small and medium-sized business in Asia-Pacific are still using PCs older than four years out of cost and application compatibility concerns

Seven in 10 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Asia-Pacific region have PCs that are older than four years, despite the prospect of being exposed to security risks and incurring higher costs, a new survey has found.

Commissioned by Microsoft and Intel, the survey conducted by US-based research firm Techaisle in five APAC countries – Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea – found the cost of keeping a PC for over four years is $2,736 per device.

This includes repair and maintenance expenses, which can increase by 1.6 times for a PC older than four years compared with one that is under four years old, said Anuraj Agrawal, CEO and analyst at Techaisle, at a press briefing in Singapore.

A PC older than four years old is 2.7 times more likely to undergo repairs, resulting in lost productivity costs of up to $2,246, according to the survey.

The cost could inch higher for SMEs that have experienced cyber attacks resulting from the use of older PCs. In the past year alone, as high as 67% of SMEs may have experienced such attacks and only 15% of them have reported the incidents.

With Microsoft ending extended support for Windows 7 by January 2020, Bradley Hopkinson, Microsoft Asia’s vice-president for consumer and devices sales, called for SMEs to upgrade to newer Windows 10 PCs machines, citing benefits such as up-to-date security patches and improved productivity.

Among the 2,156 respondents polled by Techaisle, 46% are already using Windows 10, followed by Windows 8 (25%), Windows 7 (17%) and others (12%).

Reasons for not upgrading

Although nearly seven in 10 SMEs in the study agreed they could better secure data and lower maintenance costs with newer PCs, with 85% of them planning to replace older machines, they are holding on to older PCs have various reasons.

These include the need to run older applications that are not supported on newer operating systems (41%), the perception that older PCs were not critical to overall operations (39%), as well as the lack of budget to replace older systems (27%).

On the former, Microsoft has said that 99% of Windows 7 applications run on Windows 10, eliminating the need for costly testing. Still, some larger organisations such as the Singapore government are still using some Windows 98 machines so as to continue running old applications written for that operating system.

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In deciding when or whether or not to replace older PCs, experts generally agree on the need to strike a balance between keeping costs in check and maintaining productivity.

For employees that do not need oodles of computing power in their jobs, older PCs can be used for more than five years with some hardware tune-ups like replacing hard disk drives with solid-state ones, which are getting cheaper. But those who require high-performance hardware will be better served with a three-year replacement lifecycle.

Another consideration is the varying warranty terms offered by different PC makers. While hardware issues are covered during the warranty period, SMEs may need to purchase post-warranty coverage from a PC maker or third-party firms for older PCs, adding to overall maintenance and support costs.

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