When a Spare PC Can Be a Wise Investment

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2010-09-20 Print this article Print


There are two reasons for this, the most significant is that the machine that went toes-up (this is a technical computer term for "hardware failure") has a pair of Xeon processors and was running the 64-bit version of Windows 7. The substitute machine has a single 32-bit processor, and while it's also running Windows 7, I can't just drop a 64-bit image in there and expect it to run.

So, between using my ThinkPad when I need to be near the phone and the HP workstation that's filling in for the currently dead machine, everything is working, although it's a little less convenient. And if I were to need some image or video files, it would take awhile to locate them and copy them in from the backups, but I can get them. I'm not out of business, and that's the goal of business continuity.

But it wasn't a seamless changeover. So I wondered what I could have done to make this work better. For advice I called analyst and consultant Jack Gold, president of J. Gold Associates. He said that I should have had a spare PC that would run the same software as the one that failed. "Having a spare PC around is not that major of an expense," Gold said. "If a $2,000 PC can save a couple of days of downtime for one of your executives, it's a good investment."

Gold also noted that most businesses use three to five applications for business purposes. For most companies, backing up their data is really all that's required. He did suggest that investing in a NAS system for backups and as a place to store images is probably a good idea. You can automate backups for your employees, and you have their data if their computer breaks or they decide to quit and take it with them, he said. "If you've got your own NAS, the backup stuff is getting pretty cheap. It's a cost-effective solution now," Gold said.

Gold also suggested that you aim for reliability when you buy computers, if you can. That includes having a technical services contract so that you can get help when you need it, both for true disasters and the disasters that visit quietly while you're out of the office.

The missing piece for my office disaster plan turns out to be the spare 64-bit computer. It's not clear whether I would have saved enough through reduced downtime and for not having to pay for expedited service with the folks at Richards Computer. But it would have reduced my frustration. And frustration is certainly worth something. On the other hand, maybe this is an excuse-or rather a reason-to go shopping for new, even faster computers.

Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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