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An IT Checklist for the Start of a New Year - Making the best of your IT budget

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March 01, 2008
A Look At | Technology
Geoff Griswold - theomnigroup@mindspring.com

© 2008 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

Many hotels budget for IT equipment upgrades and replacements at the start of each year.  Sometimes the budget is for specific items, such as new workstations for certain departments or people.  Other times, a lump sum is allocated, the exact use to be determined by specific needs during the year.

Where a general budget exists, there are certain items that should receive priority when upgrading.  Internet modems and routers are sometimes overlooked items that need replacing.  Dropped signals or slow performance can be because of faulty equipment.

These items are readily available at the retail level or from your Internet provider.

Be aware that installing replacement modems and/or routers may require reviewing the settings in the existing equipment.  There can be several layers of settings, so be sure that all of them have been documented before the new equipment is installed.  Refer to the in-house IT department or the Internet provider for more information.

As a general rule, do not press the reset button on these devices as this will erase any custom settings and restore the devices to the factory settings.  In some cases this might be fine, but in others required customized settings will be lost.

Not all modems/routers have the same functionality.  Be sure that replacement items have the required features for the installation.  The equipment replacement costs of a modem and a router can be as little as $100 (both units).  Replacing this equipment every three years can prevent frustration when trying to surf the Web or send and receive e-mail.

It may seem obvious that a server is critical to many applications, but sometimes servers can be ignored in the upgrade process, until serious problems develop.  While replacing an entire server can be expensive, critical components can be upgraded at significantly lower costs.

Most all servers have some kind of a RAID array of disks (more than one disk that is spreading the data over several disks to provide redundancy).  In this scenario, one disk can fail but the others will keep the server going.  When a disk fails, a warning message is displayed.  Also, the lights on the failed disk will be red, while the functioning disk’s lights will be green.  One or more of these disks can be replaced.  The RAID software will rebuild the data on the new disk(s).

It is possible to replace all the disks in the server, thus increasing capacity and speed.
The controller board can also be replaced if it is considered defective.  Older style SCSI drives can be replaced by the more up-to-date SATA drive technology.  Care in preserving the data should be taken when changing technologies.

Another item that can easily be upgraded on a server is RAM (Random Access Memory).   A server should have a minimum of 1GB of RAM.  Be sure to match up the memory type and speed exactly, as trying to mix speeds/types can cause performance problems. 
Printers and fax machines are mundane pieces of equipment that are often overlooked when budgeting for upgrades/replacements.  Many users live with the annoyance for missed faxes and jammed paper.  But replacement units have become extremely affordable.

Three-in-one units that print, scan and copy can be purchased for under $100.  Four in ones (add fax capabilities) can be purchased for as little as $150.  This is for ink jet technology, which is slower and not a crisp as laser jet technology, which is available on higher end machines.  Always purchase a unit with a sheet (document) feeder.

Placement of a multifunction unit is always a problem in an office environment.  It can be hard to determine a convenient place for multiple people to send/receive faxes, print and also use the scanner and copier.  It is best to purchase a unit that has a network card built in rather than having the unit attached to a workstation.  While this connection optimizes printing, scanning may require a software upgrade.

At today’s low prices, it may be best to purchase two units, one to print, copy and scan, and a standalone fax.  The fax can also double as a printer.

Everyone would like to have a faster, more modern workstation.  While the budget does not always permit a brand new computer, there are a few simple things that can be done to improve existing workstations.

Dull, boxy CRT monitors have given way to sleek flat screen models.  Existing CRT type monitors can be replaced with 17-inch or 19-inch analog flat screens for under $200.  It is usually not necessary to replace the video card in the existing workstation, but even if it is, the cost can be as low as $50.

RAM on a workstation can be upgraded for as little as $35.  A minimum of 512 MB of RAM should be considered, but 1 GB should be preferred.

No matter what upgrade project you undertake to begin this year, the results will be worthwhile and last for several years to come.

Geoff Griswold is a hardware and wiring specialist for the Omni Group and a regular contributor to Hospitality Upgrade. Geoff can be reached at (888) 960-8787 or theomnigroup@mindspring.com.

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