It’s easy to understand why veterinary practices are reluctant to update computer hardware. After all, it makes financial sense not to spend the money on equipment that still gets the job done, right?
In fact, this approach can place your business at risk in a number of ways. You rely on your computers to access and update records, process payments, communicate with customers, pay staff and other important activities.
Using an older computer can create serious problems:
- They’re less reliable, making you vulnerable to the ‘blue screen of death’ at a time you least expect it.
- They run slower, wasting staff and client time. Even those few seconds waiting for an application add up over time.
- They’re outside their warranty period, meaning unplanned expenses if they break down.
- They become incompatible with your practice software over time.
- They’re vulnerable to viruses and malware, as security patches can’t be installed.
- They limit your ability to upgrade your software version resulting in missed opportunities for new software features.
Given these risks and missed opportunities, how important is it to you that your practice hardware is up to date? Here’s some tips to consider about how often you realistically should expect to replace your hardware.
What do experts recommend?
Many veterinary practice owners and managers believe their computer hardware will last five to seven years. However, in a busy veterinary practice with constant use and in an environment with excessive pet hair and dander, three years is more realistic.
These time frames are also dependent on a couple of factors. First, your computer hardware needs to be regularly maintained and updated, in much the same way you need to service your vehicle.
Secondly, it needs to be fit-for-purpose. This means you can’t use a computer designed for home use in a professional business environment. Home computers are built using lower cost, but lower quality, components in order be attractively priced.
Business-grade hardware is built with higher-performing, more reliable components. This means they can handle a variety of business tasks simultaneously without slowing down to a crawl. They are also often available with extended warranties and better support options.
Also, in the U.S. there are definite tax benefits to buying new computer equipment. Under Section 179, you can deduct the full cost as an immediate expense. So, you get technology improvements plus a smaller tax bill.
Source your business-grade computers from a trusted technology partner who knows your business and can advise you on the most suitable equipment for your practice. A Covetrus representative can help you find the hardware that’s right for you.
Plan and budget ahead for hardware replacement
Plan for the rolling replacement of your computer hardware every three years and make sure you include this in your annual budget. Remember, there are tangible positive financial outcomes from replacing your hardware before it reaches its end of life.
A study by market research firm Techaisle estimates that in a business with two computers older than three years old, the business could save $1,500 in the first year by replacing these two machines. This is due to reduced downtime and lower maintenance costs.
Also, for veterinary practices in particular, outdated hardware can prevent your practice management software from working properly or keep you from taking advantage of new features.