When making a business case to refresh a fleet of desktops or laptops, one number is easy to calculate: the cost of the new hardware. But, as with an iceberg, it’s the numbers under the surface that are more significant. Those hidden costs of pushing a fleet beyond its natural end-of-life increase exponentially.

Some of these costs can be hard to quantify, but they’re very real — like the cost of security breaches.

The unpredictable cost of a security breach

It might be possible to estimate the cost of cleaning up a network after a security breach. But costs like reputation damage after losing customers’ private information or credit card details come in a less predictable range — from bad to business-killing found that four-year-old PCs suffered 53 percent more security breaches. With cyber attacks going nowhere but through the roof, the numbers will be going in the same direction.

Deteriorating performance — software

The work involved in upgrading old computers is the greatest of the hidden costs. A five-year-old PC is estimated to cost twice as much to maintain as a new one.

For a start, old computers have a higher failure rate when you’re rolling out updates. That leads to time-consuming and expensive manual resolution.

It’s ironic that old computers respond worse to new software because they’re definitely more used to receiving it. First, there are the inevitable patches, which could be required anywhere from three to five times a month. They all add to the complexity of maintenance. Add to that the accumulation over time of unauthorized or non-standard applications that impair performance and often interfere with corporate applications.

Deteriorating performance — hardware

Fixing software problems takes time, which costs money. Having to replace hardware to push out the life of an ageing machine adds insult to injury. Intel, for one, estimates that it might cost as much as $13,000 a year to maintain a fleet of 200 desktops over four years old.

Poor PC performance, poor staff performance

When a computer isn’t performing well, neither is the person operating it. A study found workers lost more than one working week per year because of old PCs. This is the cost of the time out of service for maintenance, repairs, and security issues.

Wider costs

The leaps in technology are not always flashy. Your average employee won’t notice their computer quietly using less power, but the results will jump out of the electricity bill. Savings can range from thousands to tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands a year depending on the size of the fleet.

Optimizing your refresh cycle makes for more productive employees, a healthier bottom line, and it’s good for the environment, too. That makes it worth taking the time to look at all the numbers.