If you manage IT in any capacity, you will be familiar with the unsettling feeling that emerges as your hardware approaches the end of standard support/warranty, or your software comes up for renewal/end of support. Sound familiar?

It can be a costly, time consuming and complex activity to keep existing IT systems up to date, so it’s no wonder companies fall behind or become trapped by legacy IT when they could be using the cash and time elsewhere. Many manufacturers only offer warranties and support for a defined period, forcing customers into a cycle of decision-making: whether to go it alone, update or switch.

The financial burden of being held hostage by manufacturer updates can also hold companies back. Instead of investing in propelling themselves forward or exploring new areas of growth, customers are left treading water, paying through the roof for updates and putting up with legacy IT that’s ‘good enough’.

The duration of support varies greatly by product and vendor. For example, storage typically entails 3 years of standard support, servers 5 years and software can be up to 10 years. Most vendors do publish their support lifecycle, but tracking this and ensuring that budget is available at the right time is a challenge.

Microsoft’s Windows XP is a case in point. It has been known for more than 5 years that extended support will end on April 8th 2014. Yet as many as 30 per cent of the world’s computers will still be using XP in April, illustrating just how exposed customers can become.

And the implications go far beyond the system lifecycle. Without critical updates, applications underpinning ‘business as usual’ will no longer be supported and security updates will stop, exposing businesses to malicious software that has the capacity to destroy and remove critical data.

Nevertheless, it’s clear the ‘evergreen’ cloud presents a logical way out of the refresh cycle. The traditional model of owning and maintaining in-house infrastructure simply doesn’t work for many businesses.

Working with a Managed Services Provider (MSP) removes the license update issue altogether, putting the responsibility for upgrades, infrastructure maintenance and enhancements firmly at the door of the provider. The right MSP will also be able to provide some level of integration and education, allowing an IT department to be involved in the processes that matter.

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) encompasses a whole range of services but ultimately gives organisations access to scalable platforms that host applications, servers and storage, delivering effective application environments without the Capex responsibility. This freedom gives companies the opportunity to develop and expand, using time and budget to concentrate on what matters.

So if expanding and supporting your business is a top priority, why not try and break the cycle? Eventually, given our current economic climate, paying over the odds for hardware that doesn’t promote growth and business development will be seen as futile. Old habits die hard, but nothing effects change like new priorities, making the painful refresh cycle something IT decision makers are likely to reflect on in the future in much the same way we remember life without mobile phones and the hum of the dial up connection.