Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Sunk Cost

Many businesses deal with slow computers on a daily basis, which sap productivity, and increase the cost of maintenance. There are many reasons for slow computers but a very common, and typically easy fix is the amount of ram in a computer. When you use more ram than your computer physically has your computer starts to use virtual memory, which is simply space on your hard drive used to emulate ram. This keeps the computer from crashing, but can slow it down considerably. The speed of memory is on the order of Nanoseconds, 0.000000001 second. While the speed of a hard drive is measured in Milliseconds, 0.001 Second. You can get approximately 10,000,000 reads from memory in the time it takes to make 1 read from the hard drive (assuming your hard drive can produce a read in about 10 milliseconds and your memory in 1 nano second ). A few reads from the hard drive instead of ram can really slow down your machine. Now imagine your computer has 256 Megabytes of ram but you are using 300, 400 or even 500 Megabytes of ram, your machine's speed will be reduced to a crawl.

Removing programs from your machine such, disabling services and running fewer programs at a time can help breath life into an older machine. Changing your antivirus from an expensive suite to a program that has less of a foot print, can boost performance. "I already paid for it" is not a good reason to keep using something that slows your performance to a crawl. Would you keep an employee that you trained if they constantly made mistakes and they were slower than everyone else in your company, even after repeated training? Would you keep a printer that only prints 4 pages per minute when you can replace it for $150 and get more than triple the performance? We tend to replace and upgrade devices where we see the performance in a tangible way, pages from a printer, copies per minute from the copier, etc. But we overlook things as the speed of computers, the impact of a program on the performance of an employee.

Upgrading the amount of ram in your computer can generally be done for about $100, but stopping services from running, replacing memory hogs with smaller foot print programs, running 1 or 2 applications at a time and closing down Instant messengers, and other items down by the clock (on windows) can increase the performance of your machine for next to nothing. In short keeping a program, or using it simply because you already paid for it does not always make sense, talk to a computer professional, if you have questions about the performance of your machines.

-- Tim Krabec

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