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Listen closely. Can you hear it? Closer. Closer still.

It’s the sound of outdated desktop computers and laptops churning and churning as they try to make the simple switch from Word to Explorer. It’s the sound of fists slamming on the top of a printer because there is a jam at point “D” and there’s no point “D” marked anywhere. It’s the “click” coming from hotel rooms across the country as some poor business traveler unravels a 10-foot phone cord and plugs it into the back of his laptop as he wished he was equipped with wireless access.

Businesses of all sizes and shapes need help with IT lifecycle management. There is no way around it. From world-class enterprise organizations to the most tech-savvy small and medium businesses, lifecycle management is often an afterthought.

As a result, many companies are running old applications on older hardware systems and wondering why productivity is slipping and their service costs are on the rise.

According to Dr. Michael Grieves, principal of consultancy Core Strategies and director of industry research of the MIS department of Arizona University, the most effective way corporations can approach an IT lifecycle management strategy is to monitor actual usage against usage standards. This is the most effective way to put together a system refresh strategy instead of simply basing it on the age the equipment has been in service.

However, nearly 60 percent of IT managers surveyed during a Ziff Davis eSeminar said they base their lifecycle planning on the age of the systems, with less than 11 percent actually basing it on usage. Alarmingly, more than 30 percent polled said they do not have an IT technology refresh strategy at all. This proves the influence a VAR can have in IT lifecycle management planning.

This is obviously a dire need among businesses today and a perfect vehicle for VARs to upsell their customers with a focus on the value-added service and not the product. Every server sold, every storage solution deployed and every application upgrade or first install is an opportunity for a VAR or integrator to propose an entire IT lifecycle strategy to its customer. This will result in a long-term business relationship based on customer service instead of on price and delivery.

One way to get in the door offering IT lifecycle services is tackling the problem at its origin. Believe or not, many IT departments don’t have an accurate way to inventory their IT systems. Many don’t know how many desktops, laptops or servers they have in use or sitting in a closet, let alone what version of what application is actually running on these machines. Keeping track of and then assessing IT assets is lagging to say the least.

Taking this one step further, many IT departments may think they have a good handle on what they have in stock but have trouble monitoring the usage. They can tell you they have 10 servers, but it’s anybody’s guess what is running on each, let alone what is the optimization level of each. Organizations need “smart lifecycle steps,” according to Grieves. And a VAR or integrator is the perfect partner to provide these critical services.

It starts with assessing the current inventory environment. Then they need to project the lifecycle of the system. This is followed by filling in any of the technology gaps an organization may have that is prohibiting it from being productive and efficient. And finally, a monitoring system needs to be put in place to optimize usage.

Within every one of these four steps lies an opportunity to add value and strengthen your relationship with your customer.

In addition to being editorial director of Ziff Davis eSeminars, Elliot Markowitz is also editor at large of Ziff Davis Internet’s The Channel Insider.