By Maria Valdez Haubrich

Recently, our company made a little switch that made a big difference. My computer was painfully slow, and even though we’re on a tight budget right now like every other small business, we finally bit the bullet and asked the freelance IT consultant we use how much it would cost to fix the problem.

“$100,” he replied.

Well, that was a no-brainer. The next day, I had my memory upgrade and it’s been smooth sailing since then.

Like us, many small businesses are penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to technology. If your productivity is suffering because of tech troubles, is it time for an upgrade?

Constant crashes like I was suffering from can be an obvious sign you need to make some changes. Other businesses reassess their technology every year or so. It’s a rule of thumb in the tech world that you’ll typically need to replace equipment every three years just to keep up with advancing technology, so you should evaluate your needs at least that often.

Lots of businesses start out with a hodgepodge of leftover equipment from their founders’ former jobs or personal stash. Once your business starts to grow, it’s a good idea to overhaul that system so you’re not dealing with dozens of different models, operating systems and versions of software.

Other situations where you might want to upgrade are when you add several new employees, if you’re traveling more on business and need mobile equipment to stay productive, or if your business focus has changed.

Often, the changes don’t have to cost that much. As in my case, upgrading your memory, upgrading to new versions of your software or buying an external hard drive can make a big difference.

But even if you’re on a budget, now is a good time to consider upgrading. With the economy in the doldrums, there are lots of good deals out there.

If the changes you need to make are too costly, consider leasing instead. This is a great way to keep your cash flow flowing but also have the latest and greatest equipment. Just make sure you understand all the details of your lease.

Like buying kids’ clothes and shoes, when you upgrade your equipment, leave a little room to grow. Don’t buy something that will be outdated six months from now.