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Resourcefulness to tackle the computer chips shortage

The ongoing shortage of microchips in the computer industry is going to continue and threatens the IT operations of both small and medium-sized businesses. What solution is available to them? Firstly, every effort needs to be made to extend the life of equipment already in place, or to circumvent its use by completely restructuring an IT service’s architecture.

Since the start of the COVID crisis and then a fire that destroyed a semiconductor factory in Japan in March 2021, semiconductor production has been greatly reduced. Many large manufacturers of computer products have been unable to meet the demands of small and medium-sized enterprises whose efficient operation depends upon their products. According to the NOVIPRO/Léger IT Portrait 2022, 8% of companies have minimal or obsolete infrastructures: it will be impossible for them to confidently modernize these infrastructures as security, update and network development projects are increasingly paralyzed.

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A survey of 500 decision-makers from Canadian companies about their IT challenges

The need to act

"Waiting for the crisis to subside is no longer an option, because it’s going to last a long time," summarizes Roger Ouellet, director of security practices at NOVIPRO. “Small and medium-sized businesses are contacting us in large numbers to help them deal with the deterioration of their equipment and the impossibility of obtaining new items. But there are no miracle solutions: you just have to be inventive.”

Your motto should be ‘try to extend the life of old products,” says David Chapman, director of partner accounts for eastern Canada at FORTINET, a company that designs computer security solutions. He notes that “It is sometimes possible to add components to existing equipment by being creative.

However, not all situations can be resolved in this way. It’s impossible, for example, to set up a new wireless network using this kind of tinkering. But installing a new firewall is still feasible as long as you are not afraid of some hard work and are ready to think outside the box. For example, Canon continued to produce ink cartridges without a remaining ink level detection chip.

We also try to make maximum use of existing stocks of products from previous generations,” adds Mr Ouellet. There are very few left, however, and these products come with the risk of not having customer support from the manufacturers.”

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It’s also a good idea to think about sharing resources between sister companies and business partners. “I would encourage a company that received a new IT solution before the shortage to loan or sell on its old equipment,” suggests David Chapman. “You’d need to set up sharing networks on a larger scale though. Plus, this won’t work miracles and these stocks will probably run out very quickly too.”

Rethink everything

When such solutions prove impossible to implement, NOVIPRO and FORTINET encourage their clients to transfer their entire technological architecture to software infrastructures or to cloud computing. “You shouldn't be afraid of making major structural changes,” says Roger Ouellet. “We need to plan for the immediate future with new IT frameworks.”

In these times of pandemic, telework will also allow companies to postpone certain updates. “It may not be necessary to redo complex architectures in the office if employees do not return there immediately”, says Mr Ouellet. “Telecommuting over the longer term can be part of the solution, even if it doesn't resolve everything.”

Businesses need to think creatively. Indeed, this situation could be seen as an opportunity to carry out beneficial restructuring at other levels. For example, according to the NOVIPRO/Léger IT Portrait 2022, 34% of companies want to invest in the cloud, which can also be a solution for avoiding equipment shortage problems when elements can be transferred there.

To sum up, the shortage forces us to think about innovative solutions, which is never a bad thing.