There are all kinds of ways that organizations use to try and stretch those technology dollars, and we talk about a lot of them on NP Tech News, especially here in the Tech Tips. Open-source software, inexpensive web hosting, and discounts for nonprofits are just a few money-saving options. Of them, discounts for nonprofits are about the only way to bring down the cost of new hardware.
Because of this, it is really tempting to push your machines much further than is recommended. For most organizations, the recommended life span of a computer is about three years. Considering what a chunk of the budget an upgrade can take, it's common to use your machines far beyond that lifespan. But, is it a good idea?
In some cases, there really is little other choice, but the fact is that you are taking a risk. You can minimize this risk by ensuring that you have a reliable backup system that automatically engages on a regular basis. You'll also want to do regular virus scans and have policies in place regarding employees' usage of the machine (to decrease the chances of getting a virus).
While the usable life of a computer can be extended to some degree, there is a finite amount of time that is reasonable. It can be argued that upgrading your hardware on a regular basis is actually a cost-saving measure, as it lessens the chance of lost data. Of course, there is also the lost productivity of the employee to consider. Consider what would happen if any individual member of the staff were to lose access to their computers for several days. Chances are it would put a serious dent in productivity.
It may well be time to take an inventory of the equipment you're relying on every day to determine where it is in its life cycle.