Enterprises are leaving themselves at risk of serious server failure because of budget restraints in the present economic climate. That's according to research company Gartner which has found that companies aren't moving quickly enough to replace servers, PCs and printers.

In round numbers, the scheduled replacement of some three million servers worldwide, or about 3 percent of all servers, has been delayed, Peter Sondergaard, Gartner's global head of research, said at the research firm's Symposium/ITxpo 2009 conference. He added that the number of delayed replacements should reach 10 percent of all servers by 2010.

As a result, Sondergaard said, IT operations "are going to have to start to plan for the impact of increased equipment failure rates."

Gartner's hardware forecast was the starkest indication of the cumulative impact of IT budget cutbacks. For example, recent outages at some service providers provide at least the appearance of growing equipment problems. 

Budget cuts are expected to continue. Sondergaard said that enterprise IT spending worldwide is expected to decline by about 6.8 percent this year, and won't return to 2008 levels until 2012. "The IT market is exiting its worst year ever," he added. Gartner estimates that 2009 worldwide enterprise IT spending will total some $2.3 trillion compared to $2.5 trillion in 2008.

Randy George, information services manager, at the Osceola County Schools in Florida, said the time for replacing the department's main computer system is fast approaching. George has been meeting a vendor about upgrading the IBM System I, "but whether we will have the funds for it is questionable," he said.

The IBM server is four years old, and five years is an ideal replacement point, said George. It's not hardware reliability that's a concern, but its ability to keep up with growing demands. The school district has been adding more applications to the System I while the demands on the hardware also grow. The school system has 53,000 students and some 7,000 employees, he added.

"There have been a couple of times where we have peaked its capacity," said George. If system capacity isn't increased, then "the users may just have to live with a little less service than what they are use to."

Gene Hall, Gartner CEO, said that while IT managers are planning for growth, "they don't expect to see everything back to normal in 2010," he said.