Dumping Your Old PCs

By Marc Jacobson

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As doubts continue to cloud the value of major technology initiatives such as supply chain and CRM projects, the desktop infrastructure of many organizations is suffering from years of neglect.

Unnecessary diversity in hardware configurations, aging and unsecured PCs and limited adoption of software deployment tools are significantly impacting overhead IT costs and hampering worker productivity.

This statement may seem obvious to a CIO, but in an economic climate where many organizations are facing shrinking profit margins, the upfront costs of updating a desktop infrastructure and establishing a regular PC refresh cycle are difficult to justify.

Perhaps your CFO should consider this data:

  • Savings of up to $350 per PC per year in support costs can be obtained by reducing operating system diversity.
  • Removing a single hardware configuration can reduce the TCO by $12/year for every PC in the installed base. (Removing ten configurations can save ten times that amount.)
  • Reduction in support costs of between $100 and $200 per PC per year can be achieved by removing PCs that are three years old or older from the installed base.
  • In addition to these direct benefits, utilizing defined refresh cycles results in increased simplicity and standardization in an IT environment and will also generate a host of indirect benefits that include:

  • Building the necessary hardware and software security foundation for providing best-practice security management.
  • Freeing IT support staff from low-value-add maintenance tasks, allowing them to address more important business needs.
  • Providing more reliable, available and responsive PCs to end-users.
  • Organizations that are interested in achieving the positive results outlined above should employ a four pronged approach:

    Reduce Diversity in the Installed Based. The number of unique hardware configurations in a PC fleet has a dramatic impact on both deployment and operational costs.

    Similarly, support costs increase in direct proportion to the number of operating systems that an IT department supports. Minimizing the number of unique hardware configurations and standardizing on just two Microsoft Windows operating system versions -- the latest ("N") and prior ("N-1") versions -- is a powerful way to reduce PC-related operating costs.

    Implement a Proactive Refresh Cycle for PCs. A three-year desktop refresh cycle (with one-third of the machines being replaced each year) strikes the optimal TCO balance between amortizing hardware costs and increasing support costs for most companies.

    Additionally, proactively refreshing the oldest third of the installed base each year is an easy, yet cost effective way to reduce hardware and operating system diversity. It is also the least expensive way to deploy new technology, and to support adjustment of the desktop/laptop mix.

    Leverage the Refresh Cycle to Enhance Security. Companies need to prove due diligence in IT security management -- not only to protect themselves, but increasingly as a legal, audit and regulatory requirement.

    Strategic management of the PC installed base is an effective approach to building a strong security foundation in a cost-effective manner.

    Use Tools to Lower Migration and Management Costs. Proactive refresh of operating systems and hardware may raise migration cost concerns. However, new applications compatibility support and new tools for configuration and deployment have dramatically reduced migration effort.

    In addition, migration costs can be quickly recouped from operational savings flowing from improved management tools.

    Theodore Forbath is chief strategist & practice leader with Wipro Technologies and leads its Product Strategy and Architecture (PSA) Practice. Marc Jacobson is a business consultant with Wipro's PSA practice.