“The desktop is dead” is a phrase that I’ve heard for years – yet desktops are still the most prevalent computing technology in the corporate world. Having said that, the desktop is in significant decline in favour of trends such as VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), tablet PCs and other “smart” methods that allow us to conduct our daily working activities.

In mid 2012, the prediction that Apple would outsell PCs globally in the near future was made – but only with mild conviction. Less than 18 months later, Apple achieved this feat.

Managing PCs has always been painful, and even with today’s ever-changing business environment; the traditional approach to computing is still being applied. It usually consists of desktop personal computers or laptops and for the power user, a workstation.

Traditional computing platforms can be very difficult for end users and IT to manage, and the integrity of the data is not necessarily backed up or secure. This increasingly worsens due to continual application upgrades, operating system patches and anti-threat updates.

An example of a management headache might be the use of .pst files and local “My Documents”. Users can archive emails and save documents to a machine and in the event of failure, data restore is not always straightforward, and it may be that the data is non-retrievable. The implications of such data loss results in management, security and support costs far greater than the original hardware purchase price.

Data loss either through device failure or loss of equipment cannot truly be measured by a monetary value – but what price do you associate with the negative impact on a brand? Data loss has become a major factor for organisations, which fear that their security or data loss breaches may make them tomorrow’s front-page news story. These issues are also driving organisations to rethink their approach to end user devices and data access.

Business today requires a sophisticated approach to end-user device selection – which needs to match user job requirements. To ensure full value is obtained from the end-user, information access and mobile needs are of paramount importance. With so many up-and-coming client-computing technologies available, now is the time to review them prior to any desktop refresh cycle.

Enterprise corporate IT must be aware of all the alternatives available in the market, and make selections appropriate to the needs of the user base. This will require increased due diligence to gain an appropriate understanding and development of new technical skills.

Whilst alternative computing models have been evaluated in the past, it is fair to say that they have often been considered as a “passing technology” or not applicable to the enterprise business. As a result, mainstream acceptance has not been attained. New device options will not only help IT organisations further trim operational costs, but also provide additional value in the form of improved information productivity.

The ultimate challenge for any technology or solution is to provide equal or better end-user experience in the work environment, whilst also meeting corporate and regulatory requirements, such as securing corporate, physical and intellectual assets.

The objectives for any corporate is to be able to implement a client compute infrastructure with significantly reduced operational costs and greater flexibility to lines of business and end-users. A top priority of that model (if not the top priority) is to ensure a consistent user experience is delivered to the end-user, in the most appropriate manner and at the lowest management cost.

The underlying nature of the device, applications and data access will depend on the role and requirements of the end user, the access point and the most efficient approach to managing the infrastructure.

A lack of IT support at branch office level usually requires that there must be sufficient remote support capability to ensure maximum productivity in the event of a failure at a site. Not having local IT support representation can lead to lengthened resolution, resulting in productivity loss.

To prevent these losses, management costs can easily run to thousands of pounds per PC per each year, negating the initial “cheap unit purchase price”. In large organisations with thousands or tens of thousands of PCs, this represents a significant expense.

An optimised estate could cut operational costs by benefiting from the following potential cost reductions:

  • Cut desktop support costs by 40%
  • Cut service desk support costs by 30%
  • Reduce software deployment costs by 50%
  • Eliminate the facilities desktop moves – 100% saving on current costs
  • Reduce build complexity by 90%
  • Reduce desktop power costs by 50%.

At a technology level: machine virtualisation, application virtualisation, application streaming, application delivery, environment management, connection brokering and template-based provisioning are combined as appropriate. These technologies contribute towards creating the following desktop types:

  • State-less PCs
  • State-less hosted virtual desktops
  • State-full hosted virtual desktops
  • Server-based computing architectures
  • Laptop and mobile management.

In summary, the needs diversification is driving a “right device – right job” approach. Some of the administrative benefit and potential cost savings derive from designing a truly device agnostic environment. Surveying end users is a necessary step to determine which of the available technologies will meet their needs and enhance their work capabilities.