5 Tips for Using a Holistic Strategy to Improve your Next Desktop Upgrade

By Peter Stein

Standardisation is no longer the name of the game when it comes to enterprise desktop upgrades. Today’s workforce is more dynamic, working in individualistic ways and often away from the office. A standard PC configuration will no longer cut it for a diverse mix of mobile, remote and desktop-bound workers. Nor will it work for your IT department, which will be inundated with requests for productivity apps, personal device connectivity or access to cloud-based tools. Whereas these areas used to sit in disparate places in the business, they are now integrated under the umbrella of “enterprise desktop”.

Your next desktop upgrade will take a deeper, more holistic strategy that accounts for the varied and complex needs of your workforce whilst ensuring the IT department can do its job effectively. Consider these tips for plotting your enterprise desktop upgrade and preparing your organisation for a more evolved, interconnected future.

1. Consider new tools and technologies

Different devices are no longer roadblocks to delivering applications through IT. Application virtualisation and virtual desktop infrastructure mean software can now be separated from the device hardware and operating system, which reduces compatibility issues. Gartner expects cloud computing, hosted desktops and application virtualisation to become more common and offer organisations more choice when it comes to enterprise desktop computing.

2. Think about the user

And, for the record, you have more than one type. Identifying user personas is crucial for taking a more holistic approach to enterprise desktop strategy. You can get there with some basic questions around usage patterns. How many of your workers are in the office most days of the week vs. which ones are on the road, for instance? What types of content do different departments create or consume? Perhaps the sales team gets the tablets whilst the knowledge workers stick with laptops, desktops or thin clients. Whatever your workforce split, there’s a technology — or technologies you can combine — to align with these disparate user types.

3. Investigate your hardware and software assets

If you already have a solid asset tracking program in place, this part won’t be as cumbersome. If you don’t, this exercise will make you strongly consider one. Before you get started on your enterprise desktop upgrade, you must know which applications and hardware you have. This will help you not only discover software that’s not being used — a potential cost savings —, but should also provide you with tools to better distribute current resources, identify areas for new investment and give you an understanding of where new applications and computing devices would benefit your organisation.

4. Know how these assets are being used

After you know what you have, you can start seeing exactly how it’s being used. For instance, you’ll be able to learn connectivity patterns — has VPN become more popular, for instance? —, how devices map to computing usage and which devices should be added (thin clients, for example) or retired in the future and whether virtual desktop infrastructure might be a wise investment.

5. Create an integrated management toolset

Varied devices, applications and user needs can quickly make IT management chaotic. Centralising management, security and application delivery across both physical and virtual end user devices can help simplify the IT environment. This centralised management approach will also help IT quickly provision desktop services, no matter the device, that map to the user need and profile. On the software front, having an app store or catalogue can help ease the delivery of applications in new desktop environments.

Gartner has said that organisations will increasingly be bound less and less by hardware and operating systems and eventually be able to cost-effectively deliver applications to any device. They recommend a 10-year enterprise desktop strategy so that organisations can poise themselves to take advantage of future technology developments that can add more business value. As organisations get more enterprise desktop choice, it makes sense to talk out your strategy with an IT provider that can help source, integrate and implement tools and services that will maximise your desktop computing environment now and down the road.

Peter Stein is General Manager of Licensing for Datacom, a role in which he is focussed on nationalising and growing the licensing practice. He is an experienced IT channel professional with leadership experience in sales, marketing and product management. He has managed diverse teams and contributed to the growth of the companies with which he has worked.

4 Questions to Ask as You Plan to Upgrade from Windows XP and Office 2003

Do you know how much is at stake if your organisation loses data due to insufficient Windows XP or Office 2003 security updates or support? Take our risk assessment to learn.

Thirty per cent of SMEs are still running Windows XP and Office 2003 — and almost half don’t know support for both of these products will end in less than a year.

While you can still run Windows XP and Office 2003, you will no longer receive security updates or support after April 8, 2014. Even if you plan to upgrade to the new Office 2013 now, it’s not compatible with Windows XP. With these pressing security and compatibility issues,plotting your migration strategy now will help protect your business from risk of data loss and downtime. Here are some questions to ask to begin executing your Windows XP and Office 2003 upgrade plan.

1. Are my applications compatible? Prior to upgrading from Windows XP, you will need to see if your software will be compatible with your new operating system, whether it’s Windows 7 or Windows 8. That’s a process you don’t want to hold off on until right before you upgrade, as it can lead to significant downtime if it turns out that your apps aren’t compatible. And it’s not just Microsoft apps you have to worry about — explore the relationship with the apps you use that rely on the underlying Windows operating system and plan for remediation and compatibility testing.

2. Does my hardware fit? If you’re upgrading your operating system, you should consider if your workstations are optimised or whether you need to arrange for procurement of new ones. Knowing the hardware you will need now will help in forecasting your budget and also guide decisions around whether hosting certain applications in the cloud makes better sense.

3. Is it time to incorporate additional desktop services? Don’t narrow your Windows XP upgrade scope to just an operating system refresh. You could also use the occasion to take advantage of software asset management, volume licensing services and desktop support. Incorporating these services into your desktop migration strategy could help lower total cost of ownership, reduce business risk and improve IT management.

4. What user training will I need to conduct? If you’re upgrading to Windows 7 or 8 or Office Standard 2013, you’ll need to make sure your end users get up to speed before completing deployment. Choosing a few evangelists to test-pilot the new products and then arranging for training and post-deployment support through a managed services provider can ensure a streamlined approach.

To help you transition out of Windows XP, Office 2003 or both, Datacom is offering four different discounts on select Microsoft products, including Windows 8, if you purchase by June 21. We can also help your organisation take advantage of holistic desktop services to streamline your deployment and align your desktop strategy with your business needs.

The Real Reasons PC Sales are Dropping – and Why It’s Not the End of the Enterprise Desktop

IDC just announced that global PC sales are down for the second year in a row, with enterprise desktop sales in particular to get hit especially hard  by 4.2 per cent compared to the overall 1.3 per cent PC slump. These statistics buoy the anti-enterprise desktop brigade, which is rallying for tablets and mobile devices to replace the workplace PC. But mobility is only part of the poor PC purchases picture, and it’s not even for the reason many people assume. Here are some of the factors contributing to the drop in enterprise desktop sales  and why the trend likely doesn’t signal the end of the PC.

Waiting for the new OS upgrade

We’re a year away from the end of support for Windows XP, yet it’s still too early for many organisations to procure new PC hardware to accompany a refresh, which is likely why IDC has said it expects enterprise desktop sales to begin bouncing back in the second half of 2013. Whilst this might be the case for upgrades to Windows 7, Datacom has found that some organisations already using that OS are waiting to see if Windows 8 adoption increases amongst enterprises. If it doesn’t, these organisations might skip Windows 8 altogether and hold on to Windows 7 or wait for the next OS, reported to be called Windows Blue and due for release mid-year. These scenarios will all contribute to whether the IDC’s prediction of resumed positive PC growth for 2014 to 2017 will in fact come true.

Mobility first  but not in place of enterprise desktops

IDC has reported that mobility is factoring into declining PC sales, but it’s more because organisations are choosing to buy enterprise mobile devices before, not in place of, new enterprise desktops. Instead of taking a side in enterprise desktop vs. mobile, organisations are attempting to have a well-rounded device profile that incorporates PCs, tablets and phones. It makes sense then that they’d hold onto their current enterprise desktops until an OS upgrade forces them to refresh, choosing instead to stockpile less costly enterprise mobile devices to be used for optimised capabilities such as answering emails and video and audio conferencing. A separate IDC report shows organisations are still favouring enterprise desktops, particularly laptop PCs, to both create and consume content.

Enduring PC processing speeds

recent PCWorld column posits that desktop sales are declining because CPU performance has reached a point where it is fast enough for average users to be able to use their PCs for twice as long as the old three-year refresh standard suggests. This has to do with both the evolution of processing speeds and more resource-intensive processes or applications shifting from being desktop-based to being delivered through cloud computing. Organisations where the bulk of PC users rely on their enterprise desktops for email or business applications  and even some of these might be cloud-based or accessed mostly from mobile devices — won’t require as regular upgrades to PCs with faster CPU performance. Their enterprise desktops will continue to perform better for longer.

Are you planning an enterprise desktop refresh in the coming year, or are your prioritising the procurement of mobile devices over PCs for your organisation?