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.

Expanding Your View of the Enterprise Desktop to Drive Better Performance

Today’s workforce is now productive in places and during times it previously was not. No longer deskbound, employees are conducting important business from the train, the coffee shop line and their hotel room. This shift in how we work has increasingly necessitated a shift in how we view enterprise computing. The “desktop” as we know it is still here, but it now has siblings in the form of smartphones and tablets. And they can all coexist in one happy family if your organisation plans its desktop strategy with a holistic approach. We talk to Peter Stein, General Manager of Licensing at Datacom, about how organisations can expand their view of the enterprise desktop to drive better productivity and performance across the organisation.

Q: There’s been a lot of talk in the media in Australia and beyond about the “end of the desktop” to make way for a tablet/laptop/smartphone-filled workforce. Is the desktop ending or just taking a new shape?

A: By no means is the desktop dead. It won’t be as prevalent, but it does still have a spot in today’s workforce. For office-bound workers, it is still a very effective tool to complete routine work in a standard work environment. The functionality allows a user to effectively create and complete tasks. One of the points that I see as still key to this style of work is the number of people who use other devices but then come into the office environment to dock their other device to something that allows them access to a larger screen and a full keyboard and mouse.

Now to look at the benefits of new devices, individuals get to couple their work styles with devices that match their needs. As we become a more connected world, we can manage our work-life balance by connecting when it makes sense. To maximise this connectivity, tools are being built with similar features for multiple devices. The more common the interface, the easier it is for the user to maximise the tool on that device.

Q: What does the future look like to you in terms of device use and workplace arrangements (remote work, BYOD, hot desking, etc.)?

A: The appy world is our new reality. Businesses are building-customer facing and internal apps to allow business flexibility. Users from the CEO-level and down are demanding access to tools through multiple devices, and the vendors are moving their software to the cloud and consumption models. From a pure IT perspective, this is creating a security paradigm for the IT team. As purchase and admin control for consumption-based apps sit in teams that are not focused on security, the business needs to still have tools in place to understand what is being used where and the implications of the data available on these apps.

The future will show multiple form factors either as BYOD or company-provisioned hardware that will run a company-managed Endpoint Management Solution that can provide complete device lifecycle management. Datacom’s Managed End Point solution, for instance, not only allows for management and troubleshooting of IT functions, but also ensures that endpoints remain compliant with internal and external standards.

Q: Why has there been resistance from some organisations to relinquish their hold on the traditional desktop and incorporate a wider range of devices?

A: I would not call it resistance. Initially, organisations are looking to maximise their investment, and in their current refresh cycle, they are building out plans on how to make use of the new world of connected devices. Organisations have to carefully look at how they are going to manage this not only from a support perspective but also in terms of data security and user IP. There is a dynamic shift from a managed device and applications that have been vetted by IT to a more open framework, which creates challenges ranging from support to ownership.

Q: What’s the benefit to organisations in re-envisioning desktop strategy?

A: I went to a traditional games arcade with my 5-year-old son and he saw Pac-Man. He immediately went to the screen and started trying to direct the game with his fingers rather than using the controls available. Today’s new design will mean that not only will we be able to be more mobile, but things we have not yet envisioned will become common place in the coming years. To date, the games market has broken frontiers on touch, and the enterprise is only now beginning to build touch-based applications to improve performance and productivity.

Q: What are some of the first things organisations need to consider when rethinking their desktop strategy to incorporate a wider range of devices and work situations?

A: The move to devices should not be seen as a large leap. It is incorporating touch into the organisation. The main consideration is for any legacy applications and how they will resolve touch. If these devices are company-provisioned, the normal vetting of the devices will occur through IT. Where the device is BYOD, the organisation needs to decide if they are going to deliver the app natively or through a virtual environment.

License to Sell: 5 Signs You’re Working with the Best Microsoft Licensing Reseller for Your Business

Handled internally, software licensing becomes a constant headache for the IT department: contracts scattered amongst various managers’ desktops and filing cabinets, lapses in upgrades and vital security patches, increased likelihood of failing an audit…the list is endless.

Handled externally with the right Microsoft licensing reseller, all of these software licensing issues should be concerns of the past. Before signing on the dotted line — or, preferably, during the discovery phase —, be sure the Microsoft licensing reseller you’re considering offers these must-haves.

1. Microsoft-authorised software licensing reseller status. There are both practical and compliance reasons this is a top point to consider. Software licensing can involve purchasing a large volume of Microsoft licensing for servers, end-users and IT employees, along with meeting compliance and audit guidelines. Having an experienced and accredited Microsoft licensing reseller managing your software licensing investment will minimise your business risk. Having one reseller managing all of your Microsoft licencing and expirations will streamline an incredibly cumbersome manual software licensing process and ensure you remain compliant throughout the agreement term.

2. Demonstrable cost savings and value. Although resellers may share price sheets that show substantial discounts by purchasing Microsoft licensing through them rather than if you just purchased software licensing per machine, also known as an OEM license, their surcharges may render the discounts a moot point. Conduct the analysis to determine whether the reseller will produce true ROI, not just in price savings but in ongoing support. Ask for the complete quote, including any potential fees and what the costs are for value-added services you might want to use, such as desktop support and deployment.

3. A local presence. To ensure your organisation is working with a Microsoft licensing reseller that can help with in-person evaluation of software licensing needs, select a provider with an established local office. This local accessibility adds convenience and comfort that a large Microsoft licensing reseller with distant offices and faceless consultants can’t provide. Getting personalised service from Microsoft licensing expert near you will help you feel like you’re making the best software licensing decisions for your specific business needs.

4. Knowledge of where Microsoft licensing applies — and what approach maximises value. Microsoft licensing requirements vary by seat, server, processor and a host of other possibilities  and they often change with every new release. For example, Windows Server was once licensed according to the number of servers needed. But Windows Server 2012 is now licensed per physical processor, including a Client Access License CAL (Client Access License) that applies to each user or device accessing the server. Additionally, one license applies to two processors. Your reseller must be able to evaluate the best Microsoft licensing setup to allow for growth while reigning in expenses.

5. Value-added desktop services. Come April 8, 2014, Microsoft will officially shut down Windows XP and Office 2003 support. If your organisation relies on this operating system, finding a reseller that can assist in each step of your upgrade to Windows 8 (or to Windows 7, then to Windows 8) will protect business operations and ensure stable continuity. A true valued-added software licensing reseller will offer desktop deployment and support, hardware procurement and software asset management in addition to your standard Microsoft licensing needs to guide you to your next OS.

Even if software licensing is just one part of your business, it’s a big part. Choosing the right Microsoft licensing reseller can transform licensing from a daily headache into a long-term strategic investment that drives business value.

Highlights of our Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 Event with Microsoft

With Windows Server 2012 seven weeks out in the market and Windows 8 due for release Friday, Datacom this morning hosted an informational event on both products for enterprise customers at the Microsoft Australia headquarters just outside Sydney.

Microsoft IT Pro Evangelist Jeff Alexander gave an overview and live demo of the features of both products. A full video of Jeff’s presentation will be available next week (find out how to get a copy at the end of this post). For the time-being, here are some of the highlights of the Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 event.

Windows Server 2012 

  • Allows scaling and securing of workloads through a multi-tenant infrastructure
  • Automation enabled across the data centre through cross-platform capabilities
  • Active Directory is at the core of what Windows Server 2012 offers, enabling large-scale cloud deployments
  • Offers a complete virtualisation platform, with the ability to do network virtualisation as well
  • Unlimited ability to do live migrations
  • More virtual machine storage without downtime
  • Windows Server 2012 has 64 virtual processers per VM compared with four in Windows Server 2008 R2
  • Users can still access workloads on original host while moving VM data to a single location
  • Failure recovery happens in minutes and there is secure replication across networks
  • New local Resilient File System (ReFS) increases data availability and scalability, offers rapid recovery and is resilient to power outages

Windows 8

  • Windows 8 is an attempt to answer to the “blurring” of work and life and BYOD
  • Made for touch, but users can still use a keyboard and mouse
  • Devices optimised for Windows 8 will be available on the OS’s release date Friday — there will be midnight sales through select hardware vendors
  • All apps are front and centre, can be squashed to allow for a smaller, longer view of the app stream
  • Segmented by Start, the apps used every day, News and Games

To sign up for a link to a video of the full presentation on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012, enter your details into the contact form in this link.

What are you eager to learn about Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012?

2 Things to Consider When Upgrading to Windows 8

Love it or leave it, Windows 8 is almost here. Some love its new look and feel – the touch-enabled tiles especially –, while others prefer to stick with Windows XP and Windows 7 for now.

Organisations will largely base their decision on whether or not to upgrade to Windows 8 from Windows 7, Windows XP or another operating system on budget and how the new OS benefits their specific business. For those considering the leap, two of the most important factors to weigh include hardware and Windows 8 training for you workforce.

1. The right hardware 

Reportedly, Windows 8 will work with any hardware that can run Windows 7. That doesn’t mean, however, that everything will be compatible between Windows 7 and Windows 8 (Windows XP will prove trickier, as told in this PCWorld piece). Certain applications and hardware drivers might be incompatible; identifying Windows 8 compatibility with networking hardware will be crucial.

If you’re doing a hardware refresh without migrating to Windows 8 right now, but are considering it for the future, look into laptops or desktops offering ten-point touch to make the transition from Windows 7 or Windows XP easier. Datacom’shardware procurement services can help you purchase and acquire the compatible hardware for Windows 8.

2. Training time and resources

Because it’s a touch-first operating system, Windows 8 will likely require considerable more training for new users than Windows 7 or Windows XP. Some reports estimate that it will cost hundreds of dollars per user each day to train employees for Windows 8. Remember, too, that usability goes beyond the basics. Employees should be as productive on Windows 8 as they were on Windows XP or Windows 7.

Organisations must determine how much budget, time and staff they need to train the entire workforce (and don’t base it on how long it took to train employees for Windows 7 or Windows XP). They should measure how long it will take to get back to the productivity levels seen with Windows 7 or Windows XP and ensure they can account for downtime. A phased approach to deployment, a pilot user group and training materials will likely contribute to a successful Windows 8 training and deployment.

Ensuring you have support, whether from the internal IT department or an external IT provider or both, will factor largely into the success of your Windows 8 deployment. An IT provider like Datacom can help plan and roll out your Windows 8 deployment, provide licensing expertise related to software used for Windows 8 and offer desktop support post-deployment.

Attention Sydney readers: Datacom and Microsoft are hosting a free informational session on Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012 this Wednesday, 24th October, at 8:30 a.m. at the Microsoft offices in North Ryde. If you’re interested in attending the event or receiving the post-event materials, fill out the contact form at the right of this blog post.