We know from readers of the Register that the age of desktop estates vary greatly, not just between different organisations, but in many cases also inside them. We have also uncovered evidence (in our soon-to-be-published desktop report), that there is a firm link between user satisfaction and perception of good IT service with …
Age of kit/satisfaction
"We have also uncovered evidence (in our soon-to-be-published desktop report), that there is a firm link between user satisfaction and perception of good IT service with desktop and laptop kit that users consider ‘old’."
What way does the correlation run?
i would hazard a guess that the "older" the kit, the more crappy the percieved IT service?
nice shiney shiney new toys, user is happy. old kit encrusted with coffee rings and dust, users not impressed.
If it ain't broke ...
Generally the only thing old kit needs in order to revive it is a complete wipe of the disk and reinstall (preferably with rigid and impenetrable security measures) of the O/S, patches and a clean installation of the applications the users need. Although, since the disk and fan(s) are the most significant moving parts in any PC, it makes sense to swap these out and give the inside a good blast of compressed air while you've got the PC in the "shop", too.
Even better, while any given user has their system away for maintenance, make 'em do their job the manual way. You remember: with paper, pens, phone-calls, no internet access and so-on. Then when their PC finally comes back, they'll really appreciate just how much help it gives them.
We're trying to extend the life of ours, and maybe even do away with them altogether.
Our current major project within IT is setting up a VDI infrastructure, with virtual client desktops for use firstly as personal remote access environments, but secondly as physical desktop replacements. The idea is that the performance will be good enough that the capabilities of the actual PC on the desk won't matter. This will allow us to stop buying new kit and re-use the old stuff that had been taken away for being too slow.
There was also some talk of doing away with desktops altogether in the future, in favour of thin client 'nettops'.
Working for an IT security reseller, we've got to get on with rolling out Win 7 and Server 2008 so that we can test all the new functionality, as I type this I am doing so on the first production Win 7 system (my laptop). So far we think we can migrate all of our circa-three-year-old XP systems to 7 with minimal hardware spend, a box of additional DIMMs should be enough. Of course is this were Vista we were talking about we'd probably look at upgrading everything!
The difficulty with upgrading IT equipment, or more accurately, the desktop estate is that most financial departments in most organisations will have purchased said kit with Capex thus rendering a desktop or laptop as a financial asset with the standard six year life, of course we know the working life of any system is usually limited to about three or four! That means you've got to squeeze every last of drop of life from the IT until you can upgrade.
Usual drivers for an expansive upgrade are usually discontinuation of existing hardware or software, the arrival of new hardware or software, usually in the form of an OS upgrade. However with Win 7 there's not such a huge leap in hardware requirements as there has been before, the difference between what you need and what you have is getting smaller.
I find what normally brings about the upgrade seachange is the sales and senior management who will at least say that the quality of their laptop matters when they've got to take it onsite. As they're also the most heavy users of their systems it'll be those two departments who have a constant trickle of new systems coming in and eventually setting a new high standard the rest of the company then begins to adopt.
Like most aspects of desktop support the spend on internal hardware is seen as a low priority, more often that no if there's no difinitive reason to push a hardware refresh you'll need to wait for a natural progression.
Way behind the bleeding edge
I'm inclined to stay with a stable system until it either goes up in smoke and I need new hardware or I absolutely have to use an application that can't run on the hardware or OS.
Grabbing the bleeding edge just because it's newer and shinier isn't my style.
In retail IT support
we keep flogging each and every horse till it's dead, dead, dead.
@ If it ain't broke ...
Hose down the crap & re-install, fit an efficient quiet PSU & chuck out any noisy cooling fans, its amazing what a bit of compressed air can do as well,
If it rotates, its going to fail one day!
Organise the budget first
Our breakthrough on desktop refresh came with the introduction of a ring fenced renewal fund for all Pcs and printers. Users effectively rent their estate from IT. That makes a planned rolling refresh possible; simplifies the practice of cascading older stock to light users; stops cash strapped departments holding on to old kit that takes disproportionate support.
We have had to hold off again...
We *were* planning on a general refresh with W7 - until we tested the release version in real life. Killer problems include:
- it gets slower and slower. Each program that is added seems to have a multiplicative affect.
- suspend/resume and hibernate/resume are broken compared with XP. Devices connected by USB or by Firewire do not resume state properly. This is not recoverable-from so requires a reboot.
- following on from the above, uplugging a non-resumed device reliably blue-screens and crashes to reboot the system. Oops.
So no-go, sorry, XP stays for now...
GNU/Linux on Thin Clients
If it is five years old or older consider using it as a thin client. Replace all dead machines with new thin clients. Use simple X window system for all thin clients on the LAN. Replace all ten year old machines that have managed to survive with new thin clients because their hardware is becoming hard to drive.
Replace/repair/update all servers every few years. That is where the performance is kept.
With this recipe we get state-of-the-art performance at least cost and we do not have to do anything special because Wintel wants it. We may start using ARM thin clients this year.
Refreshing? - try Sinking...
Working for small struggling webdev agency means there's never a "plan" to upgrade hardware, it's more a case of who shouts loudest and moans the most.
The accounts dept. just soldier on with old beige boxes - our customer base are all totally clueless for the most part, so there's no impact.
In the studio, however, we seem to exist in a never ending cycle of hardware related unhappiness. Even one of the Mac users - traditionally easy to please - is pissed off because they've got one of the grotty 21" iMacs with it's "home user" quality monitor. You know the ones - where a solid colour looks like a gradient.
The resident socially inept hypocondriac coke-bottle-glasses wearing, caffine swilling, "If I didn't program it, it's rubbish", Linux t-shirt wearing, rude and untrustworthy programming twat doesn't count, because he's a Marter and a smart-arse nobody likes.
"I can run cutting edge debian testing on this old abacus in the corner"
"Linux is brilliant because we can keep our old hardware running until it catches fire"
What he doesn't realise is that the boss remembers this, so when it comes to deciding which lucky person gets an upgrade, he gets ignored. (can you tell I think he's a dickhead?)
After two years of constant bargaining, I finally got a rig with about half the power of my home file server. It has a Dell badge on it. It *had* Vista on it. It's a PC fit for a nail-varnish applying, facebook obsessed, talks-non-stop receptionist.
I struggle to run XP pro.
Virtual machine? Pah, try Virtual standstill !
What are we doing about refreshing the PC estate?
Right now, we're all wondering if were going to have jobs in the next 6 months, hardware is the least of our problems.
Ahhh, but what about the network refresh necessary to allow your thin clients to work. And how are you using Windows servers over X11? You sure you're not using RDP or VNC (apologies in advance if you are a UNIX shop), which have a significant overhead over X11.
We're supposed to be replacing XP with Vista as we speak, fortunatly the recession came along and paniked everyone out of spending on a new OS rollout. Its been pushed back to Win 7 in Q1-2 2010 (thank god). however I'm not sure how that'll go down on the ancient NX8220's and 7010 laptops that we've still got out in the wild.
I suspect that they'll be bothed on for the sake of completeness and then we'll find that mysterious accidents happen to the worst ones until everyone is on relatively new kit.
Not an option
... when some of the kit you have to maintain pre-dates DOS and loads its program from 'high speed' cassette tape. We do whatever we can to baby this stuff along. In a number of cases, the day we fail is the day those companies go bust - so no pressure then.
On a budget as always.
Both my corporate offices always get the latest kit. Typically HP Dc7900 SFF PC's.
However i have nearly 20 locations world wide now that still have old Compaq D500's. Hundreds and hundreds of them. But they just wont die. So last year rather than spending a huge amount of money, we upgraded every single one to 1GB of RAM, and a new fast 7200rpm hard disk. Complete with a new fresh image of XP.
The old Compaqs work like a dream, and handle most tasks thrown at them, even though they are 8yrs old.
Plus older CPU's with big thick Heatsinks are not as badly effected by dust as news CPU's with micro-thin heatsinks that need blowing out with compressed air every six months.
If it aint broke, why fix it.
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