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Identifying the hidden costs of desktop management

Several desktop expenses lurk beneath the enterprise's surface. Factoring these often overlooked or ignored costs into your budget may improve ROI.

Most IT managers are well aware of the upfront expenses of deploying and maintaining enterprise desktops. However, there are several costs that they often overlook or ignore. These hidden expenditures lead to a disparity between how much is budgeted and how much is actually needed. Once revealed, they can be a catalyst for upgrades, enhancements and other projects that help improve return on investment and reduce the total cost of ownership.

To better understand the hidden cost of desktop management, it's important to first define the obvious expenses. These costs include the purchase price of the desktop, the price of deployment, the price of associated service contracts and the cost of the operating system and desktop applications. These expenses are used to determine a basic cost of ownership and create budgets for desktop refreshes and deployments.

But there are many other costs associated with the typical desktop. They include the following:

  • Non-energy-efficient desktops 
  • Unmanaged desktop use 
  • Help desk and service requests 
  • Standalone security products 
  • Extended desktop life cycles 
  • Locally stored data

Old desktops
Everyone knows that desktops have electrical costs associated with them. Few people, however, realize how much control they have over energy use. What's more, these expenses are usually associated with facilities and not IT operations, so they are often ignored as an element of desktop management.

Today's desktops offer highly efficient power supplies, low-power-usage CPUs and Energy Star-capable chipsets. As a result, although these desktops may cost more initially, they can save an organization a great deal in the long run. When buying new desktops, the power supplies should have an 80 Plus Platinum Energy Star rating.

Unmanaged desktop use
Most organizations use PCs for less than a third of the business day. But these machines are on 24/7 so they can be managed in the off hours or simply because users don't shut them down.

Employing desktop management systems with energy-saving technologies -- such as automatically shutting down desktops, placing PCs in hibernation or sleep mode when not actively used, or waking PCs up for maintenance -- can save an organization a significant amount of money. What's more, the additional costs of management can be quickly offset by the power savings realized.

Help desk requests
In some cases, help desk and service requests related to faulty components or misuse can be mitigated. On the other hand, an improved management system and more resilient or secure equipment may be a more cost-effective option.

Standalone security products
Many organizations have moved to centrally managed, network-based security, but some still rely on standalone tools that need to be installed on desktops. In these cases, desktop security can be expensive, especially if it entails installation and maintenance by IT. A centralized security product can incorporate additional security features such as data leakage protection and compliance controls. It can also can reduce operational expenses and prevent unforeseen expenses created by security problems.

Extending desktop lifecycles
Most IT departments focus on the perceived savings of delaying a desktop refresh cycle. In the short term, this reduces capital expenditures (no desktop purchases) and operational expenditures (no deployment costs). But when you factor in the costs of replacement parts as warranties expire, extending service contracts, more frequent support requests, traditional software and application maintenance, and lost productivity, the savings is null.

Locally stored data
To maintain desktop integrity and properly support end users, local data must be backed up and be readily available for restoration. This task requires significant resources, including protected storage space, a mechanism for backup and a management element. In addition, users, IT workers and help desk personnel need to know how to back up and restore data, what data is appropriate to store locally, and how that data should be managed. You may also have to address concerns about regulatory compliance, data leakage and the migration of data to new platforms.

These concerns are often ignored because of the complexities of data backup and integrating technologies. To offset the costs associated with locally stored data, new technologies can be deployed to automate the process, eliminate the capability to store data locally or offer a hybrid approach where data is replicated.

Many problems can arise from the hidden costs of desktop management. But if you consider these often overlooked or ignored expenses, you can come up with a plan to mitigate these costs and hopefully drive up the value of technology -- and the IT department.

Frank Ohlhorst is an IT journalist who has also served as a network administrator and applications programmer before forming his own computer consulting firm.

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