How do you save your company money? That's easy. Stop buying desktops every few years. Sounds simple, but there is a problem-- users seem to need workstations to do work. The answer comes in the "Bring your own computer" policy you are seeing implemented at many of the mid to large size firms around the world. BYOC comes in many different flavors, but the most common seems to be companies setting a price point for computers, somewhere in the $1,200 range, and then giving employees that much of a stipend and having them go buy whatever they want. If they find a good deal they will get a better machine, or use some of their own money and buy something more powerful.
The problems with this concept are rather significant.
- Users will tell anyone who asks that they are not computer savvy and want the "Help Desk" to fix their computers. Non-standardized hardware creates headaches for IT departments.
- Company data will be held on computers that users own.
- New employees need computers as soon as they start. Do you want to give new employee a large sum of money not knowing if they will remain with the company?
While it seems that BYOC could save your company money, it also adds lots of risk. That is why companies have to find a middle ground solution. For most companies, a best-fit solution is to combine a virtual infrastructure with a restricted BYOC policy and the use of thin clients. Let me explain why.
Using virtual desktops allows companies to control the user experience for all business applications. Your company can now provide a machine with the basic operating system, productivity applications, and business applications needed within a single window. Most companies have multiple systems that need to be accessible from the internet and open security holes. With virtual desktops all those applications would be getting accessed through the internal network with only a few standard ports being open to the internet. This extra protection is sure to be one item that your board members will like to hear about. Virtual desktops also keep the data off the users computers and allow your company to maintain a backup of the data through the same methods IT departments use to maintain backups of server data.
Then, addressing another big concern; how not to give a new employee a large sum of money towards a computer without the risk of them leaving within a few weeks or months. This is where thin clients fit perfectly. By maintaining a small selection of thin clients, new users can each be given a thin client to use initially, with the stipend for a computer being a benefit that is gained over time. Since the thin clients will last on average twice as long as the workstations, cost is minimal and saves a great amount of risk. These same thin clients can be used if a user needs to take their BYOC to the store for repairs. Your employees would have the same desktop experience they had on their personal machine and your company would not be without a resource during repair time.
Will BYOC work for every company? I doubt it. Some companies may be concerned their workforce changes too often. Others need machines always placed in specific locations like retail. But for the knowledge worker of today that has blurred the line between work and home, having a business virtual machine on a personal workstation may be the perfect balance to protect the user and the company.