Productivity

3 Ways Spending Less on Hardware will cost you

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How “Cheap” Machines Become Expensive


Everyone in business IT knows that budgets are shrinking. In an environment with fewer dollars, it's tempting to look at low price tags as the most important specification any hardware can carry. The problem, as we are reminded frequently, is that total cost of ownership (TCO) cannot be ignored. More importantly, the total benefit of ownership is a metric that IT managers must take into consideration seriously when specifying the details of servers or workstations. 

There are multiple aspects to TCO for hardware, and most of them have nothing to do with whether the hardware is likely to break and need service. For our purposes, let’s assume that any workstation you buy is going to be an absolute rock of reliability and quality. That still doesn't take away three ongoing costs of owning your workstations. 

1. Lost Productivity

You've heard that time is money, well one of the primary ways in which the cheapest priced machine can become expensive over time is through the lost productivity that accompanies the minimal performance.

Managers focused on nothing but purchase price might criticize the organizational cost of a few seconds per operation or the inconvenience caused to an employee by a desktop workstation compared to a laptop, but over the course of a workstation's lifetime, those seconds and minutes add up.

2. Reduced Effectiveness

Workers who have to deal with daily frustrations from underperforming or poorly configured workstations are less effective.

Human memory is poor, especially after the fifth meeting of the morning. Handwritten notes are better than nothing, but notes typed into a laptop are surely best. That isn’t possible for workers away from their desks if their computers can’t follow them.

There are still organizations with managers who consider laptop and other mobile computers as luxury items. IT managers might want to point out that mobile computers can increase information accuracy, improve productivity, lower network infrastructure costs, and enhance security in return for their perceived luxury.

3. Security and Network Infrastructure

Considerations such as network infrastructure cost should be considered in TCO calculations, especially when WiFi has become nearly ubiquitous, and the costs of running cable continue to rise.

IT managers who want to seriously tilt the table in the direction of mobile endpoints can discuss the cost of potential data breaches through physical intrusions. The average desktop-based client infrastructure is far less secure than an infrastructure and policy framework that has:

  • Most laptop and mobile devices locked in drawers or cabinets at the end of the day

  • The rest in the possession of employees trained in security

Moreover, connecting to central assets through a VPN can be far more secure than the average desktop-based client infrastructure.

Decisions based solely on minimum purchase price can come back to haunt an organization for years. Current Technologies specializes in consulting with your business, finding out your needs, analyzing all options and bringing you the solution best fit for your business.

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Pros VS. Cons of a Bring Your Own Device Policy

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Securing Your BYOD Policy


Work practices have undergone a revolution in the digital age. Networked devices and more mobility have blurred the line between work and home as vast numbers of people perform their jobs across multiple platforms, often far from the office.

An accompanying phenomenon is the bring your own device (BYOD) policy which allows employees to use their own laptops and smartphones in the office or, alternatively, to use those devices to work from home.

BYOD has its pros and cons, and organizations that already have a policy in place or are contemplating implementing one need to tick some boxes to make sure it runs as smoothly, and most importantly, securely as possible.

The Good

BYOD has obvious advantages for staff who like the convenience and familiarity of working on their own devices. It could also lead to productivity gains, as users have an affinity for their own personal devices and how they use them.

Personal laptops, tablets, and smartphones are usually more cutting edge, given that companies often don’t update their desktops for years on end. BYOD also allows staff to carry only one or two devices around with them, rather than different ones for work and personal use.

BYOD policies can save organizations money, as they don’t have to spend as much on their IT hardware while allowing workers increased mobility.

The Bad

Having said that, BYOD practices are not free from security concerns. More and more mobile devices provide greater scope for ways to breach a company’s IT infrastructure.

Some employees may not be as stringent as they should be about the information they bring home that could be highly sensitive or confidential. Once they take it out of the office, there’s nothing stopping them from sharing it across devices, networks, emails or even showing it to their family and friends.

Disgruntled employees about to walk out the door pose an even bigger threat. If they are leaving to work for a competitor, BYOD makes it easier for them to take intellectual property with them. Alternatively, if an employee uses a smartphone to access the company network then loses it or it's stolen, an unauthorized person could retrieve unsecured data on the device. Staff can also sell their devices or give them away and forget to wipe company data beforehand.

And The Necessary

A good BYOD policy should contain two critical components: an application or software program for managing the devices connected to your organization’s networks, and a written agreement that clearly states the responsibilities of employers and staff.

For example, IT departments wishing to monitor the use of personal devices must ensure that they only monitor activities that access company information.

Software developers and device manufacturers are constantly releasing security patches and updates for threats such as viruses and malware. BYOD policies should have the necessary processes in place to automatically apply those patches across all the agreed BYOD devices.

Additionally, organizations can simplify the whole process by limiting the number or make of devices allowed in their BYOD programs and the systems they have to support. Supporting a broad range of devices could become an administrative nightmare.

The IT department should also have permission to remotely wipe the device if it's lost, the employee leaves or if it detects a data breach, virus or any other threat to its infrastructure.

BYOD should satisfy employees and management alike, as long as there's a clear understanding of everyone’s responsibilities. Before settling on the best BYOD policy for your organization, it's worth getting input from employees, HR, IT, finance, legal and anyone else who has a stake in the matter.

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How To Improve Your Network Without Major Investment

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Simple ways to Improve your Network Without Major Investment

Who knows how many more devices will be in the Christmas haul for students, staff, and faculty? You can certainly be sure most of those new devices will appear on campus at some point or another. However, you are not likely to find an unexpected budget for a major network overhaul in your stocking. But if there is something left in the budget, you might be able to make a big difference with some small improvements.

1. Take another look at what you are made of

When planning a network by looking at blueprints and floor plans, the basic question of building materials is easily overlooked. Those materials can make a big difference to the reach of a WiFi network, however.

Dense building materials like brick or rock could smother your wireless signal. Materials that hold water can also sabotage signal strength. Not taking into account a bathroom in the way can play havoc with signal strength.

If there are dead spots in your network, double check whether you have taken building materials properly into account. Buying a more advanced access point for a place where the signal is weak will not cost the earth. And it could give you a fast, reliable connection where you did not have one before.

2. Follow the crowd

WiFi users will mob in the places with the best signals. The problem is that those mobs then bring down the very network speeds they were chasing.

You might see real benefits in a small investment in access points in the locations where users would gather if only the WiFi were better. The right access point in the right place could give you double benefit:

  1. You have good WiFi where there were only complaints before

  2. You have even better WiFi where users used to congregate in greater numbers

3. Invest in Analytics

It might be time to invest in an analytics tool. If you already have good analytics tools, it might be time to fund a project to study the data. There are questions that you should know the answers to in order to make the most of your current WiFi:

  • Who is using your network

  • When they are using it

  • Where they are using it

  • What they are using it for

The answer to getting more from your network is not always going to be to buy more bandwidth, for instance. It might be a question of allocating what you already have better—perhaps spreading it further and more efficiently as with the suggestions here. It might also be a question of defining better rules for which data has priority.

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How To Give Employees The PCs They Want

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Employees Want (and need) More


Remember the days when no one had a PC at work, let alone at home? When a few people punched cards into computing machines that occupied whole rooms? Probably not. These days, an employee might not go on vacation without half a dozen computers—laptop, a couple of tablets, phones (that are really computers), e-readers, smart watches, and so on.

Long ago, the bar for technology started being set in the home, not the workplace. This means IT departments must recognize that choosing computers is not merely about finding a sweet spot between cost and functionality.

Like it or not, the bar is set at:

  • Powerful
  • Functional
  • Easy to look at

It doesn’t matter whether you’re ordering desktops, laptops, or tablets. Your desk warriors don’t want to look at a beige box, and your road warriors don’t want to be embarrassed in front of clients or competitors. The evidence shows that employees will look for another job if they don’t think the IT in their current workplace is good enough.

What’s the answer for IT?

1. Think outside the old model

Conventional procurement methodologies had IT departments balancing cost and functionality. Today, you have permission to take a broader view of cost.

What will it cost the company if employee retention rates fall because employees won’t work on clunky, ugly devices? What will it cost the company if it can’t attract quality employees because they don’t want to work in a dated workplace? What are lost productivity costs from slow, outdated machines? Often times the lowest cost machine ends up costing more in the long run due to repairs and lost time spent loading applications.

2. Loosen the reins

Bring your own device (BYOD) policies create freedom (great for your employment brand) and, to an extent, put the ball back in the employee’s court. Think ours are ugly or clunky? Bring your own.

The technology to manage employee devices—selecting software, rolling out security features, and so on—is mature enough to create room for a policy that allows both parties to get what that they need. Plus the money your company saves in hardware can be invested in other areas to assist employees like security and higher quality software.

If you’re uncomfortable with BYOD, a choose-your-own-device approach is a solid alternative. Employees don’t get to bring their own device but they do get to choose from a range of devices curated by IT. There’s less freedom, yet there’s self-determination.

3. Shorten your cycle

Refreshing organizational IT every three to five years means falling behind quickly. Advances in computing are faster than they were when those cycles were set. That means productivity losses occur sooner. Going back to the question of cost, the cost of refreshing faster should be considered against the productivity gains that come with new hardware and employee retention.

Are Your PCs Helping Or Hurting You?

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When is the Right Time to Refresh your Computer Fleet?

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There are more Important Factors than Update Cost


Stanford University’s IT department has a minimum standard for what their computers can do. For teaching staff, the standard is that the computer can handle running at least four applications at the same time. Using this standard, the university expects to replace computers every three to four years.

It’s just one example, but it’s a good one because Stanford’s policy is a reminder that a well thought out hardware refresh plan is about more than cost. There will always be disagreement about the answers, however that doesn’t mean it’s not worth asking smart questions and testing the industry assumptions.

Asking the right questions

What do I need my Computers to do?

Have you gone beyond the question of raw upgrade cost and asked, as Stanford has, exactly what should your computers be able to do? Many employees today would expect to be running far more than four applications simultaneously. Are your workers among them?

The ability to quickly multi-task is key in today's fast moving business environment. Employees need computers that can switch between many applications without losing a beat. Staring at a loading screen is a waste of time that you can never get back.

What is the Productivity Cost of not Refreshing?

Sure a slower refresh cycle saves money on the surface, but have you compared that to the lost time cost of employees waiting for applications to load or function?

Intel found that a faster refresh cycle brought an average productivity improvement of 9.7% over a range of tasks. You don’t have to rely on Intel’s numbers; you can do your own analysis.

Looking at productivity and refresh costs together will give you additional confidence in your decision, whatever it is.

When do Support Costs Peak?

Just like us, computers cost more to support in their declining years. It’s not just the hardware starting to fail, but also the burden of maintaining multiple versions of operating systems and software.

It’s inevitable that you have to refresh your computers at some point. It isn’t inevitable that you have to spend a fortune keeping outdated computers limping toward the end of a too-long life. Again, the trick is to look at the numbers and find the sweet spot between the two expenses.

Good Enough is Good Enough

The costs of a faster refresh cycle can potentially be offset by not having to buy the highest-end machines every time. At the rate technology improves, chances are most computing technology today is leaps and bounds ahead of what you bought years ago. The further into the future you expect your hardware to last, the higher the specs you need today. Equipment that will be replaced sooner doesn’t necessarily need to be as future-proof, and future-proof is often expensive.

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Cloud Computing is the Solution you need

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How to make the most of the Cloud


You only need look at the explosive growth of services like Microsoft Office 365 and VMware for evidence of the business trend towards cloud computing. You can also check out our article on where businesses are spending their IT budget. This raises an important question: how can a business maximize the cloud’s benefits?

Happier, More Productive Employees

Perhaps the biggest advantage the cloud gives an organization is tied directly to its most important asset: employees. By leveraging the possibilities for remote work and more flexible hours inherent in cloud-based computing, it’s possible to keep staff both happier and more productive – all at little to no cost.

A study in the Harvard Business Review found that call center workers who switched to a work-from-home model experienced a 13.5 percent increase in productivity compared to their in-office peers. They also reported much higher job satisfaction and quit at half the rate of employees working in the office. Nicholas Bloom, one of the authors of the study, argues that remote work and flexible hours can give an organization an edge by allowing them to attract better talent from a wider pool by removing geographic and other barriers.

Bloom gives the example of a low-cost airline: “JetBlue allows folks to work as far as three hours from headquarters – close enough to come in now and again but a much bigger radius from which it can draw applicants. When I asked the people at JetBlue about this policy, they said it helped them gain access to educated, high-ability mothers who wanted flexibility in their jobs. The airline believes this policy has improved the quality of its workforce.”

To win the marketplace you must first win the workplace
— Doug Conant, Former President - Campbell Soup Company

Connected like Never Before

The cloud-based services also allow for easier and more fluid coordination and communication among staff, contractors and clients. Rather than working on multiple versions of the same document, team members in different locations can now work simultaneously on one version, cutting confusion and ensuring better document control.

The lesson here is that an organization transitioning to the cloud should carefully consider the increase of productivity. Current Technologies is closely partnered with Microsoft Outlook 365 for cloud email and collaboration. Outlook 365 is the industry leader allowing for your employees to check emails and tie in with peers on presentations and documents.

The shift to the cloud offers another huge plus: operational agility and capacity. Need more or less server or storage space? What about employee access to an application? Scaling capacity up or down is simply a matter of coordinating with your vendor rather than purchasing, installing and implementing expensive IT hardware and software on-site. Current Technologies offers top of the line VMware cloud storage options for businesses that are highly customized to client needs. Backup and recovery is also simplified in the event that your data is compromised. Finally, the infrastructure, platform and service options that cloud computing offers make things like implementation incredibly easy.

We can make the Cloud work for you

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