Companies Find Benefits in Building Standardized PC Fleets

The experience of IT administrators show there are benefits to maintaining a standardized PC infrastructure.

If it werent for a few Panasonic ToughBooks, Steve Davideks job as the operations and system administrator for the city of Sparks, Nev., would be a little bit easier.

"One of the hardest things for the tech support guys is having to deal with something that is not covered under the same warranty as everything else, and its just something that cannot be done in a straightforward way," said Davidek, who oversees the IT infrastructure for the city of 87,000 people. "Thats why the guys look at me when they have to go work on the ToughBooks."

For the most part, Davidek doesnt have much of a problem outside those few ToughBooks. The rest of the 500 desktops and laptops Davidek and his two-man support staff have responsibility for are supplied through Hewlett-Packard. In addition to having all the warranties and services from the same PC vendor, Davidek said it is easier to manage a homogeneous fleet of PCs instead of trying to keep track of different clients from a range of OEMs.

A Nov. 12 survey backs that claim up. The Forrester Research survey looked at the buying habits of 565 enterprises in North America and Europe and found the benefits of a homogeneous PC fleet help balance out the difficulties of ensuring all the workers are using the same brand of desktops and notebooks.

"Enterprises that can settle on one desktop and one laptop configuration from a single supplier with standard application configurations save big on building, maintaining, and deploying images across their distributed corporate environment," Benjamin Gray, an analyst with Forrester, wrote in the report.

Davidek would agree.

"Its just easier with managing the different images that you have, and you dont have to worry about the odd drivers with different PCs," Davidek, who sits on the board of directors of Encompass, HPs largest user group, told eWEEK. "The interoperability is there, and theres nothing different. We know they can all get access to the network and work with the servers that we have."


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The effort to create a standardized PC fleet is not easy and requires the IT department to ensure that the hardware can support the software and other applications needed to run day-to-day operations. In general, PC purchases account for the largest part of an IT departments hardware spending every year. Not only will standardizing on one PC cut down on the number of management concerns, but it will also save money in terms of pushing out patches and managing client images, Forrester concluded.

While the city of Sparks has a relatively small PC fleet, a company with a much larger fleet has also found benefits in standardization.

Gevity, a human resources services business located in Brandenton, Fla., works with about 7,000 other companies across the United States and has 45 remote offices. Vito Melfi, Gevitys vice president of system operations, oversees a fleet of about 1,200 HP desktops and laptops scattered across the country.

"The type of imaging system that we have used has been supported by the company standardizing on HP," Melfi said. "One of the key areas thats an advantage for us being an HP shop is that we get the support we need, and standardization does help when you only have a couple of full-time technicians. Its also helped with our own help desk and allowed us to standardize some of the procedures we use when people call in for help."

For Davidek, standardizing with one vendor not only helps with the big issues, such as patching and image management, but it also helps with the smaller issues that come up each day.

"We have a lot of notebooks right now, and that means we had to buy docking stations, and we want to make sure all the notebooks work with them so we dont have to worry about buying other ones," Davidek said.


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