Buying consumer class PCs “very risky” for businesses

Under pressure to exploit the low cost of consumer hardware, IT managers are being pushed to purchase consumer-class PCs instead of those more suited to business use.

Gartner research vice president, Leslie Fiering, said organizations keen to save money are investing in consumer PCs and notebooks not realizing that they risk higher total cost of ownership (TCO) in terms of platform instability, less quality control and limited support.

“There is growing pressure for IT organizations to consider purchasing consumer PCs primarily as a cost-saving measure for the business and also to appease users who are becoming more technology-astute and often want the latest consumer features on their corporate systems,” Fiering said.

“However, consumer devices are no substitute for business-class devices as they lack many vital features that businesses need.” Fiering said IT organizations are under pressure to justify PC budgets to senior management.

She urged IT managers to fully explain the likely TCO implications of purchasing consumer PCs and notebooks for the workforce.

“Companies should avoid the inclination to purchase consumer systems for business use and instead realize that the premium price for a business-class system reflects real value in system stability, comprehensive quality testing and extensive ongoing services,” Fiering said.

“Those that pursue the consumer alternative are likely to find that their initial cost savings will quickly be followed by numerous charges and compromises.” For corporate buyers standardization is essential because it affords less complexity and lower TCO.

Even minor changes to a corporate system have the potential to create incompatibility and require additional testing and system support.

“For this reason, corporate buyers are less interested in the latest new features, focusing instead on platform stability, longer product cycles, system design, quality assurance as well as security and manageability,” Fiering said. “Since consumers usually purchase one system at a time, consumer-class PCs and notebooks have no investment in platform stability and no concern for standardized system image.

“Consumer systems also lack corporate features such as docking stations and often come with consumer versions of the Windows operating system and software applications.”

Fiering said these systems have limited quality assurance programs, having undergone less rigorous testing than corporate hardware which can result in a 50 per cent higher failure rate incurring higher repair costs and user down time.

“Lastly, there is little support available from the retail channel when things do go wrong, with warranty support typically restricted to a much shorter time,” she added. Gartner remains an advocate of the emerging trend for employee-owned PCs and laptops.

Fiering said until organizations develop suitable virtualisation techniques to isolate corporate needs from the consumer environment, companies should require users to purchase from an approved list of consumer-friendly corporate configurations, which the IT organization has pre-configured.

The warning follows the release of regional spending forecasts issued by Gartner last month showing a third of all IT spending is now sourced outside of Europe, Nth America and Japan, with the Asia Pacific emerging as a dominant economic force in the next decade.

In fact the IT industry reached a milestone in 2007 becoming a US$3 trillion dollar market.

The research firm’s global head of research, Peter Sondergaard, said Asia is experiencing rapid growth while Europe and North America are in decline.

Sondergaard said while IT spending overall will grow at a rate of four percent in 2008, this rate will top nine percent in Asia for the next three years.

Gartner research shows that IT budgets will increase to five percent in 2008 compared to three percent in 2007.

The APAC region remains unaffected by concerns of an economic downturn in the United States.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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