Windows

Do not let equipment standardization lead to inflexibility

In organizations with a lot of computers, using similar hardware wherever possible creates economies of scale. For support techs in particular, having standard machines makes it easier to provide consistent service, but we should not let loyalty to a specific platform blind us to other solutions when they are appropriate.

In organizations with a lot of computers, using similar hardware wherever possible creates economies of scale. For support techs in particular, having standard machines makes it easier to provide consistent service, but we should not let loyalty to a specific platform blind us to other solutions when they are appropriate.

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Equipment standardization is generally a good idea. Whenever possible, having as few "species" as possible to support makes life easier all around. Few of the organizations where I have worked have been able to replace hardware in such volume that we could standardize on a specific model at any time. We have held to soft standards, though, usually buying similar model revisions from a single specific vendor each purchasing cycle.

Our standard desktop machines have Windows installed. Not because I have any problem servicing Apple hardware, but because Windows is the most cost-effective choice for our work. In addition to receiving competitive prices from our hardware vendor, our university offers certain volume-licensed software packages for Windows at significantly reduced prices. Comparable deals on Macintosh-compatible software do not exist.

Not long ago, our division outsourced the graphic design of our published research reports. Our in-house designer had left the organization, and we hired a new manager who would be coordinating the production of our publications. This new employee was not supposed to be doing any layout or graphics work herself, and coordinating with our design contractor was only going to be one part of her job portfolio. When preparing for the publication manager's start date, I saw no reason not to provide her with one of our standard Windows desktops.

The only problem was that the designer the management team had chosen used a Macintosh-based workflow. Complications arose for our publication manager almost immediately because we had her using a Windows machine. Even though all the design programs exist for both platforms, when your printer and your designer are using Macs, life can become difficult if you insist on using Windows. The biggest issue for us was fonts. Our publication manager would want to make a small edit to the text in a PDF using Acrobat, and we would discover that the Windows version of a specific font would have slightly different character spacing than the Macintosh version. Any edits made on our end would throw off the text flow in the document.

When we tried migrating our publication manager to a Mac, her problems went away. The other tasks she was responsible for did not necessitate any specific software that required Windows, and by using a Mac, she found she fit in better with the design and print process. By making an exception to our usual standard, we were able to provide her with a tool that better suited her work.

Standardization can certainly make working the help desk easier, but techs should always bear in mind that IT is about providing the right tool for the job. Sometimes, that might mean making an exception to the usual standard.

4 comments
Roc Riz
Roc Riz

run some hot water and detergent, let them drain good, and let them air dry for about a week. Only the very cheap keyboards will not work afterward. The old genuine IBM PC AT and PS/2 keyboards were made to last. I still use them on occasion at home. My boss made me get rid of my old one from '93 just last year! I was told that it didn't look "professional." I took it home, and still use it today! You can hammer nails with that keyboard, it's so solid, and yes, it's been washed quite a few times.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Servicing a huge cross section of manufacturers equipment, sometimes we are forced to buy whole units and strip them for parts when the clients want us to provide the service but the manufacturer doesn't. This can lead to some expensive front end costs but are worth it to keep a client happy. This usually only happens with some of the newest units and unfortunately they don't represent some of the most reliable systems available. Most corporate clients work with an approved list of equipment that the users can choose from but the research divisions always have to have the latest and greatest and get a corporate exception.

Tig2
Tig2

I've worked in environments that defined your "standard" hardware based on the task that was being performed by that end user. So a Customer Service agent had a CS agent box. Since we had many CS agents, that could be a significant number of pcs when it came time to refresh. There was another standard for IT. Generally everyone in IT would need the same tools. They got an IT box. Again, there were many so at refresh time we could often get volume pricing. For nearly 80% of the environment, this was extremely workable. The other 20%? They were one offs. Sometimes it was simply added software for a dev environment. That dev team would be responsible for that single program and our support guys were responsible for the rest of the box. Or the art department that needed Mac for the graphics work they were doing. We just added the Macs and stuck them on their own node. Business requires that we not get too stuck to a standard. Of course, where possible you always go by the standard and you at least request a business case to step outside of the standard. But at the end of the day IT is there to facilitate business, not the other way round.

williamjones
williamjones

Having standard hardware makes support easier for the help desk, but sometimes exceptions might have to be made. How has your organization managed hardware standards? Are you standardized to the model, or merely to manufacturer? Have you ever had to make an exception to your hardware standard? How did that work out?

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