back to article How much does desktop PC support actually cost?

Here’s a direct question on this (hopefully sunny) day. Do you, or does anyone in your organisation, know precisely how much money you spend on PC support? In principle, this sounds straightforward enough to answer – after all, isn’t it just about the desktops and laptops, and the software they run? But in our travels we have …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    a direct answer

    "Here’s a direct question on this (hopefully sunny) day. Do you, or does anyone in your organisation, know precisely how much money you spend on PC support?"

    I asked someone who worked for a medical instrument manufacturing company, and he told me one fifth of their annual budget went on software licenses alone.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: a direct answer

    But not an answer to that question, really. Buying something isn't supporting it. Linux gimps are quick to point out that income in Linux circles is made out of support agreements, not licencing costs. Nice try.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    try purchasing the right billing software for the job!

    once apon a time in the distant past, where i used to work they were trying this, billing IT support techs time to individual jobs, but they were using software that was designed for heavy industrial plant manufacturing.

    It was a nightmare, as it was incapable of breaking down the time spent into a few minutes.

    if the billing system cannot support a techy doing multitasking across a number of jobs/projects and PC's remotly then its a waste of time.

    i could do a better job tracking my time on outlook than the software they insisted i use (and refused to setup or train me to use, until 2 days before they sacked me).

    In the end i didnt last all that long in the job, mostly cos the time/management software was a joke, along with the it infrastructure, and SLA's were impossible to acheive whilst having a dozen new rollout projects dumped on you each week whilst trying to already juggle the dozen support calls you already had in the air...

    sorry but even J'F#Christ would have had a nervous breakdown on that job!

    (they also burntout a lot of the local IT ppl in the region on that position, so i wasnt alone)

    and no im not naming them! though im tempted ;)

    nuff said, rant over!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm with Alexei Sayle on this one...

    "Anyone who uses the word 'workshop' who's not connected with light engineering is a wanker."

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    All IT support staff in my 40,000 employee government organization must enter their timecodes into CAS based on ITIL principles: coded as

    * unfunded devices

    * OS installs/upgrades

    * in-house app deployment

    * moving/changing/installing equipment

    * training rooms

    * subscription services (blackberries)

    * adaptive technology

    * asset management database updates

    * user accounts

    * laptop support

    * server support

    * security

    * network infrastructure

    * desktop support

    * network printers

    * managing backups/restoring data

    * one-on-one help

    * everything else (team meetings, completing timesheets)

    Recording and completing online timesheets takes up at least 1.5 hours a week per employee.

    They do track costs and try to reconcile it with the service desk ticket system. However, reconciliation shows a lack of accuracy due to the high complexity and arcane rules for case completion standards. There's a 70-page manual to memorize. We don't have handheld computers to keep track of time/service calls which would allow accurate recording of time.

    Overall we have a ratio of one FTE to ~100 desktops and one FTE to ~80 laptops.

    So the answer is yes, we have a good estimate of how much desktop support actually costs.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    That's not a difficult question, is it?

    I'm a bit surprised that, in this day and age, you think this is such a difficult question. Well, it's not for me and my organization anyway. I work for a County Council and we take part in an annual survey that is conducted by the Society of Information Technology Mangement (SoCITM). We take part precisely because it is a benchmarking exercise and one of the outputs is our support costs per workstation. It's calculated according to the SoCITM methodology, so what you include and exclude is prescribed, and sometimes quite difficult to work out. I'm not always convinced by what they think is a part of desktop support, but at least everyone is calculating it in the same way. Amongst the many other figures we get are acquisition costs per workstation, costs per voice and data connection, and the total cost of ownership of PCs.

  7. The First Dave
    Dead Vulture


    So, first you ask people if their kit is past it or not, then ask them how much hassle it is to support it? And you are surprised to hear that people who think their kit is sh!t also think that it might take a lot of effort?

    And all this from a vendor-sponsored survey that has a vested interest in selling more kit.

    Actually, the reverse is probably closer to the truth - how much time is wasted learning how to support flashy new kit that will run the latest version of Word and Excel, with new bugs in them, when even the best typist in the world cannot type faster than 68000 processor can respond.

  8. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

    Rule of thumb

    You have to develop a rule of thumb for kit, and stick to it. HARDWARE WILL DIE. This is inevitable. Don't waste your time trying to prevent it, simply plan around it. Have complete cold spare systems waiting in the wings, ready to be imaged and pressed into service.

    For us, Kit can last two generations, and that's it. The first generation that kit is in service should be front-line use, high-demand applications where it matters. Once the warranty is up, if you have planned well you can often get another refresh cycle out of it by moving the gear to lighter duty. (Of course this is assuming you have appropriate spare systems and parts put away for the inevitable failures.) Our refresh cycles are three years, after the second refresh cycle, nothing is allowed to stay. Rework it, and give it away to staff, or a charity, if they're taking.

    It's especially hard in a recession sticking to such rules; but you can't let the beancounters win. If you let the beancounters stretch out your refresh schedules, everything degrades. Your kit goes longer between refurbs, and the failure rate will climb. You probably won’t get a second cycle out of that kit, and you certainly don’t want to be pushing kit already on its second cycle any farther. Not only that, but the longer gear sits at front-of-line the less productive those staffs will be. Newer software is always more demanding, and just because you haven’t refreshed the hardware doesn’t mean they won’t be getting the latest version of photoshop, office, autocad or what have you.

    Never, ever let the beancounters dictate IT purchase cycles, because the majority of them seem pathologically unable to understand soft costs. Too often they think about quarterly revenue instead of TCO issues such as support, maintenance, power consumption (and the associated cooling costs,) productivity loss due to slow gear, or incompatibilities. Every man-hour IT spends supporting a desktop is a man-hour not spend meeting some other business need, doing preventative maintenance, keeping our skills up to date, or doing research that may lead to operational efficiencies.

    Moral of the story: don’t cheap out on the gear. If you plan it properly from start to finish, you can often get a second refresh cycle out of kit, but *only* if you have planned for it from the start, and *only* if that second refresh cycle sees the kit serving lighter duty. Deferring maintenance or refresh cycles can only end in tears.

  9. mark 63 Silver badge


    I'm confused were you reading your graph right?

    "As you can see, there’s little between the first two groups that consider their IT environments to be either ‘fit for purpose for the time being’ or ‘in need of modernisation’"

    anyhoo round this way it costs 50 quid per machine per month . case closed , if a bit expensively.

    ...and its not surprising the "in need of modernisation" answers are consistently more , any reg reader is gonna say that.

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