back to article Just how special are Power Users?

Power users are often at the cutting edge of an organisation’s revenue generation, product development, operational excellence or strategic core, and as such they require excellent IT systems to support their role. In years gone by, the needs of these specialist workers often necessitated that their PCs be customised and …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Some are, some aren't

    Power users are just like ordinary users. Some know what they're doing - others don't have a clue. The biggest difference is that they all take a disproportionate amount of support resources to stop them moaning like little babies when they run into difficulties.

    Of our "power users", some genuinely have the ability to save the world - or at least earn the company enough to justify the huge bonuses the directors get. Others are basically just drama queens (of either gender) and create more noise and uncertainty than anything else. The hard part is being able to distinguish the one from the other.

    Of course, the really valuable employees are the invisible ones. The ones who quietly get on with their jobs: competently, on time, solving their own problems as they go and doing what they said they would. However their lack of "star quality" usually gets mistaken for idleness and as a consequence, they're the ones who get axed at the first signs of economic trouble.

    1. Kerry Hoskin

      ideas of grandeur

      We used to have big problems with “power” users, or those with ideas of grandeur buying whatever they fancied. But over time we have reeled them in. We now lease all our kit so everyone gets the same, if you want anything better your budget has to pay, and it only gets connect to our LAN if its from our preferred supplier, DELL in our case. We’ve found that the only ones that will pay for better kit are the ones that really need it such as modellers, who tend to go for workstations running Linux, they then run a VM on that workstation running windows for using office, etc.

      We’re using the same tactic to reduce laptop purchases, as we used to have lots of users with both a laptop (spent most of its time at home with their kids using it) and a desktop. If they have a leased PC and want a laptop they have to give the leased PC back to us and use a docking station with a laptop, amazing the amount of users who all of a sudden don’t need a laptop! For occasional laptop use we have a bookable pool of laptops for those users who don’t have a laptop and might need them for a short period.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        We've taken a similar kind of approach

        Except we decided that the corporate standard for new desktops was to be quad core i7-8?0 machines with 4GB RAM. If they rate themselves real fancy they can have extra memory but as quad cores become more mainstream it just seems the simplest choice. It also means if they shift sites or their machine breaks there's a ready replacement. However it should be noted that some guys also have access to a couple of BL420-G6 (I think) units with 2-X5550s and 32GB RAM for offloading work onto which allows for universal access.

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    What annoys me

    Is that I have to nag, nag, nag EVERY TIME we get new kit, that I need more powerful graphics than the average user. After all, my work involves research into new algorithms for volume-data (as in MRI and CT scans) processing on state-of-the art GPUs. And NO you cannot do that on an Intel integrated chipset, and NO I do not want to use a Radeon (ever heard of CUDA?).

    The best way round was to demand TWO machines (which I am entitled to): one regular desktop (which I do not need), and one experimental, high-end machine. I then suggest that we could make a savings by using the experimental machine for my normal desktop work as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ...wanna iPad too?

  3. David Hicks

    Depends on what the power user is doing

    I have a pretty beefy laptop - quad core i7 - which I use to run a variety of virtual machines which I can reset after testing out various scenarios.

    This could conceivably be provisioned centrally for the dev team, and I could then get away with having effectively a dumb terminal from which to read email and log into other machines, OTOH I like to have control.

    And am I demanding. Hell no, I installed a non-standard OS on the machine and do my own support.

    I can see the ego factor, but matching budget and hardware to actual needs is what you should be aiming for. Blanket policies in which everyone gets the same may save cost on purchasing but they have to leave room for edge cases.

  4. Adam Salisbury

    No more power users

    I think in terms of hardware we have reached a point where everyone can use the same standard kit, the only modifications being more powerful graphics adapters or more RAM. For instance, I use the exact same make and model laptop our Sales Director does and surely thats's a job in which you're considered a power user.

    Bu then again, the power user is a complete myth most of the time, all they are is users of status who feel they should have something different to, and better than, the proles. the point made in the article about systems being perceived as personal rather than a business tool could'nt be more correct hence the higher up in the org cart you go the better the systems get.

    I'd like to know if anyone who's "power users" now have iPhones for business use actually issued them after sound technological assessment or just because the executives starting using them. It's the sames with software too, announce your Windows 7 rollout and watch the number of "accidents" which require a replacement soar!

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Kerry Hoskin

      no more power users

      Agreed, I work in scientific computing in a lab, so we support about 250’ish PC’s and maybe 50 or so Linux Workstations. Very few of the boffins need anything out of the ordinary to do their work, with the exception of the modelling group, remote sensing group who are all doing big number crunching, and a few dev teams, no one else needs anything beefy to run office, Minitab, sigmaplot, etc. Our stock PC is DELL optiplex 760, Win7, 2Gb ram, which is perfectly good enough for 90% of the labs staff, costs us about £17 per PC per month. Gone are the days of users spending £1k on a desktop PC, thankfully.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Is it just me?

    Or is Freeformdynamics falling further and further behind in their reporting on surveys? And does anyone really care?

    Side note: I can't count the number of times I've swapped the Boss's whammy-zammy CPU, gathering dust and spiderwebs under the credenza/return, for his secretary's underpowered kit ... without the Boss noticing beyond: "THAT was quick! Ta.".

  6. PoorLumpyPony
    Thumb Up


    Developers....wanted powerful workstations not a problem, gave them (4core/12Gb/RAID1 x2),.

    But we take aware their VM development environments (ESX) as they should be able to create the VM's locally and use the same DB Tin they had before

    has actually reduced our support overhead as they can now fanny about with their own machines rather than constant additional requests because they keep breaking/forgetting what they have/wanting config changes on the VM's they had been allocated.

    Power users for the win in this case

  7. rdeadman

    Demanding does not necessarily mean power

    You seem to be confusing demanding users with power users. While some power users are demanding, many non-power users are also demanding. In particular, a (good) software developer may need a more powerful machine for some specialized work they are doing, but needs very little IT support since they know how to resolve most issues themselves. At the other end of the spectrum are the technical illiterate who, no matter how basic and managed their computer, still call help desk all too often.

    There is a reason for the stereotype of the "is you computer plugged in" service call.

    I was with you while you were discussing whether power users really do need more powerful kit, but you then lost me when you jumped to a chart about demanding users, as if they were the same thing.

  8. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Separating the molecular modellers from the model ogglers

    If some of your power users are whining just to get the egos stroked, put up a web page with a table with these columns: Name, loadavg, and PC cost. Sort the list by cost/loadavg. Should work just as well as a web page that shows who is using the most network bandwidth and what domain names their are downloading from.

  9. Nigel 9

    Re: Sales Director

    "I use the exact same make and model laptop our Sales Director does and surely thats's a job in which you're considered a power user"

    <giggles> :-)

    Word, excel, and MAYBE a bit of powerpoint / project?.......... errrrr, nope.

    1. Tom 35

      Director != power user

      The last place I worked was very top heavy with managers. They all had to have the latest laptops available so they could email powerpoint and excel files to each other. When something new came out the "old" laptop would be passed down to the next most important person in their department and there laptop would be passed down... so we had a hodge podge of laptops. Sales and marketing primadonnas demanding toys are almost as bad.

      The real power users doing design work had to fight like hell to get better monitors.

      I'll take power users over managers with toys any day.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Just say NO

    Web browser and text editor - that's all a power user like me needs!

    Which is possibly why I still use a 10 year old, mucus encrusted PC running Win2K/Slackware for my work.

    In most educational (and probably enterprise) environments, newer and more powerful hardware is often required to cater for amateurs who don't know how to optimise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      My entire office is a linux netbook, a dongle, and a mobile phone.

    2. Chemist

      "that's all a power user like me needs"

      In "industrial strength" science - hardware stereo, xeons, multi-gigabytes of memory and the stability to run molecular modeling or dynamics for days on end on a workstation whilst still doing other work. So Linux then, esp. if one needs to offload the REALLY big jobs to Linux farms.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    all i need

    is a large monitor with good resolution, and a box decent enough to run office, acrobat reader and a web browser while i simply ssh to a server and attach to a screen session.

    i close timing on semiconductor chips and the large monitor is for looking at timing reports and chip layouts.

    the older the hardware that i use, the happier i am as i hate excesses. i rather the money be spent on better storage to avoid data loss. and better more reliable servers to fire jobs on.

    am i a power user?

    1. Bob. Hitchen

      Watts up Doc

      Depends how old your box is. In the 60-70's they needed a small power station all to themselves. Consumption was into multiple KwH's

  12. Dom 3


    I always figured a "power user" was someone that could close a window without using the mouse.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      a power user would never need to close a window in the first place

This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021