Standardizing the Desktop: Strategies for Success

IT is often at the forefront of technology innovation -- but not always. When it comes to the concept of a standard desktop -- every employee's core install that consists of an operating system, applications, hardware drivers and a security suite -- IT has moved at a snail's pace.

By John Brandon
Tue, November 01, 2011

Computerworld — IT is often at the forefront of technology innovation -- but not always. When it comes to the concept of a standard desktop -- every employee's core install that consists of an operating system, applications, hardware drivers and a security suite -- IT has moved at a snail's pace.

Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT, says companies have tended to live with older software because it works well enough for their needs. Enterprises don't always ramp up to the latest releases, especially in this era of "making do with less."

Then there are political issues, which can take the form of pushback from key end-user constituencies that want to do their own thing, and whom IT doesn't want to alienate in budget-challenged times. Plus, some people want to continue using whatever ancient software they've long since gotten used to using.

But now, it seems, the snail is picking up some speed. The use of a standard desktop is becoming more of a best practice. According to a February 2010 Gartner report, 50% of 300 people surveyed in a large company said they will be locking down more corporate computers, not allowing end users to install their own applications.

One major factor behind standardization is that security concerns are looming large. IT can make a strong case about rogue (untested) applications that can bring down the network, or vulnerabilities inherent in old software that crackers often pounce on.

Then, too, the advent of virtualization is helping. More companies are using desktop virtualization tools to create a "gold standard" -- one desktop version that gets pushed out to all end users.

IT managers who are implementing a more locked-down desktop say the strategy can lead to lower costs and smoother operations. King makes a point about the "overall fitness" of how organizations deal with software and handle operational budgets. A standard desktop forces IT to think about deployment strategies and, if handled correctly, ultimately reduces the number of approved desktops to just one or two.

Dealing with rogue employees

Some companies wrestle with the notion of standardization because they also want to allow some flexibility in how an employee does his or her job, says Pund-IT's King. There are approaches that can be used, including allowing employees to select new tools from a pre-approved applications library, or allowing employees to request new tools from IT.

Still, no matter what you do, some end users will insist on bending the rules, or breaking them outright, by downloading their own software.

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Originally published on www.computerworld.com. Click here to read the original story.
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