Over the last several years, two camps of thought have developed over how workstations should be constructed and incorporated into an IT infrastructure. One camp, which is older and focused on short-term costs, believes that workstations should be built according to the current needs of the organization at the time. In other words, a workstation selected this month may be completely different than other workstations that exist in the organization purchased only months previously. While each workstation is connected to the network and considered a clone of all the others, a new workstation may be completely different compared to other workstations depending on when it was added. Different brands and different capabilities lead to inherent mismatching of equipment, and this can create IT problems. While the investment outlay is less as workstations are added piecemeal, the eventual long-term costs in IT troubleshooting can be significantly more, comparatively.
The other school of thought calls for a standardization of workstations that allows uniform capabilities within the organization. This may cost more initially, because some workstations have functionality not needed by everyone in the organization. However, the long-term savings in repair and downtime costs make this worthwhile. Because all workstations are the same, the failure of one workstation can be easily remedied with the replacement of an identical workstation. Workstations customized and built with different capacities are often not interchangeable. Standardization ensures that all equipment will match well within the network; this will do away with the problem of having to deal with different brands or components that may create problems in communications or functionality.
In addition to these advantages, standardization of workstations often allows better support situations. If workstations are a well-known brand (such as IBM, Hewlett Packard, or Dell), 1-800 equipment support is usually available and allows rapid replacement of non-functioning equipment. Having standardized workstations facilitates this support further. In my experience, customization of individual workstations is typically not required for most organizations, and scrimping on initial costs is usually more expensive over time. Therefore, choosing standardized workstations as part of your IT infrastructure is often the best choice.
Incidentally, I have several clients who have adopted a “purchase cycle” for their new workstations on an annual basis. Group A gets new computers this year, group B the next year, and group C the subsequent year. Everyone as a result gets a new system every three years, and all the workstations within the network are relatively new. This has benefits in terms of warranty coverage and vendor support, and the organization enjoys a planned expenditure schedule for replacement of 33 percent annually. This practice makes things more manageable, keeps the IT system current, helps stabilize corporate cash flow and budgets, and minimizes workstation variability within the IT infrastructure.
For more information, see my book www.ITSurvivalGuideBook.com