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Our department are replacing the PCs that are over 3 years old. However, despite the age of the PCs, they're all similarly spec'd, so a 3 year old PC is still the same similar spec as a 1 year old PC. Thus half the people in the department will be getting new higher spec'd PCs with dual monitors and the other half will still be running single monitor older PCs.

I don't believe that it makes sense to replace only half the department. I'd love to hear from other IT managers and procurement officers on this issue.

My reasoning for it not making sense is:

  • while the newer half equipment isn't old, it's the same or similar to the older equipment. Some waste there in replacing PCs that aren't deficient.
  • it creates envy in the office. If your colleague has dual monitors and you don't, how will you feel?

Opinions from anyone who has faced similar issues?

I realise this is subjective but I can't find too many answers.

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migrated from Feb 24 '10 at 17:55

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10 Answers 10

There can be no one answer to this situation. Where I've worked it's normally a case of staggered replacements, rather than an entire department at one time. It's often also smart business because the expenditure can be spread over time.

The dual monitor issue should be looked at independently of the workstation upgrades. If there is a business case for running dual monitors why not simply install a suitable graphics card and buy a second monitor? That's no reason to replace the entire machine.

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How about only replacing half of the computers, but giving everyone a second monitor? A decent dual-screen video card costs maybe $50, so you are defintely saving a lot of cash here while keeping people happy.

You didn't specify what does your company do, but unless its something very resource intensive, most people wont even see much difference in performance on the new PC.

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Office jealousy would be the big driver for me too. It's amazing how much coffee can go into older machines following a partial roll-out. I've also had to deal with senior members of staff swapping machines around after everyone else has left in the evening (despite being told in no uncertain terms - it's in our AUP - that nobody outside of IT is authorised to move a machine, but that's the joy of being senior enough to be effectively immune to disciplinary proceedings).

What it comes down to is that the cost of a new machine is really quite miniscule compared to the benefits of office harmony, morale and productivity.

If it wasn't for the dual monitor I would have said keep both sets of old ones however, especially if the brand new ones were physically similar enough. A standard line I've used in the past is something like "when the next round of replacements happens you'll be getting a new one and they won't"; it shuts them up but I'm dubious about it's real value.

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You need a fair and objective system to determine who is getting the new pc's. For example: all employees who have been here 2+ years (or whatever length is appropriate) gets the new systems. This will do two things:

  1. Silence the whiners (I work harder than person x, i deserve a new computer, etc)
  2. Shows that you appreciate and recognize those people who have stayed with the company
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I would look into virtualizing using VMware View Manager. You can use the old computers for thin clients and have all the workstations running on a server. With the new PCoIP you can have dual-monitors. Everyone will be running the same thing, and if you need to give someone less CPU power you set it on the server. Also the next time you need to do upgrades it's a new server or a 2nd server. You can also start with the free vmware ESXi server and add the vSphere vCenter server later.

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I'm sure the whiners would love that. "Instead of buying you guys new computers, IT has decided to buy new servers and let you use your old computers for a few more years!". Not a bad idea though. – ITGuy24 Feb 24 '10 at 21:18
I disagree. This would be a whole new and high-impact infrastructure project... definitely something you should evaluate and plan thoroughly, not to jump in between an hardware refresh cycle and the next one. – Massimo Feb 24 '10 at 21:21
Plus, if the host machine goes down, so does the entire department. Unless you're at the scale of being able to run a server farm I'm strongly opposed to virtualising desktops. – John Gardeniers Feb 24 '10 at 22:27
@John Gardeniers: True, but most offices already have several servers that are critical to work (mail, DB server, centrally hosted business apps), so it's just one more critical server that needs to be maintained adequately. Plus there's much less downtime in case of client problems (because you can just use another client). – sleske Feb 24 '10 at 23:24
If your think the server going down will be a problem, then get two servers and use VMware High Availabity. It will move the desktops to the server that is up. But this is also more then anyone with a small network will need. Don't look into it unless you have 30 or 40 PC to replace. – Kevin Feb 25 '10 at 17:00

Get the old PCs, give them a wipe down and a polish (Brasso is remarkably good at cleaning pretty much anything), reinstall Windows, maybe stick some more RAM and a dual-head graphics card in them and bang, you have "new" PCs. For full effect, buy new keyboards and mice and leave them in the wrappers until you unpack them at each worker's desk, making sure people see you unwrapping their shiny new keyboard and mouse in front of them.

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At a previous place my manager came up with an excellent strategy, which was to replace everyone's PC with 'one that's better than your current PC. It may not be new, but it'll be a better spec than what you have'.

The people who (justifiably) have the best PCs currently get the new equipment, their old equipment is then refurbed, RAM is doubled up where possible etc, and issued down to the people with the next grade lower. Their PCs in turn go through the same process until you get to the worst of the bunch, which you dump.

This has the added advantages: - You're keeping a rolling stock so no or little down-time for any user - Re-imaging the whole estate is often desirable, assuming you can afford the man-hours - Everyone gets a hop-up - You preserve the existing quo so those with the better PCs continue to have the better equipment

As to the dual/single monitor option - Why not make it a choice between smaller dual monitors, and a single wide-screen monitor? If you currently own 17" panels, purchase new 2"2 wide-screens with your new PCs - then offer as many users as possible a choice - Shiny new widescreen or dual monitors (but not new). At worse, you'll have to buy some extra graphics cards. Key is, you're minimising the 'newer vs older' debate and levelling it off to an empowering choice for the user.

EDIT: Forgot to mention the main benefit of this approach, which is that it moves away from the 'one-hit upgrades' approach of hitting half the office in one swoop, and migrates towards a more maintainable upgrade cycle that becomes less of a project and more of an ongoing, supportable, less stressful process for all involved.

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+1 I like it, sounds like the approach I used to have, though perhaps only suitable for slightly smaller shops. – Oskar Duveborn Feb 26 '10 at 7:17

I'm a firm enough believer in the advantages of dual-monitors to believe you'd get your money back, and stop office jealousy, too.

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If your budget allows it, you should definitely (although maybe slowly) replace all of your computers; not only would this solve all your human-related troubles, but it would also standardize you client environment, with all the obvious benefits.

But if you're asking this question, chances are your budget just doesn't allow this....

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When staggering your depreciation is also staggered and more spread out. Plus, you even out the hit of potential downtime when you stagger (obviously less of a hit the smaller the department). Your productivity takes a momentary hit when you replace a laptop, that's just life. When your entire department is disrupted all at once you run the risk of dropping some key work. Better to create an environment where people know what to expect with regards to new toys as a method of curbing the new toy envy. If the envy is bad enough then I'd wager you got bigger personnel problems to deal with...

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