you bought for your office will cost you many times more than that
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in Vancouver
, Issue #367 November 5, 1996 High Tech Office
your office with computers at an average cost of $3,000 each. But
how much do they really cost? Well, to get any use at all out
of them, you need to purchase software. (Yes, Virginia, software does
cost money.) And you need to train staff to work with the new hardware
and software. And you need to buy printers and modems and cables.
And a consultant to set up the network? Or other peripherals? Do you
need a consultant to create or customize applications for your
and payroll or sales or inventory control?
after it's all
up and running, your staff has hardware or software questions. Who
deals with them? Did you purchase a support plan? Do you have staff
working life of a PC, an average company ends up paying a total of
around $55,000, according to a study by the U.S.-based Gartner
Group, and that's for the companies described as putting little
investment into their computers.
Action Analysis, however, suggests that companies can take steps
to lower these costs. It claims, after examining 94 of its clients,
that those companies which actively manage their computing environment
can effectively control the cost of owning and operating their
the costs for
these "best-performing companies" have declined by nine per cent per
year. These companies control the rate of software change, planning
and testing to avoid making unnecessary changes. As well, they have
spent more on internal support for their staff.
more help, they've spent time to clarify the end user's role in
and tech support. Should users install their own software? Hardware?
How far should they go to support each other?
result, in the
companies which have been able to reduce the cost of computing, the
amount of time spent by employees on computer-support-related issues
has dropped from 72 minutes per week to 41 minutes per week. More
active use of support staff frees up users to spend more time working
on their real jobs. Finally, the best-performing companies make the
most effective use of their hardware, especially their network, to
save costs by optimizing resources.
come cheaply, however. Gartner vice-president Bill Karwin
that rationalizing computer and software strategies and setting up
internal support systems costs money up-front, although such actions
clearly save companies money in the long run. Companies can end up
saving up to 25 per cent of their computing costs, but not by simply
reducing funding: dealing with budget problems that way only puts
costs of computing is the rationale behind the so-called Network
(NC) initiative. First suggested by database-software giant Oracle
as a $700 Internet computer that home users could hook up to the family
TV, the NC has been gathering interest in business circles as a
replacement for the estimated 35 million business "green screens"--the
hordes of old, monochrome, dumb terminals connected to corporate
is hoping such a machine will help it regain its former dominance.
It has recently released its version of the NC, hoping to duplicate
the 70-per-cent market share it held in the early days of the PC a
decade or so ago.
isn't the first
to be released, but it is one of the first from a major manufacturer.
Priced at about $1,000, it features a PowerPC processor and 8 megs
of RAM (expandable to 64 megs). With no hard drive, it's designed
to be used on a company's network or on the Internet. Applications
would be downloaded from the server, and setup and support will be
size of a
pack of typing paper, and weighing just under a kilo, IBM's Network
Station doesn't include a monitor. (And don't connect it to your
green-screen terminal!) At $1,000 plus the cost of a monitor, critics
suggest the NC isn't cheap enough: you can buy a more fully functional
PC for not much more (and then have to deal with endless support costs,
counter NC fans).
PC out just yet. Recognizing concerns about the high costs for
in owning and supporting PCs, Microsoft is pushing what it
calls the Simply Interactive PC, suggesting that an easier-to-use
and cheaper PC could be available as early as 1997, providing all
the Internet and network capabilities of a modest NC along with the
power and flexibility of a personal computer.
IBM, and others
are battling about how to save businesses money. This fight may be