The changing landscape of desktop management outsourcing

* Desktop management outsourcing options

Most office workers depend so heavily on their desktop environments these days that when something goes wrong, work comes to a halt. People don't know what to do with themselves when they can't get at their e-mails, their contact lists, the Internet, or work on a document or create a presentation. The desktop is not just an occasional productivity tool; it is a primary tool smack in the middle of many workflows.

Yet desktop management is regularly a marginally managed part of the IT infrastructure. The servers and the networks have redundancies, backups, strong security and monitoring. The desktops can be left to chance as far as configurations, standard software footprints, virus software and personal firewalls. Even when all those things are done well, data backup and recovery can often be completely up to the individual. And we all know how well the average individual does at making regular backups!

Recognition of the rising importance of desktop management is driving an increase in desktop management outsourcing, which has been growing at about 6% each year and reached almost $28 billion in 2005 (see "Outsourcing the desktop"). This is more than just shuttling the problem off to someone else. For many larger businesses, there is recognition that desktop management is not a core competency. For small and midsize businesses, the sophisticated management tools, infrastructure and processes are not cost effective for them in-house. Desktop management is a function where proper tools and automation can significantly increase effectiveness.

There are many good software packages available for those who want to setup desktop management in-house. A partial list includes Altiris, LanDesk, IBM and BMC. These tools support a number of high-powered features including:

* Remote control - allows full control of the desktop via the network and allows for configuration, software installation, troubleshooting, and patching.

* Automated software distribution - remotely and automatically distributes and installs software, updates and patches.

* Auto-discovery - automates inventory and improves asset management including tracking system data such as CPU speed, memory, and other peripherals as well as tracking software licenses.

* Patch management.

* Backup and recovery.

However, as the numbers above reveal, many organizations are looking for outside help for this function. Several of the large outsourcers, using these types of sophisticated tools, offer services as a complete outsource for large organizations. These include HP, EDS, IBM and SAIC. Given recent advances in remote control capabilities that can work easily over firewalled networks, many of these large outsourcers are also offering services to SMBs. They are using their infrastructure, 24/7 help desks, and remote control features to reach down to a market they previously could not service cost effectively. With remote capabilities, they can leverage their infrastructure and sell services on a per desktop basis to the smallest of businesses.

Other options exist for SMBs. Everdream and CenterBeam both offer full service desktop management with the same kinds of sophisticated tools and benefits. WebEx offers an on-demand desktop management application for those business that want easy access to high end tools but want to use internal IT staff to manage the desktops. WebEx also supports managed service providers with a program to pair their on-demand software with the resources of the local service providers. This should be an attention grabber for managed service providers that are now facing stiffer competition from large outsourcers armed with high-end tools. The WebEx offering allows local service providers to continue to differentiate themselves with high-touch service but also bring the advantages of sophisticated tools to be feature competitive with the larger outsource providers.

For more on this topic, you can view a recording of a Webinar I participated in recently here.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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