PC Refresh or Virtual Desktop Solution?

  • 5
    min read
  • Anunta Tech
  • July 15, 2016

With mobility being the new employee mantra, IT teams are struggling to keep in step with the challenges that the mobile workforce brings. According to Gartner, by 2017 nearly 38% of organizations will embrace BYOD and stop providing devices to its employees. Our conversations with Indian CTOs tell us that mobility is a top concern while BYOD is still some way off, though it is being embraced in niche areas like for agency workforces in Insurance or salesforce in FMCG. But overall, Desktop based systems aren’t disappearing anytime soon and IT heads still have the huge inventory of PC’s that they regularly need to refresh to ensure productivity levels. So many CTOs may find themselves wondering, is it better to refresh my desktop or should I look at virtual desktop solutions and consider thin clients. The answer as always is…. Depends! We discuss three of the most common cases below.


Most organisations follow a 5-year hardware refresh cycle but in India it is not uncommon to come across enterprises that will stretch that to 7 years or beyond! Essentially, it’s a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! In such cases can the IT expect to establish a case for virtualized desktops rather than invest in new PCs? On the face of it, you don’t have to be a genius to say NO! But, these are precisely the cases where business is driving IT to go beyond replace. So can a business case be built in such cases? How do you compare a 35,000 PC price to the initial investment required to bring in the IT efficiency that virtual desktop solutions brings? Point is you need to compare apples to apples. Even if a PC costs you just 35,000, what does support cost? How much power does the PC consume? How much does a data breach cost? And so on. We have found that if IT can think business saving rather than IT saving, a business case can easily be built for replacing 500 desktops with virtualized desktops.


With support to Windows XP coming to an end, enterprises are saddled with multiple systems spread across the company that are now vulnerable to data loss and security breaches. Lack of support to XP may also mean issues with software compatibility which can lead to user dissatisfaction and productivity loss. In such cases CTOs are faced with the question of do they move to Windows 7 or use that as a trigger to transform delivery. As always, in many cases it will be driven by hard numbers. Migrating to Windows7 means investing in Windows 7 licenses and frequently hardware upgrades. Assuming you are ready, to spend on both, what is the residual life of the existing desktop is worth considering. We have found that the additional investment on license and the hardware upgrade, on an already sweated asset, makes little sense, especially when all that investment can come to naught if the PC itself starts to wear out. The same amount when directed towards virtual desktop solution initiative creates an opportunity to benefit from the IT efficiencies while postponing the need to change the PC. As and when the PC wears out it can be replaced with a lower cost TC with benefits of virtualization gained from the start.


Many visionary CTOs have used business expansion as a trigger to transform. The business case here is not unlike that in the PC refresh case except that you need to factor in your organisation’s refresh cycle and attendant financials to those of a virtualized environment. In addition to the economics this is the “perfect” case to test a new and better technology. It also gives you a clean slate as far as end-users are concerned. So governance and culture around use of desktop & applications can be laid down with no baggage and comparisons to unlimited storage and downloads. With the right partner, IT heads are quickly able to demonstrate the many advantages that virtual desktop solutions can deliver and in our experience never look back.


Every CTO has to find a way to balance being a pragmatist and a visionary. Most CTOs understand that newer technologies such as desktop virtualization have benefits but convincing non-technical managements and boards means justifying the investment with a “business case”. In most cases unfortunately the term business case is usually used to convey the economic case while business value is ignored. Perhaps that is the key to getting support to your desktop virtualization initiative: emphasize the business value while showing you have done enough hard work on the economic case.

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  • License investment: If you’ve spent thousands of dollars purchasing Microsoft Office licenses for your local PCs, you may not want to abandon that investment by switching to G Suite or Microsoft 365 instead, where you will need to pay new subscription fees.
  • Cost: Putting aside the issue of prior investment in licensing, Web-based office software usually requires subscription fees that, in the long run, may exceed the total cost of ownership of on-premises alternatives.
  • Learning curve: Your employees are probably experts in using on-premises applications like Microsoft Word. Moving them to Web-based alternatives will require teaching them new applications and new paradigms for storing and accessing data. You may not have time to teach all of your workers these new skills without disrupting business operations. Your IT team, too, may not be as well-equipped to support a new type of office platform.
  • Security: When you use Web-based office platforms, it becomes harder to isolate sensitive data or choose to keep it offline. Files that your employees create in a Web-based office environment are typically stored on shared virtual drives that, depending on how you configure security settings, may allow users to access each others’ documents, or even expose data to anyone on the Internet.
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