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UK Government Spending £6,000 Per Computer Every Year To Maintain Desktops

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the white-elephant-computing dept.

United Kingdom 193

girlmad writes "The UK government's chief operating officer Stephen Kelly offered a frightening insight into the world of government IT spending this week. According to Kelly, the government spends £6,000 per year per PC just to maintain the devices, and wastes 3 days per year per person due to slow boot-up times."

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How is this even possible? (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about a year ago | (#43922155)

What exactly is "maintaining"? I've spent nothing on "Maintaining" my PC for some six years. And you can buy four PC's for that fee. And you can get a techie at $20 an hour for five hours a month every other month, so call it $500 per year. (Skipping currency games.)

So can we all have a piece of that slush fund?

Re:How is this even possible? (3, Interesting)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about a year ago | (#43922201)

In a business,

You need to test the patch before you allow it to propogate everywhere.

At a minimum, for every tuesday patch, you have 1 person patching a representative sample of your computers and then after seeing the computers still work postpatch, setting up the patch to propagate.

Assuming a 40,000 pound salary for one expert employee... and then another 50,000 pound salary for a back up... costs add up quickly.

Re:How is this even possible? (4, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43922249)

Those particular costs are shared among a relatively large number of PC's however.
Even if you have a thousands of PC's, you wouldn't need more than that handful of experts to test patches and maintain the backups.
If their setup is even remotely sane, all labor-intensive work on location would be low-skilled.

Re:How is this even possible? (2, Insightful)

Apothem (1921856) | about a year ago | (#43922299)

This is the government we're talking about here. There isn't much that they build that can be considered sane.

These are windows boxes, remember. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922401)

One admin doesn't scale to thousands of users, not even really for UNIX, but a Windows admin doesn't scale to hundreds and has problems scaling beyond dozens of desktops.

So your "large number of PCs" is only as many as your admin can administer on his own.

That's not relatively large.

Guess you didn't read the artice (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922427)

Those particular costs are shared among a relatively large number of PC's however.

The title actually says in it:
" £6,000 per year per desktop".

Re:Guess you didn't read the artice (3, Informative)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43922507)

The title says absolutely nothing about WHY it costs 6000 pounds/year/desktop.

Re:Guess you didn't read the artice (5, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about a year ago | (#43923433)

For that matter, it does not even really say if it _means_ desktops. My guess is that the person just took the IT budgets of all the offices and divided it by the number of computers they had and came up with the number, skipping over things like server costs. The number is so silly-high that I am skeptical that it represents what they say it does.

Re:Guess you didn't read the artice (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43923645)

Pretty sure it includes the salary of some useless middle and upper managers in that number.

Re:How is this even possible? (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#43923169)

"Assuming a 40,000 pound salary for one expert employee"

Hah.

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43923631)

That is the cost of using windows. If they went thin clients and an OS that doesn't need regular tuesday patchings they could save far more money. Heck they can even have some windows on the server for those few that actually need it and still have an easier life. Same thin client can boot to the Standard OS or to the Windows OS and yes with AD integration so you have single sign on.

Re:How is this even possible? (4, Insightful)

war4peace (1628283) | about a year ago | (#43923749)

Bullshit. That isn't the cost of using anything, it's one (or more) of the following:

- Made up numbers
- Wrongly calculated costs
- Huge useless management overhead
- General spending incompetence
- Overpriced licenses (e.g. "must have full Adobe Creative Suite on all PCs and upgrade it yearly")
- Users being dumb shits who break their computers on a weekly basis

All the above has little to nothing to do with which OS is being used.

Re:How is this even possible? (2)

mjwx (966435) | about a year ago | (#43922205)

What exactly is "maintaining"? I've spent nothing on "Maintaining" my PC for some six years. And you can buy four PC's for that fee. And you can get a techie at $20 an hour for five hours a month every other month, so call it $500 per year. (Skipping currency games.)

Their considering boot times to be costs. That should tell you how much bollocks is in the article (I, like any true /.er haven't read it).

Actual overheads are probably much lower.

Also which government department, the amount of security around any MOD installation would easily reach or exceed 6000 GBP in overheads, but very few departments would have this onerous requirement.

Re:How is this even possible? (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43922215)

(I, like any true /.er haven't read it)

Read what?

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922397)

People actually shut down and boot their pc anymore?

Really?

Last couple of systems i built have very nice sleep mode features... Shut down it's under 2.5 watts or about $3 per year. (assuming it was in sleep mode 24/7/365)

Not some low power desktop either. Heavy duty game machines. I'd guess a business could do with alot less. (but dont)

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about a year ago | (#43922557)

So you run Windows (since you mention gaming) but apparently never apply any patches whatsoever for security. I'm sure this is an excellent idea for government PCs too!

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

FaxeTheCat (1394763) | about a year ago | (#43923479)

I use a fully managed PC and it is booted somewhere between one and three times per month for software updates. The best thing is, I can reboot it when it suits me within the first day after the update has been applied, reducing the impact even further.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year ago | (#43923579)

Because not shutting down your PC every night means you never reboot to install updates right?

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922437)

Indeed, you don't seem to have read it.

Boot times are taken out as LOST PRODUCTIVITY. Not maintenance.

And remember that when logging on under windows, it will "download your profile" over the network. Seven minutes to boot up, log in and do that isn't bad unless you're going to blame the ass-backward way windows "works".

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year ago | (#43922579)

Why would you sit and wait for that? I usually grab a cup of coffee, go to the toilet, read some stuff that's on the todo pile or look at one of the projects for the coming day (we still have a lot of paper at my office).

For security reasons I would like a feature "download profile and lock computer" because I am often not at my desk when the login is complete.

Re:How is this even possible? (2)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43922967)

... and people wonder why we pile shit on MS Windows. Booting is one thing, but if a login takes longer than a user's attention span then the system is broken. Roaming profiles may be a good idea, but when some flaw turns them into crawling profiles then either the bottlenecks need to be found or the idea needs to be given up on in favour of something local enough to work before the user gets bored and wanders off.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year ago | (#43923103)

It's not that I am bored, I just want to divide my time neatly between fun and work. Waiting falls in neither so I try to minimize it.
Although I do get bored easily, I can and do Wait For It. I just try not to wait for IT.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about a year ago | (#43923571)

Roaming profiles may be a good idea, but when some flaw turns them into crawling profiles then either the bottlenecks need to be found or the idea needs to be given up on in favour of something local enough to work before the user gets bored and wanders off.

It's not isolated to Windows - if your Linux/OSX setup has your home folder on the network, and the network is crap, then you'll still get performance issues.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year ago | (#43923325)

"Their considering boot times to be costs. That should tell you how much bollocks is in the article (I, like any true /.er haven't read it)."

It's government computers. They cannot just make the machines go to sleep instead of powering them down in the evening, sleeping on the job is frowned upon.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

sidevans (66118) | about a year ago | (#43922225)

What exactly is "maintaining"? I've spent nothing on "Maintaining" my PC for some six years. And you can buy four PC's for that fee. And you can get a techie at $20 an hour for five hours a month every other month, so call it $500 per year. (Skipping currency games.)

So can we all have a piece of that slush fund?

The government doesn't pay $20 an hour for support, they pay $200 an hour.

Re:How is this even possible? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922281)

Actually, the UK government doesn't pay for support by the hour, they have established support contracts in place with several large UK companies.

The "hack job" of an article "forgets" that desktop prices include all the network infrastructure and the standard software packs. Switch ports, uplinks etc and the aforementioned support in place

The hack job article only touches lightly on the software costs of major application providers but fails to mention the amount of support required to maintain the crap that a lot of Government writes for itself... which is a lot of the most god awful crap.

The hack job of an article also fails to mention the rules and conditions that they, themselves, impose of desktop requirements. A vast amount of UK Government is required to operate at IL2 and IL3 security impact levels. Everything that touches said network, must be accredited to that security level. All software, all network, everything... EAL4/EAL4+ infrastructure is not cheap because of what the worlds Governments demand the manufacturers.

So, this article is complete crap, written by someone with no obvious understanding of the technical and security requirements and by stating "just buy iPads" she has told the world that she really does know nothing about large infrastructure design, planning and implementation.

Bit too harsh (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about a year ago | (#43922799)

I've worked for government in the Netherlands and I know how much a government desk top PC costs there. The Dutch government isn't as efficient as they can be with these, but 6000 UK pounds is still a lot more than the governmental institute I was working for was spending on their office IT infrastructure, per seat. If you would count in not just the Windows desktops but the Linux desktops they had there as well, you'd be looking at another 30% saving per seat, over the 2 platforms combined. The article may not be looking at "hidden costs" as much as they should, but even if you do, it's way too expensive.

Re:Bit too harsh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43923219)

I've worked for a Dutch quango as a contractor, so my wages didn't count towards official PC costs, but my main task was working on government software. I have seen how many man-hours are wasted due to buggy crap created by incompetent programmers. I've tried to alleviate that during my short career there, but I could only make a small dent. My secondary task was getting government employees out of IT trouble they had knowingly gotten themselves into. There is no more virus-laden computer than that one used by the big boss of a government department.

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922815)

So basically your saying that for:

* A desktop PC
* A connection to a network
* Software licensing
* Support
* Information Assurance of the same to IL2/3

£6,000 per year is reasonable? I disagree.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43923661)

Our accounting department has a $40,000 a year licensing fee for the software they use.
Guarantee Govt has special vertical market software that costs as much.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

kennethmci (1472923) | about a year ago | (#43923367)

agreed... at one point i was taking the article seriously ( although not agreeing with the conclusion ) and then i read the whole "you could buy X ipads" and i thought...WTF??? one minute we're talking about office machines that people use for work, the next we're talking about buying a lot of iPads?? that would certainly be a FAR more efficient waste of money for a large office. After everyone gets bored of the gimmicks and realises they have real work to do..they'd be shelved. the amount of times ive seen people comparing computers and the desktop market to tablets is starting to bore me. apples and oranges anyone?

Re:How is this even possible? (2)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#43923753)

I've been an infrastructure architect for environments that include heavy government regulation at multiple large enterprises. I've dealt with everything from HIPAA, DOD, SOX, PCI, FERPA, FDA and so on. I've also worked a fair bit Euro and Asian regulatory environments at multinationals. I've done these things at environments from large health insurance companies to financial companies at stock exchanges to working with DOD contractors to large multinational pharmaceuticals.

There is no reason for their support costs to be anywhere this high, even when you include everything you mention. This is why you utilize enterprise management tools to manage your computers. This is why you pay for a professional lab, use change management, standardize the desktop, use HII, use packages, and have strong policies. Even with the costs to professionally manage everything you should be at well less than a fourth of the support costs that they mention.

IL certification costs money, but there is no reason for it to cost anywhere that much money. All that being said the "just buy iPads" bit is enough for me to consider her incompetent and whole heartedly agree with your statement "she really does know nothing about large infrastructure design, planning and implementation"

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922389)

The government doesn't pay $20 an hour for support, they pay $200 an hour.

The government doesn't pay $200 an hour for support, they pay £129.56 an hour.

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43923015)

£129.56. That's exactly $200.00. What a coincidence!

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

sidevans (66118) | about a year ago | (#43923105)

I'm from Australia :P try again an AUD

Re:How is this even possible? (3, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#43923669)

They pay 2 dingos and a bushman a month.

Re:How is this even possible? (3, Insightful)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43922331)

I guess it does depend on what is classed as maintaining as you say and I'm not sure what sections of government they're referring too.

I can however speak for local government, specifically my local council and whilst it differs council by council I can quite imagine it for mine.

At my local council around 2009 they were paying £28k for bottom of the rung helpdesk/front line support monkeys, and they upped their wages to £32k around 2009 - 2010 right at the height of the recession when they were axing outright other departments and services. For reference the equivalent member of staff in private sector with an equivalent degree of competence and responsibilities would be paid around the £18k - £20k mark in this region so they were paying £12k - £14k a year premium for each member of support staff alone and there was a decent number of them. If support costs are factored into this figure then I can full well imagine grossly over-inflated wages in at least some IT departments across the spectrum of government departments across the UK is a big factor.

Further to this, in 2011 the council decided, again, whilst making cuts to real actual useful services to blow a few million on upgrading everyone from Office 2007 to Office 2010, because of course that was totally worth it, I mean Office 2010 was so fundamentally different that despite being at the height of an austerity drive and despite having to cut useful services and despite cutting funding for real actual problems like 1 foot deep potholes and so forth it was essential that all staff got bumped from 2007 to 2010. Oh, and of course they hired a bunch of people on £32k a year to install it, because of course you need people paid a 23% premium over the national average wage in a relatively cheap part of the country to stick a CD in and click next next next a few times rather than just get your existing well paid support team to just install it remotely using the city-wide fibre network you'd built to every single satellite office a few years beforehand. It's all this sort of wastage that causes that figure.

Put simply, if my local council is representative of government in general then I'd say the £6k is probably about right because for some reason they have a hard-on for IT and all common sense and fiscal responsibility just goes right out the window. Government has enforced public sector pay rise increase limitations of 0% for a few years and 1% some years after so the wages issue at least will begin to be dealt with via inflation if they keep that up, though the problem is it's a blanket thing so unfairly harms government roles that were underpaid but this is typical of our current government's cuts - rather than grappling the fundamental issues of wastage and overpayment in some areas they just demand blanket cuts and let local councils get on with it even though many are way too lacking in competence to do it sensibly. The net result is reports like this - highlighting the disturbing levels of wastage in some areas.

I'm just glad I'm not paying council tax to that particular council any more at least though I've no idea what expenditure on this sort of thing is like at my current council as I don't know anyone that works there.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

wadeal (884828) | about a year ago | (#43922985)

Oh, and of course they hired a bunch of people on £32k a year to install it, because of course you need people paid a 23% premium over the national average wage in a relatively cheap part of the country to stick a CD in and click next next next a few times

Except you would pay someone that wage to come in and deploy to your PCs via an automated method, especially if your current IT has no experience with that product. Not to mention testing compatibility of addons, retraining, reconfiguring settings or GPOs to match your requirements with the new version etc. For instance: Word 2010 by default uses different paragraph spacing than 2007, you probably want to ensure your Office Programs are saving in your companies default extension (doc or docx) and in the required location (each user may have a mapped "user drive" that you want to be the default save location).

And there are reasons to upgrade that improve the user experience (you at least have the ribbon on every product in 2010, not a mix like 2007) and IT Support (2010 DOES have less issues than 2007).

But don't worry, just keep straw manning to success.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43923097)

"Except you would pay someone that wage to come in and deploy to your PCs via an automated method, especially if your current IT has no experience with that product."

One person at £32k is still cheaper than 10 people at £320k and given that they have a lot of computers at different sites they damn well should (and for what it's worth do) have staff trained in remote deployment and the software and infrastructure to do it. They just opted to send people around physically instead.

"For instance: Word 2010 by default uses different paragraph spacing than 2007, you probably want to ensure your Office Programs are saving in your companies default extension (doc or docx) and in the required location (each user may have a mapped "user drive" that you want to be the default save location)."

That's why you have a support team. For when these things don't work.

"And there are reasons to upgrade that improve the user experience (you at least have the ribbon on every product in 2010, not a mix like 2007) and IT Support (2010 DOES have less issues than 2007)."

No reasons large enough to justify the expenditure at a time when they're making cuts axing meaningful jobs that could've otherwise been saved. The staff could just as well have got by on 2007 for a few more years until 2013 came out or the next version again even and 99% of the staff would have never even noticed the difference or seen any change in productivity.

"But don't worry, just keep straw manning to success."

I don't think you understand that fallacy.

I'm not theorising, I worked there myself for some years and still have friends who work there to this day, everything I've said is fact - it was a waste of money based on poor management decisions and nothing else. You can pretend there may have been good reasons all you want but there weren't it is just a real life example of public sector throwing money down the drain.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

wadeal (884828) | about a year ago | (#43923147)

One person at £32k is still cheaper than 10 people at £320k and given that they have a lot of computers at different sites they damn well should (and for what it's worth do) have staff trained in remote deployment and the software and infrastructure to do it. They just opted to send people around physically instead.

Sorry I thought you had no understanding and actually though the process was going around with a CD, not utilizing GP or SCCM or Altiris or Landesk etc. That's actually pretty shocking that they don't employ something like SCCM, Microsoft give pretty decent discounts to Government as well.

That's why you have a support team. For when these things don't work.

Nope. You plan and test all these things, then test with a few users initially, then fix issues, then test again, maybe fix more issues, then test and if OK you deploy. Slowly deploy as well lol.

No reasons large enough to justify the expenditure at a time when they're making cuts axing meaningful jobs that could've otherwise been saved. The staff could just as well have got by on 2007 for a few more years until 2013 came out or the next version again even and 99% of the staff would have never even noticed the difference or seen any change in productivity.

2010 is the next version. No corporate anywhere is moving to Windows 8/Office 2013. We actually had a third party software purchased by the CEO turn around and say we need all 2010... Despite my protest of this sounding completely retarded the CEO said it had to happen so we made it happen. My experience in this deployment to only hundreds of PCs is what made me jump at your post saying just walk around with a CD.

I do agree though that unless there was a definite requirement there are of course more pressing things - some people do get a hard on for IT lol.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43923337)

The reality there is that at a guess 95% of their staff could get by with something as simple as Wordpad, not that I'm advocating they just use that but certainly to give you an idea of the level of complexity they need in their office suite - i.e. pretty much none.

That's why switching to 2010 struck me as particularly wasteful, there was really nothing in it that I suspect anything other than maybe 2 or 3 out of the 5000 staff they employ would use.

I'll be honest and say I'm not entirely sure why they paid explicitly for Office separately because I was under the impression they'd subscribed to Microsoft's software assurance programme, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's simply because one person signed up to SA, and the other didn't realise they were signed up to SA and just bought 5000 licenses for Office individually. That's the sort of lack of communication you get there that leads to thousands, hundreds of thousands, and even millions just being thrown away. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe their SA license didn't cover office for some reason but it was all a little weird.

Of course the other possibility was out and out corruption, the head of IT was very much in the pockets of Microsoft, regularly going down to Reading to go to their parties and not that I'm saying FOSS would've been worthwhile (I'm not a fan of FOSS alternatives) but he didn't even ever consider it as an option during procurement which always seemed to sink - if you don't even attempt to evaluate alternatives then how can you be sure you're getting value for money? I always felt that's kind of important when it's not your money, but the taxpayers. Unfortunately this sort of attitude of actually wanting to give the tax payers a good deal rather than waste their money was generally frowned upon as you being a troublemaker just trying to make life difficult for the old boys club that was just looking for an easy road to early retirement at the age of 55 - 60 and with a hefty pay off to boot.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

progician (2451300) | about a year ago | (#43923335)

Is it just me who find it outrageous that councils are using these excuse for a software, like Office suit and all that, and piling up costs to update and maintain them, while a fucking free text editor do the job, on a lower spec pc, with little to no maintenance costs?

I mean, there's a host of reliable, powerful and well supported tool for all the stuff that a normal office person does: emailing, writing documents: plain text editing is at the heart of writing a document, formatting is only a secondary thing and is not needed until the point that you must print it, in which case, you a bloody asciidoc/markdown/whatever formatter and get done with it. Spreadsheets are just a poor excuse for doing something more complicated and confusing way than a simple script language and some elaborate, plain text formatted data. That is all what a simple office minion need to use, in any country, in any council. There are great, free ways to construct digital forms too, without a mess what Word is.

Yes, it requires training. So does Excel Fucking 2007. And then again, Excel Fucking 2010. And then agian... with, or without ribbons. And then, learn "Cloud Services". But once the person got comfortable of doing some basic calculations with plain ascii stored data, that knowledge will be useful for her entire career. These aren't user friendly systems: many spend most of their time to find the right templates, the right bloody styles, fixing their fonts placing and sizing the columns, scrolling back and forth (c'mon, in excell 2010 I can't even tell how that fucking scrolling works in the first place, and eventually every poor fucker must write macros because otherwise useless. Just get a fucking education in a user friendly programming language such as python, or I don't mind what and leave me alone with your digitally useless spreadsheets) instead of actually dealing with the work at hand. And the costs are enormous for basically worse productivity, crippled by updates and fragmentation, incompatibility, linked costs (like that of the operating system and million additional "app" to make it useful to some degree) and pay an army of "Microsoft expert" to locate files in hidden directories. The whole MS Office world is mess crippling public services.

Look at the costs of licensing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922387)

Windows CALs, Exchange CALs, Sharepoint CALs, license servers, license compliance checks, purchase depreciation and administration.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised just the Microsoft CALs came to over a grand on their own.

Remember, it takes many more admins to admin a windows network, and because of the BRAINFUCK way windows "works", you "need" AD to do what UNIX have done for decades to allow roaming users.

Re:How is this even possible? (1)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | about a year ago | (#43923465)

Considering this is a government figure making a statement, I'm guessing there's some spin on this figure. I would bet money this is basically the entire IT budget divided by the number of computers provided that aren't in the IT department. It probably includes support staff salaries, building maintenance and rent on the call centres and offices, infrastructure/server setup costs (amortized over x years) and warranties for everything down to the Biro he doodled on while drinking his first cup of tea while his system booted. Go far enough up the national-scale centralized service/support chain in your per-seat calculation, you'll hit £6k easily.

Re:How is this even possible? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43923605)

"I don't understand all the fuss about Long haul Semi Truck Maintenance and safety, My honda civic is cheap to maintain and rarely breaks."

That is essentially what you just said.

Let's do the math (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | about a year ago | (#43922165)

So if we make a day equal to a full work day, 8 hours, and there are 240 work days per year (48 weeks) then that would be 6 minutes of boot time per computer.
How did they come up with their statistic?

Re:Let's do the math (1)

dominux (731134) | about a year ago | (#43922189)

7 minutes * 240 days is 1680 minutes, divide by 60 is 28 hours, divide by 3 is 9 hours 20 minutes. So yeah, if the PC really takes 7 minutes to boot, then 3 days/year is kinda right. This doesn't take into account the fact that it might not be typical, and most people do something else rather than stare at a booting PC.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43922349)

"and most people do something else rather than stare at a booting PC."

We're talking about UK government office staff here, no they don't. They just sit drooling whilst mindlessly waiting for either Facebook or Solitaire to show up on their screen.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#43922403)

I help save money at boot time by leaving my PC on all night doing Bitcoin mining. It's win-win!

Re:Let's do the math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922227)

“I came into the office and I pressed my PC and it took me seven minutes to boot up,” he told attendees. “That’s government in the old world, that’s three days of the year I waste of my time booting up.”

It's the government's Chief Operations Officer extrapolating their own experience to all of the other machines. The University I work in has a chronically slow system which seems to store account information and files on the Moon and pipes the info back via pigeon so it takes 5-6 minutes to log in, it wouldn't surprise me if the government has a similar setup.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922259)

In my institution we get "I came into the office and I pressed my PC and it took me seven minutes to boot up" all the time.

So we send a tech bod with them with them the next time they boot up to time it. Clocks up at 2 minutes. Also, his quote seems to assume he can be doing nothing of use during that boot up time. It's bullshit, plain and simple.

Re:Let's do the math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922371)

I once clocked a Windows system to boot up in over 10 minutes. I have no idea how they managed to do that, though.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

Teun (17872) | about a year ago | (#43922983)

I normally work 'in the field' but during his holidays I sit in for my manager.

Last year his XP laptop needed >15 mins. to boot up and log in.
I checked and found the disk heavily fragmented and it was initially impossible to fix as there was less than a few % of free space.
Cleaning out a bunch of stuff and a night with a good (non MS) defragger made it a better PC at around 5 mins. boot and log in.

We are the Data Acquisition Dept, IT is supposedly our business so I'm not at all surprised by problems in government departments...

Re:Let's do the math (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43922257)

6 minutes boot time isn't insane on a heavily automated setup. Then again, who needs to reboot their PC every day on a well maintained setup? At best you'd simply let it sleep or hibernate to save some power and perhaps shut it down only in the weekends.
Also; 6 minutes is easily covered by turning on your computer first, then walking back to put up your coat, get a cup of coffee, etc...

Re:Let's do the math (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922347)

A lot of this slowness is almost certainly down to the mandatory entire disk encryption on all laptops or anything that leaves the building (regardless of whether it has sensitive data on it or not) brought in as a knee jerk reaction to a couple of lost laptops. A royal pain in the arse for most users, who don't necessarily see /any/ sensitive information.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

Suferick (2438038) | about a year ago | (#43923227)

I don't buy it. Yes, a laptop with full disk encryption takes a bit of time to boot (mine, a Dell Latitude D630, has just taken 3 minutes including the initial decryption dialogue) but a desktop system will boot faster. If 7 minute boot times where I work were common, our help desk would be inundated with angry calls every morning and the IT director besieged by demands for the service to be fixed.

I'm not sure about that £6000 figure - which was the cost, by the way, not just maintenance - but numbers like that tripping from the tongues of senior managers who may or may not be in touch with the real details are always suspect in my view.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43922355)

Maybe not insane, but I'd have considered it unacceptable in 1990 and have higher standards now.
Combined with a "how many times do you want to reboot today" OS that needs a kick after minor patches and you've either got extra IT people rebooting things at night or management that will start to lose patience and look for heads to kick.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about a year ago | (#43922357)

There are countless places i've been to where 6 minutes would be considered a good bootup time, some take a lot more than that, especially if you count the time required to log in and not just the time to display the login prompt.

Sleep and/or hibernate is often not reliable, and on corporate images is often disabled, and even then it can take a ridiculous amount of time to wake up.
Many companies have a policy of shutting everything down at night "to save power"... And i know several places that don't but if you leave your machine running it will be unusable in the morning and need to be rebooted anyway.

Still, this attitude of "wasted minutes" is ridiculous, people are not machines and are thus do not operate continuously throughout the day... We have to take breaks, our attention wanders and we can't concentrate on the same thing for too long. Sure 6 minutes of extra time on an automated system is a worthwhile gain, but for a human its just lost in the noise and what you gained in one place would just be lost elsewhere.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#43922501)

Still, this attitude of "wasted minutes" is ridiculous, people are not machines and are thus do not operate continuously throughout the day... We have to take breaks, our attention wanders and we can't concentrate on the same thing for too long. Sure 6 minutes of extra time on an automated system is a worthwhile gain, but for a human its just lost in the noise and what you gained in one place would just be lost elsewhere.

.. yeah, but it eats into precious Slashdot-time (or whatever) and hence that quarter become 21 minutes and .. ;D

Re:Let's do the math (1)

dbIII (701233) | about a year ago | (#43923019)

That first moment of the day however is sometimes the most important time for the computer to be accessible - especially if some other communications channel lets the person know that there is an important email waiting for their attention. Very slow startup times on manager's computers at such times are unhealthy for both the blood pressure of the user and the employment prospects of the IT people that are supposed to save them from such delays.
In this age of gigabit networks, fast network storage and cheap fast SSD drives for local storage I don't consider it remotely forgivable for any place with a reasonable budget to have their users waiting for several minutes at login as a frequent event.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#43922435)

On a locked down government network (heh, I know...) I wouldn't be surprised if the 6 minute boot time is because they're using roaming profiles. Every morning pulling the same data back down to the client, even though they use exactly they same PC every day.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43922553)

I used to work for a large financial institution which used roaming profiles and indeed had quite a long boot time.
The solution was pretty easy and exactly as I already stated and very little time was lost.
How many people actually sit behind their computers waiting for them to boot up?
I know other groups who had agreements that the first person there just switched on all computers or atleast the ones in their immediate reach.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#43922837)

Wake on LAN script? The issue there is people who are ill won't be at their computer, so you're wasting money. If it hits suspend after so many minutes it's not so bad, I guess.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43922339)

By taking into account the bad DNS configuration that drastically increases the login time on Windows PCs and that is rife throughout the networks supported by many incompetent public sector IT departments I would guess.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

JenniP (824070) | about a year ago | (#43922473)

Except that 6 minutes is a very conservative estimate, I work in local government and our PC's were taking 20 minutes+ to get to a state they were usable. Worse if you were at one of the remote offices with poor WAN links you could be waiting upwards of 30-40 minutes. We recently did a complete restructure of our AD that along with an upgrade to Windows 7 and a series of PC refreshes has cut this dramatically, down to 3-4 minutesish now. However as for this £6000 figure I can see how this could work, where I work all PC and IT services are managed in house and I think on the whole we provide a good service to our customers, but most central government departments outsourced it all and its now generally dire, my partner has one of the better machines in their office and its cringingly slow, very out of date (1.2Ghz single core) and still running Windows XP with no announced plans to get off XP before support expires.

Re:Let's do the math (1)

progician (2451300) | about a year ago | (#43923483)

Isn't it possible to use, I don't know, Suspend to Disk aka. Hibernation feature? That would save awful lot of time.

How is that quantified? (1)

goto11 (116604) | about a year ago | (#43922171)

What comprises maintenance? I'm curious if this includes hardware/software purchase costs and IT salaries. How is "slow boot up time" quantified? The devil is in the details.

Kelly could be quite right (2)

Craefter (71540) | about a year ago | (#43922193)

I believe the writer of the article does not consider enterprise items like geo-redundant infrastructure, storage, backup, auditing compliance and enterprise level servers. The majority of the cost is probably generated by slow IT processes to change, acquire and deploy software or features. A lot of meetings and paperwork is often needed and those people need to be paid also. A lot of large organizations do not know the meaning of the word "agile".

Re:Kelly could be quite right (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43922333)

Mixture of things.

They probably ignored software costs (those multimillion pound installs of some boring package to bo boring, non ipaddy yet essential things, like you know, actually paying staff), the massive networking requirements for that many PCs (much of the network is older than the modern public infrastructure based internet and you can't just switch 500,000 computers with ease). Actually there was an article about exactly that on slashdot a while back. And severs, redundancy and such features for the things which really REALLY RREEAALLLLYY must keep working.

And there's probably a good wadge of wretchedness too, since for an organisation over 10 people, you can't get nothing but the best staff.

Oh and the previous government was in love with Microsoft in an unpleasantly stalky way, so they are probably mandated to be on XP and IE6, or themandate lasted so long it's dug them into a very expensive hole.

Bottom line: it's not great, but I doubt it's anything like as bad as it looks.

Re:Kelly could be quite right (1)

mrbester (200927) | about a year ago | (#43922381)

The cost of upgrading from XP would be used as a reason for not doing so; after all it costs £6k *right now* to not upgrade...

Re:Kelly could be quite right (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#43922763)

A lot of large organizations do not know the meaning of the word "agile".

A general trait of large organisms is a lack of agility.

Re:Kelly could be quite right (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about a year ago | (#43923673)

..and ignored the requirement for greater security (iPads have only recently been certified for IL3 and not above) and the fact that a large majority of the software the government uses is Windows only and/or custom and will not run on an iPad at all ...

Huh? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43922207)

offered a frightening insight into the world of government IT spending this week.

Is there some reason he thinks government employees waste any more time dicking around with computers than private sector computers do?

Also, whenever people start screeching about how much computers are costing us, stop to think how much it would cost us to go back to doing things the way we did 50 years ago. Want to run a government agency or a megacorporation with typewriters and filing cabinets?

Re:Huh? (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | about a year ago | (#43922269)

It would look something like this [nextgov.com] .

Re:Huh? (1)

Xest (935314) | about a year ago | (#43922375)

"Is there some reason he thinks government employees waste any more time dicking around with computers than private sector computers do?"

I can't talk for every department across the UK of course, but I worked full time in public sector in local government for 6 years, and have done a few contracts in other areas of government and I can say that without question that's absolutely the case. Part of the problem is as much that they're given more money to dick around with computers in the first place than private sector and not given any reason not to spend the money.

All too often rather than have the head of IT write up a budget in public sector and get it approved by some board or the CEO, possibly with some negotiation on reducing it by cutting some things off the list they're just given a massive wad of money without question for the department that's way more than they actually need and they're outright told to spend it all because otherwise next year they'll be given less so it's easier to just waste it and get the same amount/more next year than it is to have some left over and have to be a bit more sensible with spending next year because you're given a little less.

Number I pulled out of my ass way too high! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922209)

Whoa, so I like talked to this guy and he was all like "Dude, I bet the UK spends like 6k pounds per desktop." And I was all like "Whoa, that number is so fucking high, man. How did you figure that out?" And he was all like "Dude, you just had to be there." And then I was like "Whoa, you could buy like so many fucking iPads with that money." And he was all like "Dude, sooo fucking many." And then I wrote this article about it.

Some perspective (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922229)

I had to comment to say that I work in the UK public sector and this is so far from the truth it's amazing. It's complete crap. I'm sure someone wanting to make a point about waste could find a department somewhere in the country which made some bad decisions and got locked into an expensive contract but the general picture is that public service IT teams are under huge pressure to reduce costs. I suspect this £6000 figure is about ten times what we spend over the thousand-odd desktops in our offices.

But let's not forget that in the UK at the moment, we have both a government with an interest in painting public sector organisations as slow, lazy and wasteful in order to lay the foundations of their plans to privatise it (i.e. sell it to their old etonian school chums). We also have a press which is more than happy to press home the same idea. Why let actual facts get in the way of that?

Re:Some perspective (1)

Spad (470073) | about a year ago | (#43922981)

2 years ago when I was contracting in the NHS, they were paying about £800 for a new desktop (hardware + licenses) of which ~£400 was the licenses because the current government had decided that negotiating pricing with Microsoft et al nationally for the NHS was a bad idea when they could have each trust pay 3 times as much instead.

Factor in 12 support staff at ~£20k/year for 2,500, machines and that's maybe another £100 on top, so call it about grand for the first year once you factor in cabling and mouse mats, after which it's maybe a couple of hundred quid per year to maintain them.

Even if you're really misleading and start factoring in a proportion of sever & networking costs into the supposed cost of maintaining desktops, you're going to struggle to reach £6k/year per machine.

Also, what exactly does he think these 10 iPads are going to do? Magically maintain themselves while also writing a compatibility layer to allow all the shitty in-house windows-only (sometimes DOS-only) applications to run on them?

Not quite.. but I've been there.. (4, Interesting)

wbane (12572) | about a year ago | (#43922243)

When I worked as a SysAdmin (on to an IT Manager) at a Healthcare system, I inherited a PC system spanning 16 counties, 300 machines all running various iterations of Windows on a mixture of new and incredibly aging machines. We spent so much time and wasted so much money on supporting some of these machines in the remote sites that I eventually got fed up and made a PXE booted custom mini-Linux distro (I dubbed it Spork Linux because it was so damned handy) that included basic web browsing, rdesktop (rdp client), citrix client, helpdesk access and a few misc tools and just setup a central Windows terminal server. This gave us better control over what people were accessing and where, removed licenses for apps that some people really didn't need.. (c'mon.. how many people really needed Microsoft Office suite? So.. we set OpenOffice and made them think some of them had MS Office.. LOL) and helped us "recycle/reuse" some old machines that now acted simply as dumb terminals but booted up in about 5-20 seconds since all that extra bloat wasn't there anymore. After all that license reclaiming and monitoring how much we spent on travel, repairs, etc.. we saved over 75,000$/year easily. It's definitely not that impressive but when you considering that's for a small org covering the geographic distance of a US state.. that's decent enough.. those numbers from the UK government don't surprise me all that much in comparison considering how many machines/people/locations they'd have to support. It's wasteful and awful, but unless someone changes it.. and for the better, they are going to hemorrhage money.

Re:Not quite.. but I've been there.. (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | about a year ago | (#43922781)

The guy before you probably didn't do that because he knew the system would be bullet-proof and could be managed by a tech paid 1/10 your salary. It is entirely possible to be so good at your job that you make yourself redundant.

Impressive! (1)

gweihir (88907) | about a year ago | (#43922265)

Your incompetence and inefficiency astounds me! You are true disciples of the bureaucratic side.

Re:Impressive! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922549)

Yup. They probably spent 1000 hours compiling this report instead of taking one hour to sync their web server up to a public NTP server. Fucking idiots. IDIOTS!

FUD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922275)

This article is simple FUD.

You have to remember that we have a government in the UK who have an interest in misrepresenting public sector organisations as slow, wasteful, lazy and out of date because they want to sell the work they do off to their old-etonian friends to make huge profits from. We also have a press who are (mostly) happy to help them spread this crap.

The department I work in probably spends a tenth of that on it's somewhere around 1000 desktops.

Bullshit (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year ago | (#43922309)

What does this £6,000 cover? Network services and wages to support all these machines? £6,000/user/year for IT isn't that unreasonable for a very large organization that has to handle sensitive data, maintain strict access controls and comply with a lot of legal requirements on document storage. People would be upset if the government claimed to have lost important emails due to a HDD failure.

A 7 minute boot time doesn't equate to three days a year lost either, especially since few people fully shut their machines down and few people stand there staring at the screen waiting for it to boot.

Re:Bullshit (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about a year ago | (#43923615)

A 7 minute boot time doesn't equate to three days a year lost either, especially since few people [...] stand there staring at the screen waiting for it to boot.

Um, dude? What do you think a COO does?

Have you tried to turn it off and on again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922329)

- Hello IT
- (Inaudible)
- Have you tried to turn it off and on again?

Possible replies (1)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about a year ago | (#43922641)

- No. It's a heart-lung machine that's currently in use. I did not turn it off. - No. I run Fedora. - No. I can't find the switch.

TFA seems rather confused... (5, Informative)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43922623)

A few gems:

“I came into the office and I pressed my PC and it took me seven minutes to boot up,” he told attendees. “That’s government in the old world, that’s three days of the year I waste of my time booting up."

Urm, just gonna sit there and watch it boot, eh Steve? Go grab a coffee, make some calls...whatever.

"You wouldn't believe how much (it costs), I think the average cost of a desktop a year is about £6,000"
So he "thinks" a "desktop" costs that....I wonder what the definition of "desktop" is? The PC, the PC & support? The PC, support & s/w? etc...

The Fine Jounalist challenges the £6K figure.
"According to my estimations – verified by a CIO – this figure should be less than £1,000 per year taking into account the cost of the hardware, office suite, and support and server costs over a three-year period"

Seems more reasonable, but does not say it's a like-for-like comparison. Support costs for Govt. PC may include additional security, network and application maintenance, which for Govt crapware can be insanely costly.

Could only find one other article here, but really just the same information...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/10097514/State-workers-spend-three-days-a-year-waiting-for-PCs-to-start.html [telegraph.co.uk]

Apples and oranges. (1)

bradley13 (1118935) | about a year ago | (#43922727)

The original study seems to be using PCs as a quick way of counting the users that they support. Many computer intensive organizations spend GBP 6000 per person per year in - here's the catch - total IT costs. Government administration is probably typical here, and GBP 6000 is not at all unreasonable.

The author of this article quickly points out that she can buy 22 iPads for that price. That's great, but it doesn't pay her website, server, ERP system or the people to run it all. Her CIO friend who thinks a spend of GBP 1000 (EUR 1500) per person per year was either answering a different question, or is clueless.

Doesn't surprise me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43922761)

...UK Police computers are absolutely shocking.

What the public think we've got https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wX_i2vhnVKQ

What we aspire to have https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSJDIGiepgU

I really wish it wasn't true :(

This smells of lazy calculations (1)

JSombra (1849858) | about a year ago | (#43922999)

As they don't provide any information how they arrived at the £6000 figure going to assume they did it the lazy mans way:

Total IT Costs/PCs = cost per desktop

While i have no doubt the government overpays (actually worked the sector and seen some of the prices they pay, just makes me want to cry because of the sheer stupidty) anyone with half a brain knows calculating costs that way is not only pointless but downright unhelpful

Re:This smells of lazy calculations (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43923083)

If that doesn't include much of a public facing website, then that's a very usable metric. In fact, it's a pretty damn good metric, and quite believable.

Solid State HDDs FTW! (1)

Phoeniyx (2751919) | about a year ago | (#43923137)

Slow boot up times?? Not in my house!

Lobbying (1)

benjfowler (239527) | about a year ago | (#43923195)

It'll be impossible to take in-house, because doing the work in house would be "anti competitive", and "socialist".

The golf club set feel entitled to help themselves to taxpayer funds, and -- like the fool who steps between the pigs and their swill -- God help you if you dare to challenge you, because you will get mauled by their lobbyists, PR and paid shills.

Boot Time = Desktop or Laptop? (1)

StoneyMahoney (1488261) | about a year ago | (#43923301)

As laptops are much easier to "misplace", there are a couple of policies that virtually every government department (and big business, for that matter) requires are in place if the unit might get even the slightest sniff of sensitive information.

1 - Hard drive encryption must be in play before the OS boots.
2 - Laptops must be fully powered off when in transit to ensure the hard drive encryption is fully engaged and no residual data is available in RAM.

When I worked for the NHS, the encryption software alone doubled the boot time of every laptop it was installed on. When you start to take into account the sheer weight of software installed on even desktop computers - remote access tools, network access control layers, auditing and management systems - and consider that this isn't your usual pre-installed system bloatware but packages custom-built by highly-paid consultants, monitored and maintained across thousands of sites by teams of technicians, not to mention the other standard software packages (Office, Citrix, developed applications, etc), the hardware itself suddenly becomes a tiny part of the TCO. Depending on how you calculate that (include/exclude network infrastructure/bandwidth/server costs? Divide the whole IT budget by the number of people at your desks?) I could easily see that figure being inflated to £6k if that's what the weasel wants to see.

Sheer incompetence (1)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#43923503)

They could start by making some changes that cost nothing and would reduce their boot times. Most critical of all is the need to use an enterprise management tool (Altiris etc.) to run the fleet and automate maintenance. This alone combined with a competent staff and policies that allow them to use best practices should drop maintenance costs by 75% within a year.

For an immediate free impact you can start by stopping the scheduling everything to run overnight! This doesn't work when combined with shutting down PC's. The net result is that as soon as you turn the computer on it immediately starts processing 'overdue' jobs. Your now combining boot up, establishing connections, software distribution, patching, antivirus scans, inventory scans with the time of day the user most pays attention to their computer - first thing in the morning.

This problem is readily fixed at no cost by using maintenance windows during the day hours for anything that doesn't require a reboot. Anything that runs in the day can be throttled and set to run silently. Run your virus scan at 10, patch at 12, distribute software at 2 and so on. By distributing the load during day hours, after the computer is up and running your cup of coffee boot ups. By scheduling things you avoid the user impact and perception issue and insure the computer is powered on when you need it.

Re:Sheer incompetence (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about a year ago | (#43923715)

The boot times are mostly due to the very high security environment, pre-boot hard drive encryption and extra security software ...

I've worked for several London councils.... (2)

Tomsk70 (984457) | about a year ago | (#43923587)

...and I can tell you, this is not surprising at all.

All the desktops are the lowest CPU version possible - usually with not enough memory either. Because you can't put a value on waiting for bootup/ apps/ etc., but you can show how much money you've saved by going for a Celeron instead of an i3/ i5, you can guess which one happens.

Then there's citrix, and other money-saving wheezes that ultimately do nothing to lower the TCO, rather just shift the expense to the server-end instead of the desktop. And that's before we get to staff (or rather, senior managers etc.) that then demand a PC anyway.

And let's not forget the stupidly low money that gov. techs get paid - see peanuts/ monkeys, because anyone that has a real aptitude for the job will be gone within a year because this. As a result, contractors do very nicely out of it but the value-for-money aspect goes out of the window.

And remember, the decision to save-money-now-even-if-it-costs-more-tomorrow are legion - I just finshed a domain refresh, where I had to replace all the DC's across a London borough with brand-new HP boxes...loaded with Win2003 because the client 'didn't want to change anything'.

What's annoying is when politicians start complaining about the system they preside over and are ultimately responsible for - I suggest we remove them and replace them all with contractors :-)

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