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United Kingdom Government The Almighty Buck IT Technology

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

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  • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:15AM (#43922155) Journal

    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?

    • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:24AM (#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.

      • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:36AM (#43922249) Homepage

        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.

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


      • They're civil servants, they don't get anywhere near industry rates, even as specialists. It's only the very senior civil servants who get stupid pay (and even they're underpaid by industry standards). They do, however, get index linked pensions to make up for it.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      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.

      • by Black Parrot ( 19622 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:26AM (#43922215)

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

        Read what?

      • "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.

      • Their considering boot times to be costs.

        When I read this in a story about UK, reminded me of the simple question. Have you tried turning it off and on? []

    • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:56AM (#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.

      • 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 th

    • 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

    • In other news, the contract to maintain the UK Govdernment's computers was won by the ne'r do well brother in law of a PM
  • 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".

    • 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 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...

    • 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.

    • ..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 ...

  • 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?

    • It would look something like this [].
    • by Xest ( 935314 )

      "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 priva

      • Yes, go to any seminar or training conference. Line up the people with the most certifications, 9/10 of them will be government employees. They've got all the time in the world to collect certifications.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:25AM (#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 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:29AM (#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?

    • by Spad ( 470073 )

      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 fact

      • 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?

        Of course not. They'd have Capita or EDS come on board as consultants for the deployment. The consultants would fill their pockets, and some politicians and high-up civil servants would ensure a job on leaving office. Employees, struggling with a severely impractical but sexy solution would switch to using post-it notes and pens, thus reducing government spending on treatments for RSI and similar computer-caused ailments. The savings made here would reduce the overall annual cost per device to £

  • by wbane ( 12572 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @03:34AM (#43922243) Homepage

    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.

    • 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.
      • by CAIMLAS ( 41445 )

        Oh, on the contrary - someone making 1/10th the salary wouldn't be able to do the job, becaues there'd be nobody around smart enough to train them. Someone at that income level lacks the initiative and professionalism necessary. (Yes, even if they're in India doing it remotely, or they're only making half as much.)

        Yes, a well oiled machine runs better for longer without being adjusted. But when something bad happens to that well maintained machine, it's usually a little bit more complex than just kicking it

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

  • 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 p

    • 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?

  • by Bearhouse ( 1034238 ) on Thursday June 06, 2013 @04:50AM (#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... []

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

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

      • When I first started deploying full disk encryption in the late 90's it was a significant burden on the computer. It could easily take over a day to encrypt the drive and performance was castrated on any computer. That was an eternity in technology though and today you can typically run full disk encryption with about a 2% load.

        I've worked with environments where anything that could be was encrypted, from the disk to routine traffic (email etc). With today's computers you should never have more than a 5% im

  • ...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

  • This is at the same level of silliness as the figure I heard to maintain one railway level crossing in the UK - £17,000 per year (17,000 pounds in case that doesn't render for you). Yet, having lived in the UK all my life I have never once seen a level crossing undergoing any maintenance; they are obviously extremely reliable and don't need much. So where does the 17,000 go? No doubt replacement parts are very expensive, but as I said I have never seen anything being replaced. The figure is crazy,
  • They must have added software licenses and/or the programmers to write software for them or something because it's about $5/PC here at my company. I even only replaced 2 mice in 2013.
  • I can't tell you how many times I've grabbed my android tablet to get to the web while waiting for my PC to recover from either losing it's mind or getting an update.

"Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb