In January 2014 I wrote about the benefits of cloud computing for businesses. I made a few predictions about the wireless office and how cloud computing would change the landscape of the modern workplace, with desktop PCs likely to fall out of favour with an already shrinking share of the market.

Here’s what I wrote back then:

Go into any offices, and you will most likely find dozens, or even hundreds of chunky desktop computers. But could the office run without any of them?

Wireless office

Imagine your office without any of its desktop PCs. It would probably look a lot emptier and perhaps a lot tidier.

This can be your reality – simply by replacing every desktop PC with a laptop that each employee looks after and takes home with them at the end of the day.

So what are the benefits?

  • Less power is used by the office as laptops are designed to run off batteries.
  • Workplace becomes more flexible. Employees are not tied to their desk in order to work, they can work from any desk. This makes it easier to move employees and teams around if you are expanding and people who need to work together on a project can just move and sit together.
  • Employees can work from home or customer site if they need to. Take a look at this article for more information on technology and remote working.
  • Office looks tidier, and there is more space to be utilised. There’s also less cables to trip over.
  • Employees feel valued and trusted.
  • Greater productivity. Employees are more likely to continue working on that spreadsheet or document on their commute home, and they can bring their laptops into meetings and group working sessions to make notes.

Taking mobile working to the next level with cloud computing

With cloud computing you can access all of the files on your business’ servers, your emails and the software you use, from anywhere on any device. The files aren’t actually present on the device’s storage, nor is the software installed, but it doesn’t matter. You can still access everything.

But how does it work?

With cloud computing  everything is moved to a datacentre. Even the actual processing when you calculate a formula in excel or manipulate an image in photoshop, is done in the datacentre. All you need is a device connected to the internet in order to access it.

The laptop office goes hand in hand with cloud computing. Employees can take their laptop with them and continue working wherever they are, as if they were in the office. With an abundance of public wi-fi hotspots, 4G internet and mobile tethering – there’s no reason why employees can’t stay connected and continue working from outside the office.

Thin clients

An alternative to the desktop and the laptop is the thin client. Thin clients come in ultra-compact desktop form, or in laptop form. Essentially they are devices with the normal inputs and outputs (mouse, keyboard, display) which can connect to a network. Where they differ, is that they are essentially useless without the network connection. They have low processing power and low storage, but this shouldn’t matter as you’ll always have a connection to the datacentre where all of the files are stored and all the processing takes place. These devices have several benefits:

  • Low cost – as they have no need for high performance, they can use cheaper and more basic components.
  • Longevity– Thin client devices can long outlast desktops and laptops as they require less maintenance and have fewer complex components to develop faults. As they do not need to do much processing or storage (all this should happen in the data centre) there are fewer moving parts to grow old and cumbersome and they generate less heat (which kills computers). All they need to do is provide you with a gateway through which you access the cloud.
  • Greener – Thin clients use much less power, and if you have them – you will have no need for in-house servers. Your energy bills could be greatly reduced.
  • More secure – There is no hard-drive for viruses and malware to install themselves onto.
  • Easy to manage – Security policies, software and hardware updates etc. can all be run in the data centre.

The fall of desktops

Desktop PCs do still remain a staple feature of the workplace, however the world is gradually moving away from them with the market shrinking 7.5% in 2013. The basic computer using person can carry out all of their needs on a tablet, such as checking email, internet browsing, shopping, social networking, and some casual gaming.

Even thin clients are seeing a rise in popularity amongst home users – with Google’s Chromebooks beginning to take off. Powerful games consoles are now much more popular than PCs for online gaming, and it is only a matter of time before a way to run memory intensive software applications such as the Adobe Creative suite on more convenient devices is introduced.

The workplace is still behind the rest of the world with regards to abandoning the desktop although the arguments for keeping faith with them are dwindling as the arguments for other means of computing grow.

What does it mean now?

Laptop - Netstar IT Support London Since then cloud computing has become ever more prevalent in the workplace. Research carried out by the Cloud Industry Forum last year revealed that the overall cloud adoption rate in the UK had reached 88%.

JLL’s Evolution of the Workplace infographic highlights how the workplace has changed since the 1900s to the present day. With increasing flexibility, we have already seen a shift away from desktop PCs. Particularly large organisations and start-ups are embracing flexible working; cloud computing and portable working with laptops and mobile devices are a key element in this transition. predicts that in the coming year almost half of small businesses will invest in cybersecurity and cloud computing. British businesses are prioritising investment in cyber security, cloud computing and connectivity in order to become more resilient. And this is already having a large impact on the workplace.

By the end of 2016 PC sales in Britain had fallen for eight consecutive quarters, the longest decline in the history of the industry.  According to Spiceworks survey data, 43 percent of organisations plan to increase their investments in laptops over the next year.

At the end of 2017 Peter Tsai, senior technology analyst at Spiceworks, suggested that desktop PCs are indeed likely to become less prevalent in the future which is likely to give way to laptops, which provide far fewer usability challenges in the workplace than tablets and smartphones. However, within an IT dominated environment this might not be the case. A survey of 1,000 IT professionals from the UK, US and Canada indicated that 60% still relied upon desktop.

For some businesses desktop PCs are still in favour, and they won’t disappear completely. However, it is important to be aware of the trends in flexible working and keep informed about the benefits of cloud computing and types of software that could help your business grow. If you’re unsure where to start in evaluating your current software get in touch with us to start a conversation about how we might be able to advise you.