Companies Urged to Switch Off PCs: Remote Access Vendors Less Keen?

New research just out from Fujitsu Siemens highlights the cost of employees leaving their PCs on overnight – the company said £123m is wasted every year in the UK alone powering PCs that should have been shut down or left in hibernation mode, while of the 1,000 employees surveyed, some 370 never turn off their computers before leaving the office for the day.

Of course, employees are not the only ones to blame for leaving their computers on – if their PCs booted up a little faster in the morning they may be less hesitant to turn them off at night. Hibernation may reduce power outputs but some organisations have standardised power scheme profiles that do not always enable system hibernation, and other employees wouldn’t know that hibernation is an option anyway.

IT departments could do more to educate users about the importance of shutting down or hibernating when they leave their desk, or they could even enforce a policy using automated systems management tools that shut a computer down after a period of inactivity or at a certain time. There are issues, yes: work could be lost if a computer suddenly shuts down; people work late, and so on. Education is probably a better approach in the fist instance.

But what happens if companies start insisting that employees turn off their computers at night, or even install automated systems management functionality that ensured PCs switched off automatically or hibernated if they had been inactive for a certain period of time? Well it would save on power, cost and the environment, which is definitely a good thing. It would also spell trouble for one group of software vendors – the remote PC access software players.

Companies like Citrix GoToMyPC, Laplink, Network Streaming, RealVNC, Anyplace Control and 3am Labs’ Log Me In and many more are in this space.

Those companies specialise in giving you full access to your office (or home) PC when you are out and about or after hours, offering access to your remote PC via any browser or through a small client download. Forgot that presentation on your work PC? No problem. In Rome but left the directions to the conference on your work PC in London? No problem – log in remotely and access the information you need. Only one problem – you have to leave your remote PC powered up for the host software to give you remote access. What if you have to turn it off?

If companies enforce powering down PCs at the end of the day, employees would not be able to use those remote PC access solutions outside of work hours – which is often when it’s useful. Many have been installed by the individual user anyway, rather than the central IT department. The remote access software has incredibly rigorous security built-in these days, but for some IT departments installing a remote host server would still be considered ‘against policy’, so individuals may get little sympathy from IT.

Of course, the remote PC access software would still be used to give you remote access to your PC at home when you are travelling, so that market would be unaffected. Unless people balk at leaving their PC on while they’re out of the house, that is. People tend to be more aware of the cost of power at home than they do in the office – strange that.

Perhaps the remote access software vendors will be able to find a way around the issue – perhaps by enabling their software to "wake up" a hibernating computer when a remote user needs to access it. I’ll be asking them what they think of the issue over the course of the next few days, and how they plan to address it. I’ll let you know what they say.

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