Your computer will be disposable.
It can be today, and it definitely will be tomorrow.
You may have recognized the trend: computing (crunching numbers and running programs) is moving away from your computer and is now being delivered as a service over the internet.
Programs that we never thought would move online (like Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Quickbooks) are there today. Email, databases, and data storage are now all available as an online service. And chances are good that you are taking advantage of one or more of these; if not within your nonprofit, than at least for your personal use. Through organizations like ours, and TechSoup, these online services are being offered at a huge discount to nonprofits.
And this trend is accelerating. As it does, less and less is being stored on the actual computer. This means that your computer does not need to be very powerful in order to run these programs. Most of us will not need much more than a really good internet connection and a nice screen to do our work.
Let’s take a closer look at what the computers in your nonprofit could look like today, and will definitely look like in three years.
- Thin Clients: A thin client is nothing more than a computer that is primarily designed to connect to a cloud-based server. There is no hard drive and there are no moving parts. This makes the computers less expensive to manufacture. Thin clients can provide the same experience as a desktop by leveraging technology known as a virtual desktop. The big advantage of a virtual desktop is that the environment is controlled. This translates into less problems to manage and lower support costs. Thin clients are priced today between $200 and $500. A virtual desktop can run as little as $35 a month.
- Tablet Computers: So maybe your iPad isn't a replacement for your desktop or laptop, but the Surface Pro is getting awfully close. That trend will continue. A screen that flips and reveals a keyboard will be all you need. For a couple of hundred dollars, you'll get a new device when that one breaks. Because all of your important data lives elsewhere, you won't mind completely refreshing the unit if it gets buggy. Tablets today are priced between $300 and $800.
- Net Books and Ultra Light Laptops: Sure, they aren't good for hard core Gamers (at least not yet because gaming is moving online too), but they are good for most things you do. These laptops are priced between $200 and $500.
- Bring Your Own Devices: It's happening in big companies. Instead of buying new computers for your employees, give them a check for $400 toward their own personal laptop. Since everything they need to do their work is hosted securely online, they don't really need a company computer. They can maintain their own hardware, because it's their computer. Your cost $400.
- Donated Machines: If the PC doesn't have to be powerful, it doesn't have to be new. Technologies like Virtual Desktop and hosted applications breathe new life into donated PC's. Last time I checked these were $0.
If all I needed to do my work (and access all of my applications, files, and emails) were one of these 5 machines (between $0-$800), why would I ever pay someone to come out and fix, and bill me, for a failing computer? It is almost certain to cost more than $200 to get the problem fixed if the computer is out of warranty.
Most of us would not repair a $200 digital camera, or even a $500 one. It will almost certainly cost the same, or more, to repair as it would to replace. Cell phones too, if you're out of warranty you pay the $150 to get a new one.
Your Computer Can Be Disposable Now
At Tech Impact, we have serviced hundreds of nonprofits all across the country. Cloud based technologies that are enabling these organizations to move toward a disposable computing environment. The ones that have moved are realizing immediate and lasting benefits. Benefits like lower costs, stronger security, and the ability to recapture opportunity time that they can use to focus on their missions.
What's exciting is that we can use the efficiency we gain by not repairing hardware, to focus on more important things: like ensuring that all nonprofits can use technology to better serve our world. It's a big job, but we're happy to do it.
We're excited for the day we can throw away our computers.