If you are looking to improve your end-user IT environment and experience, where should you as a CIO or IT Manager focus on? What are the easy wins?
We surveyed the computers & software of the over 1 000 companies and service providers who use Applixure, and interviewed CIO’s and IT Managers who use our Analytics tool which issues they focus on to improve the quality of end-user IT.
We found these 9 most common IT issues around computers and software. Looking for some quick wins for your own environment? Check these out.
(You can download a copy of these 9 Issues to take with you >>)
1. High Memory Usage
One of the most common computer environment issues is computers with high memory usage.
With high memory usage, a computer may need to use its hard drive as a swap - slowing things down to a crawl. Most computers nowadays come with SSDs as system drives, but SSDs are way slower than RAM. Swapping is never good for performance.
Sometimes the culprit can be found from one or more memory-hungry apps. Chrome browser with dozens of open tabs is known to use up tons of memory. Also, the current trend in application development is to utilize browser technology in client applications (e.g. Teams is a good example of this but there are many others starting to do so). This places even more demands on the amount of RAM.
Some apps, on the other hand, are leaky. In these situations, you might want to look for a better behaving replacement.
You can advise users to use applications in less memory hungry ways, e.g., to close browser tabs. However, computers should make employees more productive, and not limit their productivity.
Applixure's survey of 1000+ companies' computers found:45% of 8GB laptops have high memory usage.
This dropped to 4% for laptops with 16GB RAM
Often the easiest way to speed things up is to add memory. RAM is relatively cheap and quick to install.
It would also be important today to make even greater use of data when deciding the computer models and specs for employees’ use. General recommendations are often far from adequate, and based on them, sizing can go wrong in terms of performance when selecting undersized machines for users in relation to the application load required for the job.
The applications needed to perform work tasks are the most important determinant when considering how powerful computers need to be. Data should be harnessed for defining the specs for new computers.
2. Performance Degradation
Computers tend to become slower over time with each new software adding its drivers and stuff, and OS updates applying batch on a batch.
With a bit of investigation, you may find out why certain computers have gotten slower, and how to fix them. And as a final resort, reinstalling often makes things run faster.
But first you had to identify which computers have performance degradation issues.
Applixure's survey of 1000+ companies' computers found that
20 % of the computer users had performance degradation issues on regular basis.
3. Laptop Battery Wear
Lithium-ion batteries degrade over time, which means that computers need to be charged more frequently. Pretty soon, the user has to carry a charger around with them everywhere and looking for power outlets - or fighting for the few that are available - becomes the norm. Not a very good employee exeperience.
Browser and/or modern applications (utilizing browser technology) may be very battery consuming. And because these apps are in very active use (like Teams for Chrome), battery in good condition is important to the laptop user.
Heat and charge cycles increase wear, as does keeping them plugged and charged close to 100% all the time.
For this reason, for example, macOS detects if a laptop is usually kept plugged in and stops charging at around 80% to extend battery life.
While a new modern laptop battery may last the whole day, a worn-out battery may only last 30-60 minutes, especially if the computer has other issues which increase energy consumption.
Always carrying a charger with you becomes a chore, especially as we, humans, tend to forget things, and have to turn back to pick up the charger we forgot at a desk, at home, in a meeting room, or at a client’s.
A worn-out battery often leads to accidental power-offs, lost work, and lost employee productivity when the battery runs out unexpectedly, or because the employee forgot the charger.
Changing a laptop battery to a new one is often a worthwhile investment and quick fix, unless the laptop is in its last months of economic use, in which case, it is better to buy the employee a new laptop straight away.
What’s interesting is that users often don’t notice how worn-out their battery is. It is IT’s job to detect the issue, order a new battery and invite the user for a short pit stop. It's this kind of proactive IT support that can make employees really appreciate their IT department.
4. Slow Computer Start-up Times
Startup times are again one thing that tends to get slower over time. Users seldom notice and notify IT. They just start to work around the problem. For example, they leave computers on all the time. This is not ideal as it makes updates more difficult and wastes energy.
Those minutes employees spend waiting for their computers to start up end up costing the organization a lot of money. Just do the math: simply multiply couples of minutes by the number of employees. This is clearly an easy area to increase employee productivity and the digital employee experience.
Therefore, IT should monitor startup times, and analyze if there are ways to speed things up.
Maybe there are unnecessary startup items to load? Or maybe some items take time to connect blocking others to load? Or maybe there are items that require a later item, driver, or piece of code to run, and block startup until it times-out?
5. Windows 10 Versions & Builds (Including End-of-life Versions in Use)
The more different versions you have of your environment, the more difficult it is to make corrective changes. Some versions might have bugs or security issues that are fixed in the later versions. Some might even have serious vulnerabilities.
If you want to have a well-working computer environment and make it more secure and easier to manage, one key task is to reduce the number of versions in your environment.
Assess what versions and batches are actually installed. Many IT management tools may report that an update or batch has been installed, when it fact it has been pushed, but never actually successfully installed on that computer.
When an organization tries Applixure Analytics, they are usually surprised by how much the actual situation differs from what they expect.
Applixure's survey of 1000+ companies' computers found that 12 % of the devices had end-of-life OS version in use.
6. Software Version Sprawl, Including Unapproved SW in Use
Too many versions of the same software is also a very common issue, yet easy to fix.
Like in the case of OS versions, many versions of the same software make your environment less secure, more prone to problems, and harder to manage. There are usually also versions that already have known vulnerabilities or are end-of-life.
Another issue is that there may be software that users have installed on their own which should not be installed at all.
You will likely also find opportunities to harmonize from several different software titles for the same use to one, making your environment more manageable, and easier to support and maintain.
The 18 CIS Critical Security Controls / CIS Control 2: Inventory and Control of Software Assets recommends that companies:“Actively manage (inventory, track, and correct) all software (operating systems and applications) on the network so that only authorized software is installed and can execute, and that unauthorized and unmanaged software is found and prevented from installation or execution.”
7. Is Bitlocker Enabled
Disk encryption is something every laptop must have been enabled, and it is a good practice to do so also on desktops. In Windows, this means Bitlocker.
However, not all laptops and desktops have the required hardware, that is Trusted Platform Modules (TPM) required for the Bitlocker.
You can check if a computer has TPM running get-TPM, Powershell, or using Applixure where you can easily see which computers in your fleet have or do not have Bitlocker enabled and whether they have the required TPMs.
Applixure's survey of 1000+ companies' computers found that 20% of all devices have disk encryption not enabled.
8. Unnecessary Admin Rights
For Windows, there have always been two main rules for building a secure system: First you need to have BitLocker (or strong physical security), and second you cannot be using admin rights for daily logons.
Unnecessary admin rights granted to users again make your environment less secure and more difficult to manage.
Some users may have legitimate reasons for admin rights, e.g. software developers, and there might be some special software, that cannot be run with normal user rights, but often unnecessary admin rights are given in the past, and never revoked even if they are not required anymore.
Applixure's survey of 1000+ companies' computers found that 19% have local admin rights enabled.
Sami Laiho, Chief Research Officer at Truesec and Microsoft MVP in Windows and Devices for IT wrote an interesting blog just recently where he stated:
“Statistics show, however, that when end-users don’t have admin rights, they can’t break their computers, and hence they call their service desk less, actually 75% less.”
Quite a significant effect on how removing admin rights keeps Windows working better and how security also relates to the end-user experience.
9. Critical Security Updates Installed
It is all too common for IT management tools to report that security updates are installed, where in reality they have been pushed out, but never successfully installed. One reason for this is that if your users are experiencing slow startup times, they may never shut down their computer, and therefore updates don’t have a chance to happen.
You should verify that the security update process is working, and that end-users start/re-start their computers on a regular basis so these updates can actually be installed.
(You can download a copy of these 9 Issues to take with you here >>)
Improving your digital employee experience (DEX) and making your computer environment more secure and easier to support and maintain isn’t that hard if you follow the steps outlined above.
Hundreds of organizations have already made big improvements in their computer environments by looking into these common IT issues.
As you might have already noticed, you’ll need data and visibility to know which computers are using too much memory, have performance issues, worn-out batteries, and so forth. You’ll need to assess what OS and software versions, including batches, are actually installed, and in the case of software, are users really using them, and how much.
Looking for a quick way to see whether your computers and software have these issues? Analytics can show you!
Analytics shows you what computers and software you have, how they are used, and what issues they have. All in easy always-up-to-date dashboards. You can download lists of computers that need your attention to make fixing easy.
And what’s best, you can start by making an assessment of your environment for free. No strings attached. Deployment takes a few minutes, and already within a few days, Analytics will have collected enough data to give you visibility like you never had before.
You can test it out on your own, or talk to one of our DEXi Masters for a free assessment of your current DEX status: