Ultrabooks: Balancing business computing needs with consumer demands

HP Elitebook FolioSPONSORED CONTENT – Ultrabooks were the toast of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this past January – as this new form factor took the “thin and light” trend to the next level, offering sleek style combined with powerful performance. With all the hype, it’s easy to see why many C-level executives and mobile workers are eager to add these devices to the office network. In fact, research firm Techaisle made a bold prediction about the Ultrabook category: the notebook’s slimmer and younger sibling will account for one in five PCs purchased by small and midsize businesses (SMBs) in 2012.

With the demand for Ultrabooks on high – how can IT departments successfully and securely integrate this new technology into their overall IT strategy, without sacrificing the day-to-day computing requirements business users demand?

As a channel partner, this is an opportunity to flex your trusted IT advisor muscle and usher in a new level of understanding about Ultrabooks and their role as both a consumer and business device. With new enterprise-class devices coming to market, these distinctions will be necessary now more than ever.

As your clients’ IT strategies continue to evolve, here are some elements to keep in mind when it comes to Ultrabooks:

1.  Set expectations about capabilities.

Ask clients how their employees will be using the device. Will they need to dock their Ultrabook at a desk? Will they be using it to run a presentation?  Docking capabilities are built into some enterprise class devices, like the soon-to-be-released HP EliteBook Folio 9470m, so they can be easily connected with a display, keyboard, mouse or printer. Also, Ultrabook models with built-in VGA are needed if customers are running videos or a PowerPoint from a PC to a projector, since many boardrooms today will only support VGA connections.

Earlier Ultrabook models can also be adapted for office docking and boardroom presentations, as USB docking solutions and HDMI converters are readily available. However the additional costs for these add-ons will need to be factored into the price of the unit.

2.  Take client operating systems into consideration.

Considering your clients’ operating systems (OS) at the beginning of the integration will help ensure Ultrabooks work seamlessly at the time of deployment. Since Ultrabooks only came to market in late 2011, customers running a legacy OS like  Windows XP or Vista, for example, might find that the performance of some key features, such as the ability to wake in a flash or loading and running favourite applications quickly,  may be impacted. Also, many Ultrabooks were designed for the consumer market and do not support legacy Windows XP drivers.  Make sure you are picking a device that will provide this level of support if your customer still has Windows XP in their environment.

3.  Find the right storage configuration to meet customer needs.

Adequate data storage and memory is essential to any business, and Ultrabooks come equipped with a few different configurations. A hybrid disk drive (combination of SSM cache and spinning hard disk) meets the requirements for Ultrabook devices and also provides customers with a larger bang for their buck. A hybrid solution is a lower cost option with greater storage capability and a lower price tag compared to other options like solid-state drives (SSD). However, if customers are running virtualization platforms like Citrix and don’t require much storage space, notebooks with SSD options should be considered as they provide even better performance and durability, but with lower capacity at a higher price.

4.  Step up security

IT departments are constantly looking for ways to enhance security and this is an area where enterprise-class Ultrabooks deliver. Ensuring devices have security chips like Trusted Platform Module (TPM) that integrate core elements of trust into the devices’ subsystem is a good start. Hardware-based Intel Anti-Theft technology, a security feature that locks down a system if it’s lost or stolen and helps to secure sensitive information stored on the device’s hard drive, is also available on Ultrabooks specifically designed for business.

5.  Consider all trade-offs

Slimmer devices come at a cost. Ultrabooks have certain limitations that users should be aware of. Most of these are acceptable trade-offs to get to thin and light, but it is important to understand upfront what those trade-offs are to ensure smooth integration and customer satisfaction.  For instance, optical drives which allow users to play back media from—and burn data to—CDs, DVDs, and Blu-ray discs, will no longer fit in these newer svelte devices, so,  if there is still a need for optical, ensure your clients are comfortable with using an external USB optical solution or no longer require DVD or CD capabilities. Many consumer Ultrabooks come with glossy screens, clickpads, shiny bezels and a sub-three lb. plastic shell, while some Ultrabook designed for business provide matte screen, dual point input and durable exterior casing that make them more enterprise friendly while still maintaining a very lightweight (3.5 to 4 lb. range) and thin profile.

These are the trade-offs for the end-user, but there are also trade-offs for the IT staff. For instance, many Ultrabooks are not serviceable, upgradeable or accessible, others, like the HP EliteBook Folio 9470m are. This is where user profiling becomes particularly important.

Helping clients evolve their IT strategy to balance their business needs with the wants of their employees will become more important as consumer devices continue to make their way into the business environment. While consumers may be quick to replace a business PC with another consumer device that meets the desire for ‘thin and light’ they might be missing key features their business needs to incorporate into the overall IT strategy.  This can create buyer’s remorse and a lot of headaches for the IT management and helpdesk support teams. Being informed and delivering the right products the first time will build stronger customer relationships and establish you as their trusted advisor. Channel partners who understand the BYOD and consumerization trends will be ideally positioned to build long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with their customers.

For more information on HP’s Ultrabooks built for business visit hp.ca.