It’s a classic question that many IT organizations will face at one time or another: Do we need workstations, or will PCs do? The short answer is that it depends on user needs and the work users must accomplish on a daily basis—and the value the organization places on productivity, cost-efficiency, and speed. A typical office worker running standard office applications will get all the performance needed from a standard business PC. But that’s not true for designers, engineers, financial analysts, researchers, and others running more demanding applications. These users may be involved in rendering complex graphics, digital content creation, and financial and other database analyses and computations—and organizations can expect them to be more productive, creative, and satisfied using a workstation. Even an entry-level workstation will enable new capabilities that can help increase cost-effectiveness and productivity, improve reliability, and limit downtime. In this eBook, we’ll present Spiceworks research providing insights into the challenges IT professionals face when their organizations’ professional staffers use PCs instead of workstations. We’ll explore the differences between hardware types, the challenges IT faces, and the solutions that make the most sense for users in these industries— regardless of organization size.
Workstations are purpose-built tools that can handle the extremely high demands of high-end graphics work, video editing, number-crunching, Computer Aided Design (CAD), and more. The hardware itself is specifically designed for longer life when run at higher capacities than even business PCs. Not every user needs a workstation. But for those who work in compute-intensive industries—like architecture, engineering, media and entertainment, finance or design—selecting hardware is especially crucial. And more often than not, workstations can be an integral element to accomplishing the goals of the organization. Designed for high performance and heavy workloads, workstations can be tailored and matched to application requirements easily for end-users or IT teams.
Basic differences between workstations and PCs
Today’s business PCs can be purchased at a low cost, but have a relatively short lifespan. Because workstations have the built-in power and durability to withstand high-demand workloads, they can be kept in service for far longer than PCs. Since workstations have the hard drive options, high-end graphics, and robust processors to handle computeintensive applications, they help increase productivity and reduce downtime—resulting in significant, ongoing value for organizations.
PCs can easily handle tasks like email, web surfing, and word processing, while workstations easily handle workloads that demand more power, such as CAD, animation, data analysis, video and more. Powered by Intel® Xeon® processors, workstations offer significant processor gains over standard PC core processors to support more and better memory, security, and performance management. Professional-grade graphics cards offer tangible speed, anti-aliasing, and performance improvements through rigorous build quality and driver certification.
Like other commercial-grade equipment, the guts of a workstation are typically stronger than a consumer PC in that each element of the hardware is built to a higher standard—including parts that are often failure points in PCs, such as the motherboard, internal drives, video cards, CPU, and RAM. It’s understood that the hardware will be pushed hard, day after day, and may continue to run project work even after people have left the office.
Anyone working with detailed 2D or 3D graphics can expect to see dramatic improvements in system responsiveness when using a workstation. Workstations are designed to support one or more professional-grade graphics cards, delivering faster performance for a wide range of design tasks. Rendering of complex graphics on a workstation is simply faster than on a PC. Workloads like interactive design, database analyses and CAD projects require far more memory than is available on a PC. More memory onboard workstations enables designers and artists to create on larger canvasses and larger assemblies, and users can expect to see improvements in creative workflows, productivity, and the ability to more quickly identify design flaws earlier in the process, when they’re easier and less costly to correct. One of the most frustrating challenges for users—and biggest wastes of time—is waiting for computers to respond. For compute-intensive applications commonly used in engineering, architecture and product development, workstations will respond more quickly than PCs. In addition, multiple applications can run simultaneously on a workstation without losing performance. This provides faster access to information and increases end-user productivity—resulting in overall savings for the organization. Workstations are designed to support multi-terabytes of internal storage, so their hard drives can accommodate the kind of massive projects associated with high-performance computing. Some workstations can also be configured to include affordable solid state drives (SSDs) that use less power and deliver data even faster—and with higher reliability than traditional spinning drives.
“Laptops aren’t powerful enough to run the software we need. We’re currently upgrading them to mobile workstations.”
- IT professional surveyed by Spiceworks