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Does your workstation suit your job?

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Does your workstation suit your job-Main Article Image


Workstations: big gray boxes – or something different?

Do you use specialized software to do your job? Are you dealing with the creation or manipulation of large image, video or sound files, or are you involved in the creative process that uses such assets?

If so, then it is highly possible that a standard PC is not the right tool for you. What may be needed is a true workstation – a machine that has been engineered from the ground up to specifically deal with the type of work you do, and is not cluttered with unwanted, resource-gobbling extraneous software or hardware.

From task worker to high value creator

For those who are predominantly dealing with Office documents, emails and web content, a generic PC is more than adequate for their needs. However, those with more distinct needs require more distinct solutions.

For example, graphic designers and web developers manipulating image files need super-sharp screens along with the right graphics cards to drive them. Content developers carrying out video manipulation requires high speed disks and large amounts of memory to maintain an acceptable user experience. Engineers and architects need to be able to work against and share large high-definition, high-detail files requiring specialized storage and display capabilities.

Big, small or all-in-one?

Does your workstation suit your job-Body Text ImageThe general perception of a workstation is of a machine that is bigger than your average PC.  This does not have to be the case, however.

Sure, it is still possible to go for tower-based systems. These provide the greatest flexibility when it comes to adding or replacing items – for example, adding extra storage into the machine itself, changing the graphics card or adding extra specialized subsystems such as PCIe-based video converter cards.

Not everyone needs such flexibility, though. Extra storage can easily be added via NAS-based systems, with the benefit that this is sharable and more easily migratable across workstations.  With the pace of change in technology, many workstation users find that replacing a graphics card only uncovers issues with the performance of the hardware in the rest of the old machine.

For those who want a system that still provides a degree of flexibility but takes up less space, the mobile (or ‘laptop’) approach plays well. The perception of the laptop being a compromise between performance and mobility is no longer true: there are many large-screen workstation laptops on the market with very high performance capabilities.

Then there is the all-in-one (AIO) system. Designed to take up the smallest space possible for a large-screen system, these workstations are engineered to have all the core components (apart from keyboard and mouse/digitizer) in one single box – the screen itself. Again, no longer a compromise between form factor and performance, AIO systems are well worth considering for those anticipating little need for changing their hardware set up.

Lastly, and mainly for those in highly collaborative environments, comes the rack-mount workstation. For example, those working on digital video rendering need to be able to share large working files. Rack mount systems enable this through being able to accommodate high-performance shared storage systems, virtualized shared desktops for certain types of users and so on.

It’s your choice

The world of the workstation is ever-changing. For those who do have a need for a more specialized computer environment, the choice is now much greater. This allows for a mix of both fit-for-purpose and personal aesthetic choice to be made. The workstation is no longer just a large, gray box.

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Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom has been an industry analyst for around 25 years. Having trained as a chemical engineer, he sees everything in terms of process. Clive has worked in several positions across medium and large sized organisations, giving him a strong understanding of what an organisation needs – which isn’t an unquenchable thirst for technology. Clive looks at everything from the point of “What could this do for me, my team, my department, my organisation, the value chain?”, which enables him to weed out the very important, often quite basic, technologies from the more elegant, yet less useful ones.

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