IT managers are being put under commercial pressure to buy lower quality PCs instead of those that have been designed for business use.

Gartner research vice president, Leslie Fiering, said organisations keen to save money were investing in consumer PCs and notebooks not realising that they risk higher total cost of ownership (TCO) in terms of platform instability, less quality control and limited support.

"There is growing pressure for IT organisations to consider purchasing consumer PCs primarily as a cost-saving measure for the business and also to appease users who are becoming more technology-astute and often want the latest consumer features on their corporate systems," Fiering said.

"However, consumer devices are no substitute for business-class devices as they lack many vital features that businesses need." Fiering said IT organisations are under pressure to justify PC budgets to senior management.

She urged IT managers to fully explain the likely TCO implications of purchasing consumer PCs and notebooks for the workforce.

"Companies should avoid the inclination to purchase consumer systems for business use and instead realise that the premium price for a business-class system reflects real value in system stability, comprehensive quality testing and extensive ongoing services," Fiering said.

"Those that pursue the consumer alternative are likely to find that their initial cost savings will quickly be followed by numerous charges and compromises." For corporate buyers standardisation is essential because it affords less complexity and lower TCO.

Even minor changes to a corporate system have the potential to create incompatibility and require additional testing and system support.

"For this reason, corporate buyers are less interested in the latest new features, focusing instead on platform stability, longer product cycles, system design, quality assurance as well as security and manageability," Fiering said. "Since consumers usually purchase one system at a time, consumer-class PCs and notebooks have no investment in platform stability and no concern for standardised system image.

"Consumer systems also lack corporate features such as docking stations and often come with consumer versions of the Windows operating system and software applications."

Fiering said these systems have limited quality assurance programmes, having undergone less rigorous testing than corporate hardware which can result in a 50 per cent higher failure rate incurring higher repair costs and user down time.

"Lastly, there is little support available from the retail channel when things do go wrong, with warranty support typically restricted to a much shorter time," she added.

Fiering said until organisations develop suitable virtualisation techniques to isolate corporate needs from the consumer environment, companies should require users to purchase from an approved list of consumer-friendly corporate configurations, which the IT organization has pre-configured.