The PC has come a long way since it entered the home. Going from a disconnected device with little connectivity, it has become one of the core focal points for the digital home. Household PC penetration is on the rise with many homes having two PCs, and it's not uncommon for some to have three to or more. With the rise of lower cost laptops and netbooks, the average age at which a child receives their own PC is getting younger and younger each year. This growth of the PC within the home is not without complications and more consumers are growing frustrated as the proliferation of PCs make management, configuration and support a new and unwelcome household chore.
Much as in the business world, the bulk of these PCs did not come into the home in an ordered or planned manner. In addition, like business, they have gone from disconnected to connected, both to the Internet and with each other. I'm not even going to get into the plethora of other devices these PCs are connected to and I've talked in the past about the mess that is the home network that ties them all together.
Unlike business adoption of technology, consumers do not have IT departments nor the budget for technology and support. Despite deploying multiple PCs, consumers are often uneducated in working with the underlying technology and making it work together. The result is a consumer environment that is rapidly becoming as complex (and in some cases, far more complex) than a comparable sized business infrastructure. While few business attempt to move video over their networks, a good deal of consumers are engaged in attempting to watch video, music or pictures stored in on one PC on another computer in their home, or even simply figure out what information is stored where.
We know from business use, multiple PCs require ordered management, data version control as well as application and OS version control. Backup in particular is a huge issue. Users need to think not only how to use content today but how to preserve digital content for the future. The real issue is, backed up data. While old family pictures may fade, I never lost a shoebox to a hard disk crash. Here’s the truth about PC hard drives. There are only two types of people in the world. Those that have not lost data to a disk failure yet and those that think that it won’t happen again to them. The rest of us have a backup strategy except that there's very few of the rest of us. Now, while you might be able to re-install your apps in the event of a disaster and perhaps re-install your music (you never downloaded anything that you didn’t own, did you?) how will you re-create all your digital pictures, papers, poems, e-mails and the like. This is a huge PC management issue (and one that even business users still aren’t good at) and most consumers are putting all their eggs in one very shaky basket.
Let's not forget general maintenance includes regular OS, application and security updates. Overall, a series of tasks most households are simply not prepared for and sadly there are few tools are available for consumers to assist them with these tasks.
I've talked many times in the past how most heads of households do not desire the CIO titles, their spouses do not wish to run a help desk and children do not want to do technical support. The lack of consumer grade management tools is setting the stage for two potential events: a backlash from consumers over the difficulty in managing their home technical infrastructure, or frustration when the irreplaceable is lost and can't be replaced. There are also opportunities for vendors to fill the gaps with consumer friendly technology, as well as providing other opportunities at retail for consumer level service offerings to manage home complexity. So how do you manage the multiple PCs in your persona life? Leave a note in the comments on how you best manage a problem that's growing by leaps and bounds with no single solution in sight.