From-the-Field: Consumerized Confessions from a Senior IT Pro

This week, we’re joined by Jeff Roach, Senior Infrastructure Architect at Wright Robbins, Inc.  As an experienced IT Pro, Jeff recently moved to a Microsoft Surface device as his primary work device.  Check-in below with Jeff as he describes his journey …


OK – I’ll be the first to say it: I’m think I’m really starting to <embrace> Consumerization of IT.


Yup!  Like you, a year ago I never thought I'd hear myself utter those words.  But, then … my consumerization journey has not been with just any consumer device … I use the Microsoft Surface as my primary work device as an IT Pro. 

With my Surface device, I’ve experienced a new level of mobility and flexibility in doing my work that I like to call “IT Pro-ductivity”. Winking smile  I’ve tested lots of other consumer devices – and in my experience, they just haven’t addressed my needs as an IT Pro nearly as well as the Surface.

Don’t you feel limited?

Nope! Just like other IT Pros in my industry, my daily routine is highly mobile and consists of office meetings, remote meetings, conference calls and webcasts – all while managing the ongoing health of multiple public and private cloud infrastructures. Balancing all these responsibilities is always a chore. Inevitably, I’ll receive a service ticket on an infrastructure health item smack in the middle of an important conference call or while driving to an offsite meeting – Sound familiar?

Do you know what was limiting for me? That heavy, bulky laptop that I used to carry around all the time before I purchased a Surface! My back and arms are a lot happier now and I’ve finally got a mobile device with a battery that can last for a whole business day!

What about connectivity?

Great point! Always-on connectivity is absolutely critical for me, and I want the freedom of choosing the fastest connectivity options as soon as they become available. Yes, I’m a geek.  But, I’m not the only one who needs connectivity – I’m part of a much larger consulting team, and often times when we’re at off-site customer meetings, my whole team needs connectivity.

To address my connectivity needs, I carry a 4G MIFI access point in my bag with my Surface device.  The MIFI unit is very small and it also has a battery that lasts my entire day.  The 4G connectivity currently gives me plenty of bandwidth that I can use instantly with my Surface via its built-in WIFI or share with my team, as needed.  But … when the next greatest advancement in wireless connectivity comes out, this approach also allows me to easily upgrade my MIFI access point device or switch wireless carriers, without worrying about replacing my Surface or any other WIFI devices. 

For me, a MIFI device with my Surface has been very usable and practical connectivity solution.

OK – How about Apps?

As an IT Pro, I primarily use email, web-based management apps, Remote Desktop and some common Office apps, such as Excel, OneNote, Lync, Word and PowerPoint.  Sound familiar?  Well, my Surface can run all of those critical apps locally.  For any special x86/x64 apps, our shop leverages Windows Server 2012 Remote Desktop Services to provide access to those applications remotely – I use RemoteApp so that the user interface for these apps displays locally, but the app itself runs from the Private Cloud back in our data center. 

I do love the new Windows 8-style Remote Desktop app, as it allows me to use the touch interface on my Surface for navigating through remote sessions I’m supporting.

I’ve talked with a ton of IT Pros over the past couple months, and their app needs have all been pretty similar to mine.

Does it have enough storage?

Absolutely! My Surface device came with 64GB SSD internal storage, but I’ve added another 64GB MicroSD card via the built-in card slot.  This provides me with ample local storage, but I can also attach additional storage when needed via the full-sized USB port. Our shop has also been piloting the new SkyDrive Pro feature of Office365 for additional cloud-based storage that can be federated with our corporate Active Directory security policies.

What about performance?

My Surface device includes an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core CPU and 2GB RAM.  I’ve found the performance to be very capable of running multiple apps concurrently – I frequently run Excel, Word, PowerPoint and several Remote Desktop sessions while on Lync VoIP calls – all at the same time with responsiveness that has really impressed me.

OK – So what exactly do you carry in your bag?

In addition to my Surface device, I also carry my 4G MIFI, Touch Cover keyboard (which connects to the Surface magnetically), and a microHDMI video adapter.  I also carry the AC adapter, which also has a cool magnetic clip, just in case I get stranded somewhere longer than the average 7-10 hours of battery life I’ve experienced.  I’ve found that, with the attachable Touch Cover and built-in kickstand, I don’t really need anything else to be completely portable and productive.

BTW – How is that Touch Cover to type on?

I thoroughly tested both the Touch Cover and the Type Cover with my Surface Device.  I do a ton of typing, so I was anticipating that I would like the Type Cover better, but I’ve found that I prefer the thinness of the Touch Cover and I can quite comfortably type on the Touch Cover all day at my normal typing speed.

In fact, this entire article was typed on my Microsoft Surface device using my Touch Cover! Smile

Didn't you want to wait for the Surface Pro instead?

I agree that the Surface Pro is a really cool device too, with it's added horse-power of an Intel Core I5 multi-core processor that can natively run x86/x64 apps as well as the new Windows 8-style apps.  However, ultimate mobility was most important for me and, at the end of the day, battery life was a big decision point.  You may have a different set of criteria, but I'm sticking with my Surface as my primary device - it can run the apps I need and provides me with a full day of work from anywhere I happen to be!

IT Pros - Dare to Consumerize!

My experiences as an IT Pro with the Microsoft Surface have been a very positive journey!  I encourage you to try the Microsoft Surface device for yourself, and let me know your feedback after trying it in the Comments section below.

About the Author …

Jeff Roach is a Senior Infrastructure Architect at Wright Robbins, Inc.  In his current role, Jeff provides technology guidance to some of the world’s largest technology organizations for preparing their teams to adopt, drive and support business initiatives that relate to enterprise technologies.   Jeff’s specific technical focus area within the Microsoft ecosystem is Data Center and Private Cloud Infrastructure.

Comments (3)
  1. Richard Hay says:

    Fantastic article and personal experience with Surface RT.  Thanks for sharing the insight.

  2. Johnmen Zhang says:

    Remote Desktop server, that is a must for tablet like Microsoft surface, as you will almost always have some apps that don't run on your tablet but they are important.  And for me some of the work has to be originated from my office network for security purpose, again RDS solve this problem.

  3. Doug Kinzinger says:

    I too have begun to use Surface when on-site with customers instead of lugging around my HP laptop. A very competent, capable device that works well and plays well too.

Comments are closed.

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