Compute and save (the planet too)

Userful (no that’s not a typo) is a Canadian company which has realised that its PC-sharing software, Desktop Multiplier, is a boon to the environment as well as being a great …

23rd July 2007 at 9:54 am

Userful (no that’s not a typo) is a Canadian company which has realised that its PC-sharing software, Desktop Multiplier, is a boon to the environment as well as being a great cost saver.

It works by letting up to ten users share the same PC but without leaving their own desks to do so. It would appear to make a lot of sense in small businesses and work groups in larger organisations as well.

The workstations can run Windows or Linux applications. The software works because PCs are idle most of the time – even when people are typing. But think about the time that users spend reading, thinking, on the phone or away from their desks. It’s a rare person who hammers away at a PC all day long. And, even if they did, it’s a rare application that hogs the machine resources totally.

You buy one PC and a bunch of screens, keyboards and mice. They all hook up to the PC running Desktop Multiplier and each user feels they are using their own PC.

In the last year, the company reckons its software has saved over 13,250 tons of CO2 emissions, the equivalent of taking 2,300 cars off the road. Here’s an extract from the official chart:DiscoverStation environmental impact
The blue figures are for a ten station setup and the black figures are for ten conventional PCs. As you can see, the major short-term savings come from not having to manufacture processor boxes. But continuous savings come from operations as well. In addition, water and chemical usage is reduced during manufacture and the end-of-life environmental costs are lower too.

According to Tim Griffin (in a middle-of-the-UK-night email), the company founder and president, the company has an extensive UK reseller network. Using various search engines, I’m having trouble nailing them down and Tim’s still asleep as I write. Actually I found one, but they weren’t happy about me mentioning them without them reading the copy first. Best thing, if you’re interested, is to drop a note to Userful.


David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World.

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  1. Simone says:

    MiniFrame has come up with a similar product called SoftXpand with turns 1 computer into up to 8 independent stations and works on Windows XP. It’s great for the environment and improves work efficiency!

  2. steve says:

    this all sounds great and i must look into it but my first thought is Licencing. Licecing is a night mare and in my experience if more than one person is acess a device for more than one person it need an open licence of some sort. so if 10 people are accessing this device and need to op-en part of the office program then they will need 10 OLP licences. Some software will not run in multidesktop situations either so I suggest anyone looking at this idea chechs all there software will run in this format before investing

  3. Simone says:

    SoftXpand by MiniFrame runs 3D games and graphics applications. You are right, software licenses depend on the manufacturers, but you are still saving huge amounts of money with the reduction in hardware costs. my company is really pleased with SoftXpand.

  4. steve says:

    when you say Graphics’ applications does this include Auto CAD as this has been renowned in the past as a product that does not run in multi desktop enviroments and consumes large amounts of Ram and processor power.

  5. Simone says:

    Yes, this includes AutoCAD

  6. On licensing: Userful does not get involved, other than to advise users that each may require their own software licences to conform to Microsoft’s licensing terms.
    As Simone has pointed out, this does not alter the hardware story in either cost or environmental terms.

  7. steve says:

    that depends on your view on the enviromental terms. Depending which story you believe. I tend to believe the scientific ones that make sense to me rather than the ones that are forced on me by the government looking to tax the hell out of me for what ever they can find.

  8. Steve: I agree about governments etc.

    But, there still seems to be little point in polluting or consuming resources unnecessarily.

    Of course there’s the ‘dominion over the earth’ thing. but that’s religion and another area best avoided.

    Excecpt the environmental stuff is in danger of becoming a religion based on a high priesthood, dogma and peoples’ beliefs.

    Or, for others, it’s cold-blooded business economics if they’re the ones making money out of encouraging people to follow their consciences.

    I could rant on about Priuses, windmills on houses and carbon credits but I guess that’s moving away from my remit here at SmallBizPod.

    Thanks for writing

  9. Share and save…

    If you have been reading my last couple blogs I have been pushing environmentally conscious  computing. After reading a good post on the smallbizpod blog I decided to push one more. The post talks about a Canadian company called Userful that lets you…

  10. […] David Tebbutt has highlighted on the blog a little while back there are an increasing number of options to reduce […]

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