It’s a tight budget year. We’re trying to build two schools and a new fine arts center. Add to that the fact that we’re facing funding cuts and inflation, and our education dollars just aren’t going as far as they once did. Despite these pressures, I keep getting requests from principals and department heads for additional computers. I would love to provide them everything they want, but the funds will only go so far.
So, at our last principals meeting I tried to impress upon our staff all of the costs involved in putting one computer on our school’s network. This was nowhere near as comprehensive as the Gartner Group’s Total Cost of Ownership calculations, but it got the point across. I thought it might be worthwhile to repeat it here.
- Hardware – computer and monitor
- Extended Warranty
- MS-Office Licensing – we purchase a copy for each new computer as needed
- Deployment – setup, unboxing, imaging, asset tags
- Curriculum software licensing
- Novell Network and Groupwise e-mail licensing
- Internet Filtering
- Anti-Spam software
- Data port connections – about $200 per active port (usually covered in construction and other costs, but may come into play if additional ports are needed.)
- Replacement/Refresh Costs – computers are replaced every five years
- Disposal at end-of-life – involves data security, recycling, hazardous waste disposal, etc.
- Personnel and support costs
Some of these costs aren’t very much. But when you multiply them by the number of computers we’re purchasing, it can be significant. For example, an additional item at $5 multiplied by 800 computers becomes $4000 additional charge.
Here are some specific scenarios, and my questions & answers –
Our group has received $XXXX.XX as part of a grant. Can we buy some more computers?
Even if the grant can cover most of the hidden costs of putting the computers on the network, what will happen when it comes time to renew/refresh that computer? Do you plan to keep it until just stops working? What happens then? Will your grant funds be available five years from now when were decide to remove the computer or it breaks?
Can we just keep our old computers and use them until they die?
Been there, done that, and it’s never, never pretty. Let’s say you’re a teacher with two computers in a classroom. Those two computers are refreshed with new ones, but they let you keep the old ones. You now get used to having four computers in the classroom. When the two old ones die, inevitably the teacher wants new ones as a replacement, but they have already been “replaced” once. It avoids many problems by simply swapping out the computers.
Walmart’s got a sale on computers for $299. Let’s just go get a bunch of those.
Part of that total cost of ownership includes the time involved in setting up and maintaining a fleet of computers. When computers go on sale like this, they may have differing components inside, even though they bear the same name plate and model number. Those often require different drivers, and can cause big headaches if you try to use the same disk image. Setup of different computers would require hours of time beyond what would be required for a consistent install base.
So, by now I’m starting to sound like Mordac, the Preventer of Technology. I would love to provide our users with all the computers, peripherals, etc., that they want. However, I can’t spend money I don’t have. It’s days like this that I wonder why I left the classroom.