Re: [IUG] Rationale for "expensive" computers
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Here's my two cents:
First, I am not a librarian. I am a Computer Systems Analyst. That's a
fancy way of saying that I support computer hardware and software in our
library. Yep, I answer the HelpDesk phone too.
A note about our library: We currently have about two hundred public access
computers. Our public access computers are not filtered or restricted in
any way. We don't censor anything from anyone at anytime. Anyone (faculty,
staff, students, and the community at large) can use the computers.
We use Dell computers in our library as well -- Arizona has a state
contract. Even so, we've had to justify the more expensive computers that
we purchase on several occasions over the years. We typically buy a
higher-end model than the rest of campus.
In a general sense, we (the library's computer support unit) have observed
that the "beefier" (more robust) a computer is, the fewer problems we'll
have over the life of that computer when it comes to end-user experience.
Many tangible and intangible factors, as well as years of experience, go
into that point of view. Because of the nature of our public computing
environment, we never know what the end-user will be doing tomorrow, next
week, or next year. Having a computer that can handle "whatever" gracefully
and effectively makes our jobs easier and the end-user happier.
Staff time is money. Less time dealing with hardware issues is more time
spent on other tasks.
Also don't forget that "you get what you pay for." Although not always the
case, my experience is in line with this old adage.
More specifically, there are several selling points we've used to get the
more expensive computers we wanted:
NOTE: This should not be construed as an advertisement for Dell. Indeed,
the same selling points can most likely be said about any manufacturer who
sells to medium and large businesses and other institutions, such as
educational institutions. I just happen to be familiar with Dell.
CONSISTENCY: Dell uses ISO 9000 suppliers. This is a biggie.
In a nutshell, this means that the components used to build Dell computers
are the same today as they were yesterday and will be tomorrow -- on a
model-run basis. That is, if I but a batch of computers they will all have
the same hardware inside: the same chip set, the same video card, the same
hard drive. etc. When you buy a hundred computers at a time, this is important.
There is no such guarantee when you purchase computers off the shelf at the
local discount store. (Yes, I know the "local" discount store isn't really
a local business.) Even though they are the same make and model, they might
have been shipped to the retailer in different batches and have different
hardware inside. This is a support nightmare.
STANDARDS COMPATIBILITY: This is a biggie.
Dell manufactures its computers to be compatible with many technology
trends and with other technology manufacturers. When working in a networked
environment, this is essential.
When manufacturing for the stand-alone home computer market -- like the
ones at the discount store -- this is not a primary concern. Sell whatever
is the cheapest, not necessarily what works.
RELIABILITY: Intended-for-home-use computers from the local retailer are
NOT engineered for the use and abuse they get in a library (or any computer
lab) setting. Other than a bad run of Western Digital hard drives many
years ago and a run of bad laptop integrated NICs more recently, we've been
pleased with the performance of our Dell computers. These problems were
fixed under warranty -- see the next section.
Here's a link to a recent, related article about this (shameless
Specifically from the article:
"These results indicate the preference of the leaders of the professional
world using, as well as recommending, Dell notebook and desktop computers,"
said Katerina Konstantinou, research executive, Frost & Sullivan. "The 2005
CEO Choice Awards recognize the company's commitment to quality,
reliability, performance and customer service at a reasonable price."
"Dell adheres to stringent quality and reliability levels. For example,
computer systems under development undergo thousands of hours of testing to
validate designs that help protect against a variety of bumps, drops and
shakes, temperature extremes and even liquid spills on keyboards."
WARRANTY: We purchase a warranty with our computers as well. If hardware
breaks or simply wears out, we call Dell and have a replacement part
shipped. We typically receive the part within forty-eight hours. They'll
even send a repair tech if you want; however, being computer techs
ourselves we rarely request this service. This is a great set-up from the
support perspective. This somewhat expensive add-on saves a lot of staff
time in our case.
The point: consider that off-the-shelf discount computers don't have the
same support options that Dell (or Gateway, or whoever) can offer.
Hope this information is useful.
At 08:07 AM 1/5/2006, you wrote:
We have a library board member who is wondering why we are paying between
$900 - $1100 per computer (we get ours from Dell) when you can go out and
get them from Wal-Mart or someplace for $500 or less.
We have noted that we get more memory, speed and better monitors for the
most part, but would like to see what others might have done.
. . .
Thanks in advance,
Beloit (WI) Public Library
Mark Cesare, Support Systems Analyst
Northern Arizona University ~ Cline Library / Technology Services
P.O. Box 6022 ~ Flagstaff, AZ ~ 86011
e-mail: Mark dot Cesare at nau dot edu
phone: (928) 523-2330
fax: (928) 523-3770
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