Although it may seem unreasonable, I recommend you stay out the hardware business as much as possible. What does this mean?
• Buy new equipment from reliable vendors instead of building computers from pieces
• Buy on-site service contracts when purchasing.
• Avoid accepting donated equipment which requires retrofitting to meet your current hardware standard.
The fact is as soon as you or your staff start unscrewing the case of a computer, you are loosing money big-time. The repair will cost at least a quarter of what a new machine will cost. So you do this four times, you could have bought a replacement machine. Not only that, if you manage to fix the old machine, you still have…an old machine.
With new computers going for $1200 or so at this writing, it doesn’t make sense to try to build computers from scratch. Moreover, upgrades of existing machines should be considered only for those machines that were bought in the past 12-18 months at the most, and then only for a specific requirement. The reason? Even after upgrading an old machine you still have an old machine. As the technology improves, you will cling to the older machines longer, in an attempt to pyschologically justify both the initial investment and the cost of the upgrades. Again… you are not in the hardware business. so upgrades should be considered only rarely.
The Onsite Service Contract
Dell computers can be bought with a three-year on-site hardware service contract for about a hundred dollars over the price of the machine. The irony is, you won’t need to use this very often. Dell isn’t stupid, they know that the cost of the contract will be eaten up with a single service call for that machine. But when you need it, you call the technical support number with the machine’s service tag. They walk you through some diagnostics over the phone, and if they determine that there is a hardware problem, a guy in a cape appears the next day and fixes it. This keeps you out of the hardware business.
Sources for Hardware
Most likely, you may have the opportunity to obtain hardware from several different sources:
• Equipment purchased outright
• Equipment received as a donation
• Equipment received as part of a grant for a specific program
For workstations and servers: Dell for both. Compaq, HP or IBM as alternatives for servers. But again, if you end up getting XYZ workstations, why not get XYZ servers too and simplify your vendor relationships.
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP Professional. These allow much more control over the security aspects of the workstation than the “home” versions, like Windows 98 and ME.
Office Suite: Microsoft Office – Word, Excel
eMail: OutLook Express (not OutLook that comes with the Microsoft Office Suite)