Chapter 7: Knowing How to Support and Maintain Your Technology Solution|
Establishing a plan for purchasing and replacing equipment can help you decide how and when to dispose of old equipment and make new purchases.
What do you do about replacement and redeployment of equipment?
The previous section addressed application software upgrades. Upgrading the hardware platforms on which the applications run is also a key part of system maintenance. Computer hardware follows a life cycle that is perhaps best described as "rapid, planned obsolescence." This refers to the fact that hardware will be overtaken within three years by new models that are better, faster, and (adding insult to injury) cheaper than what you paid for existing models. This is especially true of desktop microcomputers, although it applies to printers, servers, modems, and other peripherals as well.
There is no way to buck this trend. You simply have to recognize it and account for it in your long-term technology plans. Ideally, you have developed a system architecture (the design and contents of your computer system). This can help you determine when equipment should be upgraded or replaced and what type of new equipment or modifications to existing equipment will be needed.
A reasonable rule of thumb is to set a budget to upgrade or replace one third of your computers each year so that nothing more than three years old remains on site in your organization. It may be painful to see "perfectly good machines" withdrawn from use after such a short period of time, but the pace of change in the computer field is so rapid that three year-old machines are unlikely to be doing their jobs efficiently. Another solution is to lease the computers for three years. At the end of that time, either return the computers or lease new ones - in either case the organization is never paying for old machines.
Once a decision is made to replace a group of machines, the next decision is what to do with the old machines. Education organizations are typically multi-faceted, and there may be several potential homes for "once-removed" machines within your organization. A common strategy is to move machines from a student lab to an administrative office or vice versa.
Internal redeployment, however, is not as simple as it sounds. What do you do with the older machines that are being recycled in the administrative office? You may be able to find another spot for them in your organization, but do you really want to maintain three generations of computer equipment? You have to draw the line somewhere. The disruption caused by "trickle down" internal redeployment might actually exceed the cost of external replacement with new machines. Some organizations establish clear policies that - while somewhat arbitrary - provide rules for equipment disposal. For instance, one university has decided that it will move equipment only once internally. The old equipment is then permanently disposed of by selling it to staff or students or by donating it to other organizations.
Regardless of the plan for discarding old computers (be it internal redeployment, external redeployment, storage, or even disposal), all files from old machines must be deleted. To be confident of effective file removal, each hard disk should be erased completely, a processed referred to as 'degaussing' by your technical staff. In any case, saving time by not fully erasing files is never worth the risk of accidentally passing along information that shouldn't be shared. After all, think of the possible repercussions should you mistakenly divulge individual student data, sensitive financial records, or other private files.