For a number of years, Moravian College has had an official 4-year
replacement policy for lab and employee desktop and laptop computers.
Simple arithmetic lets us calculate the cost of the policy. We own 600
computers on the refresh list, meaning that we should budget (or at least
set aside) funds to replace 150 machines per year. If the weighted cost of
desktops and laptops, Windows & Macs were $1600, the annual refresh cost
would average $240,000 (150 computers X $1600). The actual weighted cost has
fluctuated year by year in a helpful downward manner. (Oh, if you're
wondering, once replaced with a new computer, 4-year-old computers are
hardly ever thrown out. They tend to find homes as student assistant
workstations, etc., for another couple of years. The unofficial refresh
cycle is thus more like 6 years.)
In 1999 we funded a special project that upgraded about half of our desktop
computers for new Y2K-compliant enterprise client-server software. The
intervening years have been easy, as only about $100k/year of upgrades were
needed to keep us on the 4-year replacement cycle. Each year, however, I
would remind people of the impending bubble. Unfortunately, the institution
is always too relieved (and exhausted) by the effort to balance the budget
to really address the issue (by seting aside a reserve fund with the balance
of the $240k).
Alas, our ability to spend money across the Institution has outstripped the
resources available. And we're on the hump of the refresh cycle where more
than half our computers should be replaced this coming fiscal year. As with
many of you, we control budget line item growth year to year. Compared to
last year, next year's requirement is about 3.5 times greater, simply not
affordable in light of other institutional priorities (academic programs,
Many of you must be fighting this battle, and I'm inviting you to brag about
the "best practices" that have emerged at your institutions in the current
Have you found new ways of managing the refresh cycle that provides
acceptability, affordability, and equitability?
Director, Center for Information Technology
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