The per-client-computer TCO will vary significantly from one district to the next. Many factors include functionality provided to the user and complexity of the technology and support infrastructures. Depending on the objective of a TCO assessment, one organization may include cost items that another one doesn't. However, there are actions that schools and districts can take to enhance their IT efficiencies. Areas worth reviewing include:
IT Asset Management
Manage software licenses repurpose minimally used computers: Some computers are used more than others. Certain software applications are no longer used, or they’re not installed on all of the systems for which they are licensed. It is prudent to make sure that computers (including servers) are located where they are needed most and licensed only for the software actually in use. An IT asset management application can monitor this use over the network, evaluating usage results over time.
Help Desk and Centralized Support Tools
Technical support consumes time and money when technology professionals must travel from building to building to maintain equipment, troubleshoot problems and support end users. With already stretched staffs and more staff reductions in the offing, it’s a good idea to find a way to support users more efficiently.
Automated, remote support from a centralized help desk is an answer. Centralized user support requires tools to view and control computers remotely. This approach to problem management does have some up-front costs, but it provides the opportunity for efficiencies over the longer term, while maintaining user satisfaction by effectively managing responses to support requests. A vendor-provided centralized support ROI calculator can be found on KACE's website.
Computer Refresh Cycle
During times of economic stress, one of the budget areas that receives scrutiny is the IT capital budget and the computers scheduled for replacement. Leasing, with its low up-front costs may be an option as a strategy to keep refresh cycles in tact.
Direct and Indirect Labor
While looking into reducing time computer support techs spend traveling through centralized support techniques, it is also important to ask, "Who is providing direct labor services?" Direct labor includes all personnel who have as at least part of their responsibility to provide computer support or other computer services. This may include external providers, teachers, aids, school-based techs who don't report to the IT organization, as well as the computer services organization. Is your current support structure as effective as it can be? In many cases it doesn't make sense to pay teachers, who are not trained as techs and are more expensive, to provide user support services.
Computer, Server and Network Consolidation
Server consolidation and server virtualization reduce complexity, OS and other software licenses, and power usage. This process involves up-front planning and some initial investment, but can result in significant savings. This topic is covered under "Other Resources" and in CoSN's Green Computing Leadership Initiative.
Networks: A district telecom system typically consists of data lines from campuses to the central office and connection to the Internet, plus internal and external voice communications and often security and clock synching networks. The external voice connections through the local telephone company can add up to a significant cost, as do Internet access lines and Internet service provider (ISP) charges. A study of VoIP costs and savings should be considered, as well as consolidation of the data networks.
Number of Supported Operating Systems and Applications
A broad mix of desktop, laptop and server operating systems requires a broad mix of support talent and complicates system integration and network management. This is not to say there should be only one operating system. More than one client and one server operating system however, that supporting multiple OS versions also could be more costly in terms of support talent and system/network integration issues.
Printing and copying can be major expense that include hardware, ink or toner cartridges, energy and paper costs. It’s important to evaluate your current printer inventory: How many and what type of printers and copiers are connected to computers and on the network? Operational costs can be drastically reduced by replacing individual other inkjet printers in favor of strategically located print/copy centers. Implementing electronic forms for staff and school board use can also reduce the cost of printing. Some of these issues are covered in CoSN's Green Computing Leadership Initiative.
Electrical Power Usage
Electrical power usage by the computing infrastructure can easily add up to 25% of your district's utilities bill. This topic is covered in depth as part of CoSN's Green Computing Leadership Initiative. Note that the CoSN-Gartner TCO tool does not include power usage, but CoSN's Green Computing Leadership Initiative includes an energy usage calculator.
Extended warranties provide a worry-free approach to maintaining equipment throughout its useful life. However, since companies make a profit selling them, a review of these warranties is appropriate. Rather than buying extended warranties for products purchased in quantities, it may be prudent to purchase one or a few cold spares.
SaaS: Districts and schools short on technical support staff, especially smaller ones, should consider software as a service (SaaS) options to in-house, supported applications. The concept is to consolidate application support by providing applications over the Internet to multiple schools from a single central location. Approaches include private SaaS companies that develop applications, regional service districts and informal consortia of districts. As with open source software, before making any changes, consider the initial and ongoing costs of in-house vs. SaaS approaches.