5.9 Desktop Computing Overview - Teaching, Learning, Technology Roundtable - St. Cloud State University

5.9 Desktop Computing Overview


Desktop computers are, like phones, essential technology for day-to-day university work; therefore, maintaining minimal standards for computer systems is important, especially in an environment of budgetary austerity. When the total cost of ownership for desktop computing is considered, establishing baselines for systems actually saves money long term, most notably in terms of technology support and system downtime. Moving to a range of supported core systems might also enable SCSU to save money through bulk buying.

This section addresses in its two subsections on hardware and software standards and compliance relating to desktop computing. Each subsection covers the same basic points of evaluation: standards, actions leading to effective uniform service, cost savings, timely replacement of upgrades, and an assurance of institutional legal compliance.

For the past five years, the SCSU Microcomputer Standards Committee has regularly published recommendations — www.stcloudstate.edu/tltr/appendix8.asp — to provide users with guidelines for purchasing hardware and software. Acquisition of technology implicitly means support will be necessary. Standard hardware and software make it possible to provide knowledgeable support for that technology campus wide. In a world of unlimited resources, being able to support all permutations of hardware and software configurations might be possible; in our world, it is simply not practical.

Providing standards has additional benefits. The level of training can be focused and the downtime to the user can be reduced when problems arise. Limiting the number of options means more hardware can be purchased and "economy of scale" employed. Conservation of resources can be obtained by negotiating campus-wide software license agreements. These types of agreements are currently in place for a number of software titles.

Purchase of technology is not a one-time matter. The concept of total cost of ownership (TCO) means that in addition to the initial purchase price, the costs of maintaining that technology over its usable life need to be considered when planning and purchasing it. TCO is currently estimated at approximately $1,000/year per workstation. This precept provides a basis to plan and budget for regular and consistent replacement/upgrades of hardware and software.

SCSU has an institutional obligation to legal compliance with regard to hardware usage and software license agreements. However, no consistent or manageable procedure is in place to assure legal compliance. This is not a need but rather a requirement, particularly if we intend to continue to purchase hardware and software in large quantities and by license agreements.


In the next five years, SCSU should

  • evaluate microcomputer standards and ensure that they align with general computer usage on campus; if not, the university should adjust standards to meet current user needs
  • determine the effectiveness of various technology support that working groups provide to users for hardware and software defined by the standards (see 5.16)
  • investigate "economy of scale" opportunities for institutional investment in hardware and software
  • evaluate the principle of total cost of ownership to determine appropriate levels of funding for existing and future technology acquisitions
  • enforce legal compliance standards for hardware and software usage (see 5.2)
  • assure continuous quality training for technologists relative to standards-defined hardware and software
  • communicate standards, purchasing opportunities, level of support, and legal compliance obligations to users

Guidelines for specific actions and timeline, resources, and evaluation for hardware can be found in 5.9.1 and for software in 5.9.2.

Revised: May 2003