Even in smaller libraries, this approach leads to unscheduled downtime, inconsistent service and funding problems. Some of the questions you should be asking yourself at this stage include: How often should you replace your desktop computers? How often should you replace laptops and mobile devices? Key Actions Make refreshes a part of your technology plan. If possible, make the technology refresh a part of your strategic planning and technology planning conversations.
It can have a major impact on your budget and your services, so you want feedback from frontline staff, managers, trustees and patrons, if possible. Use Spiceworks to plan a hardware refresh. Use Spiceworks or another asset management tool to help you determine which computers need to be replaced. Or you can run a report on the PCs that are more than four years old. Whatever your criteria, that list is the starting point for your technology refresh project. It also helps you to make your budget requests.
If you can see that 15 computers will enter their fifth year of service during , you should budget for at least 15 replacement machines. Use Spiceworks to plan a software refresh. With Spiceworks or another asset management tool, you can easily whip up a list of computers that don't meet the requirements for the new software. These PCs will need upgrading or replacement, or you may have to delay your rollout of the new software until you have faster machines.
If your planned changes will have a major impact, invite them to give feedback or ask them if the upgrade will have any unforeseen consequences on the way they do their work. Rollouts of new software and upgrades of existing software usually require some staff training. Deciding When to Refresh There are no hard and fast rules about when a refresh should occur. In general, desktop systems and servers are replaced every three to four years, while laptops, phones and other mobile devices are swapped every two to three years.
Printers and networking equipment may last five years or more. However, these are all just guidelines, and factors unique to your organization will drive the final decision about when to refresh. Can you afford to buy new computers or new software? How much are your old computers really costing you? Squeeze every last dime out of those computers! However, old computers often have significant hidden costs. Your IT staff will spend much more time supporting a five-year-old computer.
Frontline staff will answer more questions from frustrated patrons. Everyone will waste time waiting for software to load. How long are the computers under warranty? Some libraries purchase a three- or four-year warranty for their computers and start to look into replacement machines once the warranty runs out.
Does the vendor still support the technology? Often, a vendor will no longer support a particular operating system or software. From that point on, it gets harder to keep the software secure and operational.
Are your old computers delaying other upgrades? Are old, slow computers driving away your patrons? Obviously, this is a major consideration. If your machines struggle to play YouTube videos or your patrons have to wait a long time for basic tasks such as checking email, you should consider upgrading or replacing your computers.
Selecting a Computer Refresh Strategy Big bang: In this approach, you switch out all of the computers in your library at the same time every third, fourth or fifth year. On the other hand, your IT department will always have a standard hardware configuration because all the PCs were purchased at the same time. Also, you might save some money by buying in bulk. A lot of libraries swap out a fraction of their computers each year.
This makes their budget requests more uniform and spreads out the impact of hardware rollouts. If your funding agency allows it, you can set aside a chunk of money each year for new computers. How much money and effort will you invest in your training program? Who conducts the training? You can assign the training to internal staff or outside contractors. Developing an effective curriculum takes a big chunk of time, so libraries often bring someone in from the outside or send their employees to classes held at other locations.
When do you schedule it? Stories from the Field What we do is we maintain a database of all our computers, and we also look at the warranty. Typically, we purchase our computers with a three-year warranty. And from that database, I extract a report every fiscal year that shows which computers are either already out of warranty or will become out of warranty by the end of the fiscal year.
From there, we analyze which computers need to be replaced. I am planning to put new computers in those stations every three years. I never want those to give us any trouble. I want to change out every three, no more than five years, the whole library network, which is all of our staff computers and our whole circulation system and our public access catalog.
I have pretty well communicated that with all the powers that be as far as the budgeting goes. We try, we do our very best. But, of course, we have the money, so we can do that. So in that situation, my best advice is to upgrade those computers as far as you can, upgrade the RAM as much as you possibly can, and just put a fresh image on it.
A standard staff machine or a public workstation, I try to replace them every four years. I do purchase almost all of my PCs brand new. And that was the case when we switched from our old email software to Zimbra. So one of the things we try to do to mitigate that is to tell people as early and as often that something is changing, something is coming, and get whatever details out that we can.
So we try to just put out pieces that they can read, and we just try to do it through communicating. Although this last time around, we did replace public machines first because those were getting very old. We keep an inventory of the oldest, or we had a PAC [public access computer] stolen out of the teen zone and that one had to be replaced. But we try to do 10 to 12 a year; we budget for that so that in a three-year period almost everything has been replaced.
And we generally run one year past warranty. We figure at that point we can start cannibalizing and using the parts out of our older machines to replace things that are required and keep enough of them going to keep them available for the extra year.
And we basically buy in the vicinity of 60 to 70 desktops every year. With the plus we have out there, that puts us at a four-and-a-half to five-year schedule. And sometimes we get a few more; like this year we got lucky. Dell had great buys at the end of a quarter and we were able to get 80 with our budgeted amount instead of So we basically replace everything within five years.
We are funding that partly through the Gates hardware upgrade. We were the beneficiaries of one of the original Gates computers and libraries grants — two of them, in fact; two of the different cycles. We also are the huge beneficiaries of a sales tax measure in the county of Fresno that is specific to supporting libraries.
So we have the money in our budget [to keep] the PCs operational and [to get] that level of staffing that allows us to have all those techs and the money for a four-year replacement plan for all of our computers.