You may wonder how USF chooses which computers to use or how we pick our printers. Well, in the ITS world, these computers and printers are selected based on a large number of criterion called hardware standards. There are several factors involved with USF hardware standards. In no particular order, they include the price, current technology standards, vendor agreements, class, timelines, USF needs, recommendations from the Desktop Computing Committee, and feedback from users (i.e. you)!
Of course, pricing is a factor, but keep in mind it is not the only one. When purchasing new hardware, USF takes into account the set budget but also the quality of a product.
Pricing corresponds closely with quality; USF is committed to providing current technology. This technology may not always be the most expensive, but it is close enough to that top product to be considered competitive with it.
There are two classes of hardware: business and consumer. A consumer class product, for example, may only be available for a short time. As we also want support and a reliable supply of spare parts from a vendor to help us, product availability over a broad period of time is preferred, we not only receive good prices but great support in exchange for our promise to buy in bulk from them. A few years back we reviewed proposals from multiple vendors to be our choice for PC’s, we ultimately choose Lenovo. We stayed with Apple to give us the Macintosh alternative.
We are also committed to two separate timelines, the vendor’s and the USF Replacement Program, that dictate when and how often hardware changes. With vendor timelines, we can’t control how often they choose to change or update their hardware. With the USF Replacement Program timeline, we follow a calendar year with certain designated start/end times. Sometimes, it can take up to a month or more between placing of an order and receipt of equipment. The combination of these two timelines can sometimes slow the process but doesn’t negate from the fact that the hardware replacement numbers fall around 1000 replacements a year, with hundreds ordered in each round.
Another consideration is the need to maintain compatibility with USF needs and standards. For example, all hardware used on campus must work well with USFconnect or individual software used in the various colleges, like business and finance specific software. Obviously, if our computers don’t meld with important USF-based technology, they aren’t much use.
Of course, feedback from the actual people using them (you and the rest of the USF community) is key when picking products. Your valued opinions are always considered during annual replacement cycles.
The Desktop Computing Subcommittee, part of the University Information Technology Committee (UITC), is another large influence for picking new hardware. USF representatives from different departments all over campus make up this committee, meant to represent the opinions of what is important for our hardware standards at USF.
Ultimately, we always try to stay at the same level or greater when doing replacements. No one factor here is absolute. As Desktop Engineering Manager Edmond Kwok said, “The user experience is what’s most critical us.” Every one of these factors in the Hardware Replacement equation adds up to answer one question, “What will create the best user experience?”