Desktop and Notebook Purchase Guidelines

by Joe Chow

It is obvious that maintenance support for desktop and notebook computers can be costly if it is not managed properly. However, it is less obvious that, without a good strategy in selecting and purchasing computers with the aim of reducing the total cost of ownership, it would make not only our maintenance support inefficient and unmanageable, but, worse still, many of our users unhappy. Therefore departments seeking central support of desktop and notebook computers are recommended to follow the guidelines below when selecting and purchasing new computers:

Centrally Supported Computer Brands and Models

Like researchers searching for equipment most suitable for their uses, the Computing Services Centre (CSC) will conduct regular desktop and notebook tenders to select brands and models most suitable for supporting general university applications. Reliability, stability, manageability, compatibility, costs (both initial purchase price and subsequent maintenance costs) as well as the quality of supplier support are major factors affecting the total cost of ownership, and thus the selection. It has been the practice of many departments to order computers based on CSC recommended brands, and therefore, with their support, the University has been enjoying good discount rates due to bulk purchases.
However, departments should also aware that there are major differences in the level of support between home models and business models (even from the same CSC recommended vendor) which are targeted for totally different markets. Their comparisons are summarized below:

Home models

Business models

Adopt the most forefront technology (can be less reliable or stable) closely, user can enjoy the latest technology, innovative features and design of the system

More practical design for improving productivity, user can enjoy the stability and the performance of the system

Designed for personal use, best support for multimedia applications and computer games

Designed for office use, best for office applications

Targeted for affordability. Materials used will adjust according to targeted end product price

Targeted for stability. Materials used will be more reliable

Rapid change to match for technology change. Therefore, maintenance parts may be missing due to shorter product life

Change only on certified compatibility of most major applications vendors. Long product lifecycles and parts availability

No guaranteed compatibility across models or even hardware upgrades

Maintain image, BIOS and driver compatibility across most of the upgrade models and facilitate upgrade transitions

Network support suitable for simple home network

Full support and solution for campus network

Models may vary in difference countries or regions

Global compatibility maintained. Therefore, most models have international warranty/maintenance support

No guaranteed compatibility of central management software

Designed to support central manageability, security enforcement and service support

Standard production control and product tests

Undergo stringent production control and product tests for usability, stability and environment


















Moreover, not all business models from the same vendor will be recommended by CSC.  Therefore, departments are recommended to purchase the exact business models selected by the CSC unless they plan to support the other models by their own service teams or by outsourcing.

Computer Warranty Period

The CSC has standardized on a computer purchase strategy to subscribe a 3-year on-site warranty services from its recommended desktop and notebook suppliers. As this is always listed as one of the tender specifications and used as one of the major evaluation criteria, and again with departments' support, the University often enjoys the 3-year maintenance at a nominal price due to bulk purchases. The maintenance service Warranty Extension Scheme (WES) managed by CSC for desktop computers provides maintenance service to the CSC recommended desktop computer brands and models after their initial 3-years warranty. The WES is also benefited from the bulk purchase due to its sheer volume and with very few different models, the CSC can subscribe the WES with minimal cost and is able to use its recurrent budget to pay for the WES so that departments can enjoy the WES free of charge.
Departments are thus urged to include a 3-year (or beyond) on-site warranty in their purchases of desktops/notebooks if these machines are not on the CSC's recommended list as CSC cannot support these machines with minimal cost and without incurring additional manpower.

Following these guidelines, departments, while enjoying the same quality of service, can also help the University and CSC to save money by reducing the total cost of computer ownership in terms of its purchase price, maintenance cost, and support effort.