From the University wide IT budget every year we set aside approximately £400k for our “access strategy”. It used to be called our “desktop replacement” budget, but the nature of the “desktop” has been changing over recent years. Increasingly, University provided IT services and software can be accessed through a Windows desktop PC, and Apple Mac, Windows laptops, netbooks, Apple Macbooks – and now tablet PC’s such as iPads and Androids. In recognition of this change, some of the annual £400k is also now used to support some of the server infrastructure which ensures that software can be accessed across this range of devices (see “MyApps – the Foundation of Future Desktop). Hence the term “access strategy”.
We have around 3,000 of these devices in use across the University and our current policy is in overall terms to replace these over a 5 year cycle. In some areas, because of specialist requirements, we replace on a 3 year cycle.
This is the time of year when we look at what is due for replacement and we are working through that at the moment. This is a big exercise and not just a question of buying a bunch of PC’s. For example, when we replace the 3-year old computers in specialist areas (e.g. School of Computing), these 3 year old ones will still be absolutely fine for many other parts of the University – so there is a domino effect as we refresh one area and cascade their PC’s into other areas. The PC’s that have truly come to the end of their life then have to be properly disposed off, complying with environmental legislation and ensuring that all confidential data has been wiped off them. All of this involves IT staff in IT Services, Schools, Library and external suppliers.
Procurement Scotland have negotiated national deals for buying desktop computers and laptops and wherever possible we buy from their contracts as we get great prices on the equipment.
This year, we are conducting that exercise with a large new building due to open within the next 12 months. One of our aims will be to ensure that as much as possible of the IT equipment going into that building is new or nearly new. This will include using large numbers of low energy workstations as part of the “Future Desktop” project. We might hold back some of the new purchases until nearer the opening of the new building so that they can go straight into the new building.
We are also very aware that we are buying equipment for a desktop world which is changing rapidly and where it is hard to predict what will be the “norm” in 5 years time. We have not yet brought iPads and the like into this annual upgrade process, and only this week Microsoft have announced their latest offering for the tablet computer world. But our “Future Desktop” strategy is very much about future proofing our whole approach and precisely what we buy in our annual refresh is going to change over the next 5 years. Interesting times!