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FHSS Purchasing Policy

Background and Current Practice

The University's computer policy derives from the broader Church IT policy, generously providing computers for College employees.

Access Devices

The University allocates funds to the College to acquire and replace computers designated as Access Devices. This provides computers for newly hired faculty, and allows replacement of faculty and staff computers approximately every four years. The University sets a dollar amount for the acquisition or replacement of an access device (currently $1,300). One quarter of this amount is provided annually for each approved Access Device in the College. The University allocates access device funding on the basis of a "benchmark" count of approved access devices in the College. This count corresponds closely with the number of faculty and staff FTEs, and determines the eligibility of access devices for replacement. Access device funding can be used only to replace computers included in the University's benchmark. At present, all departments in the College have quite capable and current computers. This has simplified support problems, providing faculty and staff with quality computing resources. With this foundation, the college annually requests additional funding for access computer purchases over $1,300. With this university funding, the college can subsidize more expensive computers (up to $400 in 2016). Computer purchases in excess of these amounts must be supplemented through research or department funds.

Using Other Funds for Computer Equipment

Because some computers, (i.e. laptops), may be more costly than the fixed access device allocation, the University permits the use of capital equipment funds to supplement access device funds for these purchases (up to $400 per computer in 2016). Capital equipment funds can also be used to purchase other computer-related equipment such as network printers, computer projectors, scanners, etc., as well as other equipment unrelated to computing. Sometimes funds from grants and fellowships are used to purchase computer equipment. As with any computers beyond the College benchmark, these computers are not eligible to be replaced with access device funds in the future without an approved program improvement request. Equipment purchased with grant money must meet the College computer standards and receive the appropriate inventory tagging.

Replacement and Repurposing

Along with access device replacement funding on a four-year cycle, the University recommends 3-5 year warranties to manage service and repair costs. Older computers are more vulnerable to problems and more difficult and expensive to fix because parts are often less available and the warranty period has expired. At one time, the University required the College to surplus one old computer for each new computer being acquired. This was done in an effort to avoid continuing expansion of the computer inventory, to encourage explicit justification for retaining older computer equipment, and to make underutilized computers available for other uses by the University and the Church. These considerations still apply, but now at the College level, instead of University level. The College is now responsible to maintain a current inventory of computing equipment and to surplus equipment, which the fulltime CSRs determine to be no longer needed within the College. Replaced computers can sometimes have a productive second use for research functions or for student assistants. However, multiple cascading "trickle-down" computer exchanges often require as much support effort as the original new computer at each installation and setup cycle. This includes transferring data, imaging hard drives, installing special software, and configuring accounts, printers, networks, etc. It should also be noted that these computers are not eligible for replacement as the benchmark access devices are. Beginning in 2006, department chairs will make the decisions concerning the repurposing of useable computers which have been replaced within their departments, consistent with College procedures for maintaining an accurate inventory of computer equipment and disposing of equipment which is no longer needed. This also involves good-faith efforts to help the College maintain limits on the number of computers, retire obsolete technology, and conserve computing support resources.

Ordering and Installation

The department chairs make the decisions about who gets new computers and when they get them. However, ordering and installing new computers requires coordination between the departments, the fulltime CSRs and the Dean's office. Department chairs who anticipate acquiring computers should also meet with the one of the fulltime CSRs to coordinate these plans. Ordering of computer equipment will be done at the request of department chairs, and handled on an expedited basis through the college's Computing Services Department (Gary Glade). When new computers arrive, they need to be tagged with inventory control numbers and entered into the College's inventory database. They will then be imaged with the College's basic set of software, and configured or customized for individual users. A similar process is involved with trickle-down computers to set them up for their new use. Location information also needs to be entered into the inventory database when computers are moved or sent for surplus.

Computer Equipment Standards

The use of standard systems with 3-5 year warranty service provides important simplifications and efficiencies in setting up and maintaining computers in the college. Standards also help when replaced computers are repurposed elsewhere. The College develops standards for both desktop and laptop computers each year, refreshing these approximately every six months. These standards are consistent with those employed at the University level. Through experience, the University has found greater reliability and longevity, and fewer problems when purchasing so called "business line" rather than sometimes less expensive "consumer line" computers. Higher repair and support costs for cheaper computers often result in a total cost of operation which is actually greater in the long run. The current College standards will be found on the web here. It is anticipated that these standards will be able to accommodate 90% or more of the needs for new computers. Where there is a specific need for something beyond the standard, department chairs can request an exception by providing a justification to the Dean's office. College standards for network printers can also be found at the college web site. Similar warrantee, maintenance, and support considerations apply as with computers, and exceptions to the standards can be approved by the Dean's office. Specific standards have not been established for personal printers, but suggestions are available on the web site.