Cost, reliability, warranty, and support options—these are only a few of the many considerations that you must mull over when you are drafting a request for proposal (RFP) for new desktop computers for your organization.

In the article “An IT manager needs your advice on purchasing desktops,” Mark Gonzales, IT manager for Pueblo county emergency services in Pueblo, CO, asked TechRepublic members for advice on his upcoming desktop rollover, which will involve the purchase of up to 20 new machines. More than 200 members responded with technical advice for Gonzales. Some members offered keen insight into Gonzales’ challenge based on their experience working with state and county governments. This article highlights TechRepublic member views on the vendor choices and purchasing tactics IT managers like Gonzales should consider when making new purchases.

Dell looks good
Gonzales wrote that he was inclined to purchase Dell or Gateway desktop computers because of the attractive warranties offered by both companies. In addition, both the Dell and the Gateway Web sites let users generate instant price quotes on customized orders. Member mheath, who has more than 15 years of experience in emergency management, believes that Dell is a good fit for the Pueblo County project.

Mheath agrees with Gonzales that Dell’s warranty services are the best available. However, despite the company’s customization feature of its Web site, mheath recommends you consult with Dell about customization to fit your project.

“I also suggest that you not specify the components in your equipment unless you plan to build and maintain them yourself. A company such as Dell has a reputation for providing good equipment and service. They can be trusted.”

Dan House works at Montana State University and also recommends Dell. House likes Dell’s customer service, but House puts a premium on the fact that Dell has been a successful company. “You should choose a vendor that will be here in five years.” House also recommends that you standardize the setup for your department and then customize PCs, if necessary, for users who don’t fit the standard.

Crafting the RFP
Because Gonzales had a general idea of what he wanted in his new machines, he planned on compiling an RFP to submit to different vendors. However, Jeff Critchlow, an IT director for a regional hospital, recommends a little due diligence before sending off proposals. The Pueblo County purchasing department may belong to a group of purchasers who already have a discount level on file with various vendors.

“If not, then I would pursue the use of your government status for purchasing purposes.”

Darrel Baker previously worked for the State of Colorado on a state committee that reviewed and standardized PC purchases. Baker said that not only does Colorado’s purchasing department have a comprehensive list of vendors, Gonzales will also find that “…by rule, your agency can utilize the greater resources provided at the state level, including technical assistance, in making your determinations.”

Baker’s advice might help Gonzales because he’s working in Colorado.

Member ddowning works for a State of Michigan agency and buys Dell machines through an existing contract shared with other agencies. While ddowning’s agency enjoys cost savings through this purchasing deal, “An additional advantage…will be that the vendor will be selling a proven platform that will be supported for years (or at least the duration of the contract).”

Even if deals are available through any kind of existing contract or discount plan, managers should craft the RFP with care. Wade Wyss suggests that the RFP could create unnecessary costs if it’s too heavy with customization ideas.

“Be careful in detailing too much on the RFP. You might get exactly what you asked for and not what you need.”

Go with Win2K
Gonzales explained that while making decisions about new hardware, he is being forced to make a decision about Windows 2000. He was shying away from changing to the newer OS because he believed that his small staff would be overwhelmed with the changes prompted by the move to Windows 2000. But most of the members who responded said Gonzales should adopt Windows 2000 because his department’s next upgrade will not occur until 2006. Mheath has been using the new OS on a portion of his network since this past July and recommends it based on its stability.

Similarly, Tom Thornton, chairman of an instructional technology committee for a school district in Florida, took 110 of his workstations to Win2K and “couldn’t be happier.” Thornton likes the OS so much that he plans on migrating the remaining 1,200 computers on his network over to Win2K in August.

“My OS failures have dropped nearly to zero. Stability and security are greatly enhanced…. No one around here has seen the Blue Screen of Death in several months.”
Are there costs Gonzales should incur now to save money in the long run? Join the discussion and share your thoughts.