Support of devices that you didn't purchase?

Regional Campuses have their own IT Computer replacement budget that they govern. Typically they can decide when/how/where to replace an aging device. They lean into my team(Central Services - IT Department), when needing to get a quote and/or needing to confirm/deny the specifications that are needed for the device that they are wanting to purchase. After the purchase has been made, the IT Department then has the obligation to provide support for said new device (we charge the Regionals for this ongoing IT support).

Some Regionals like to keep their devices alive A LOT longer than others. Understandably, due to tight budgets etc etc. We typically feel the pain when needing to support/troubleshoot the aging device.

I’m looking for guidelines/expectations/standards for hardware replacement cycles that you might have developed that strongly encourage your Regional campuses to adhere to. AND, how do you ensure that they comply?

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I’d suggest let them keep control their budget and decide when they want to upgrade, but IT does all the purchasing and uses their budget codes for hardware purchases. This way you don’t have random whatever show up and they expect it to work, like one of our pastors who wanted to get a homepod and cheapo wifi lights so that Siri could change his lights for him, none of which allowed for 802.1x auth so it was at least an easy no, and don’t be afraid to tell people no.

Setup a standard laptop and/or desktop config so that you can just tell people what a replacement will cost. If they want more SSD space or RAM, or a $500 ‘Pro’ in the name, they can let you know, and they’ll be billed accordingly, just don’t let people try to talk you into a $300 best buy laptop. The benefits to standardizing hardware is immense, you’ll have one place to go for drivers, easily know if a hard/software vulnerability affects your fleet.

For those that like to hold on to hardware set a maxmium age of device policy (5-6 years for anything with a SSD, 3-4 for HDDs) and any support you provide beyond that is best effort, and subject to them needing to replace the hardware.

If you can’t say no or set standardized device policies, then charge the regional campuses more for IT support. Work them like you’re an MSP and document everything with how much time it takes you to handle their tickets so that you can have data to backup your claims and bills.

Here are some thoughts:

  1. Centralize the IT purchases as this will save money due to economy of scale. Bigger discounts from vendors and better vendor relationships. Also good to standardize the equipment for all sorts of reasons like better security, support, parts availability etc. Centralizing also reduces duplicate purchases as well; sometimes they can borrow from one another.
  2. Do leases. This will force all to replace at the same time. Some organisations are happier to do leases as it becomes an OPEX than a CAPEX. And you can get very low interest rates from a bulk lease. (Like 1% as after three years the machine is sold by the lessor for cash)

From my experience, consumer desktop/laptops usually last 1-3 years and business ones last 3-5 years. I try to steer the purchases towards business ones so that I can use them for 4-6 years. TCO would be lower. When Panasonic Business Toughbooks were available, I purchased them for most staff. Almost all of them after 6-7 years are still working well. Save alot of time supporting them and the staff are happier. Not so “pretty” but a durable work horse. I was visited by the Japanese global boss of Toughbooks and he explained to me that if they designed the laptops to last 5 years then every single component including the capacitors and resistors and connector have to last the duration as well. The warranty usually tells a story. If the basic warranty is 3 years then more likely or not the engineering design lifespan is at least 3 years.

Computers in their various forms have gotten to be such a critical component to productivity and ministry that we have centralized this to the equivalent of your department. We did this about six years ago when staff when we were experiencing things much like what you’ve described. Staff, IT and A/V volunteer’s satisfaction went way up after doing this. We’re also able to address some things more strategically than before that gets us more bang for the buck.

Ideally IT has some control over when devices get replaced, or even manages that (and the budgets). However, that’s not always realistic…

If I were supporting devices I didn’t purchase I would be looking for options, none of which are perfect, along the lines of:

  • A list of supported device configurations. An unsupported configuration means it goes to the end of the support queue. I.e. a list of ChromeOS devices, a list of Apple devices, a list of Windows devices
  • What minimums must a device meet to be supported? For example, if it doesn’t receive the latest MacOS security updates at Calvary, we replace it. We don’t but top end hardware unless there is a clear immediate need for the top end. I.e. a $2500 Mac isn’t needed to run a couple Ableton loops.
  • Give freedom to have devices older than X, with the expectation clearly communicated by senior leadership, not IT, that if the device is older than X the IT department has the right to require a replacement device be purchased by the regional. (I don’t really like this, but it is an option, or something like it)

Essentially, senior leadership needs to be involved and aware that A can be supported effectively, but B cannot. What would leadership tell us not do if we run across B, as continuing to support B will require more resources than were allotted to support A

You’re operating a bit more like an IT service provider at this point so I’d adopt some of the practices employed there like A.) charge enough onboarding costs of devices to departments/sites when not purchased via your IT department that they go through you so that they don’t wreck your efficiency with bad or even just non-standard hardware purchases. B.) Require hardware to be under a current warranty so you can just send Dell/HP/Lenovo to go fix the hardware next day if it’s a hardware issue… you’ll rarely need to do that, but there is also the benefit that everybody is on quality and non-legacy stuff and not some 7 year old consumer laptop that’s well past its usefulness. Those two things change the game a lot and bring down support costs/time for an IT department quite a bit. I’d actually take it beyond those two and apply it to everything from router/UTM to switches to NAS to APs. The more you manage the environments, the better it can get for everyone due to scale advantages.