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Improving desktop IT support



Who wrote this proposal?
It was initially written by John Rowe after a suggestion by the then Head of School. Its final form reflects consultation with the IT Support team (Chris Forrest and Dave Colridge) and the School Manager, Steve Trotter.

How could this all go horribly wrong?
  • The IT team could fail to understand the needs of the academic, scientific and other staff.
  • IT decisions could be driven by criteria other than "How can we use the resources we have do better teaching and research?"
  • We could fail to value people's time, including our own.

How do we avoid this going wrong?
In practice most research groups have "the person you go to to ask about computers". We will be asking all heads of research groups who these people are and will be talking to all of them and planning to keep in touch with them.

What is a "Business Desktop PC" and why should I want one?
Simply put, it's a machine designed for people whose time is expensive and want to use it for work in a professional environment, rather than for enthusiasts who want to play computer games and are happy to spend their time tinkering with their PC.
  • It's small, quiet and looks professional.
  • It's reliable and has at least five-years' serviceability. HP give us three-year, next day, on-site warranty for just 18.64 - that's confidence!
  • Its graphics will annihilate anything we throw at it but it's not designed to play computer games. The machine we have chosen can support up to four monitors and we would be very interested to talk to anybody interested in demanding scientific visualization.
You should want one if you want to do Science or high-level computing rather than fiddling with your PC.

Can I try one out?
Of course. Talk to IT Support.

Why HP when the University has a deal with Dell?
  • HP's Business Desktop machines offer much better value than the Dell preferred price.
  • HP have made small business mini-towers for several years now. They've always been great and lasted well.
About a year ago HP overtook Dell as the largest PC vendor in the world. IDC have them shipping 13.1 million PCs worldwide again set against Dell's 10.2 million. This is not why chose them but it does show they are doing something right.

But Dell are a world-class company and if they offer us a better deal than HP we will buy from them.

How long will this deal last?

Hewlett-Packard's business models are sold for about a year and are supported for at least five years after that. HP will warn us at least a month before the a model is updated or withdrawn. At that point we will reconsider again whether to buy from HP, Dell or another world-leading international tier-1 vendor. Either way, the model will remain the same: we will buy a spare machine of the model we are recommending and if your machine breaks down you will always receive a spare machine which is the same model as yours. We expect to buy one or two spare machines a year.

When should I consider buying something other than the recommended desktop PC?
Talk to IT Support about buying a workstation or server if you need:
  • More than 4 GB RAM
  • Quad-core or dual processors
  • More than four hard-drives
  • Drives greater than 250 GB with system manufacturer's warranty
  • An extremely powerful graphics card

Why AMD Athlon not Intel Core 2?
In order of importance:
  • We've bought a number of these machines and been very happy with them.
  • HP's low-end AMD machines have a standard PCIe/16 slot for graphics cards, their Intel ones don't.
  • We preferred AMD's integrated graphics (they have bought ATI, a specialist graphics manufacturer).
  • The low-end Intel dual-core don't have vitalization. We don't know if we will use this but we would like to keep our options open.
  • Core 2 rules the top end but if anything comparisons at the bottom end favour AMD at the same price. See Tom's hardware CPU charts 2007.

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