Thursday, June 23, 2011

The TMC Library Upgrades Public Access Computers

Did you ever wonder if it would be more cost-effective to upgrade your computer than it would be to buy a new one?

As computers begin to age, they begin to slow down, and can eventually fail completely.  The hardware is generally designed for a useful life no longer than 5 years.  The parts most prone to failure are the mechanical elements, the internal devices—like hard drives, power supplies and cooling fans.  

Fifty-two public access computers were purchased by The TMC Library in 2006 and 2007 for about $1,200 each, making them now 4-5 years old.  Unfortunately, with a very tight budget and at an estimated replacement cost of $52,000, we needed to investigate alternatives-- ways to extend the life of the current computers until we could resume following the Library’s ‘technology refresh’ plan. 

On the first floor units, we have increased RAM to 4 gigabytes, which has allowed us to install Windows 7 (64-bit), Office 2010, Firefox 4.0, Google Chrome 10.0, and Internet Explorer 9.0 along with other additional software. The most important step to extending the useful life of these machines was our installation of very fast, solid-state drives (SSDs).

The upgrades have added at least 2 years to these computers, and at the same time, they now deliver a performance very similar to that of a brand-new system.  Dual-core systems with additional memory, solid-state drives and modern software are providing a user experience like that of machines with eight cores, the same amount of RAM and conventional hard disk drives— and at an 88% savings over the price of 52 new computers.

What happened to the parts that were removed?  We added those parts to the computers in the Street Level Lab to increase their performance, and this enabled the same Windows, Office, etc. software upgrades to be added to them.  By doubling each one’s memory to 3 gigabytes and using a high-performance disk configuration called RAID 0, or striping, the performance of these even older computers has also been significantly enhanced.  Because they are slightly older, though, and their hard drives have been reused, the life of these computers will not be extended much beyond an additional year.  

So, if you’ve ever wondered whether upgrading a computer was cost effective, whether solid-state drives were worth the extra money, or if you just would like to reacquaint yourself with the valuable people and services at The TMC Library, please come by, and while you’re here, see how your Library was able to save money and still increase user satisfaction by judiciously upgrading your computer labs.

Chris Young
Associate Director,
Information Technology
The TMC Library

1 comment:

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