Tight budgets are convincing many K12 districts to turn to certified refurbished computers as a way to stretch technology budgets. But secondhand computers, and the vendors who sell them, aren't all the same. Our Web seminar panelists, George Moore of Responsive Education Solutions in Texas and Brian Bray, of Lebanon Community Schools in Oregon, offer insights and advice based on their experiences buying refurbished computers.
Instructional Technology Consultant for Responsive Education Solutions, which operates 38 public charter schools in Texas
We were facing several challenges regarding computer purchases. Budget, of course. But also the 90- day warranty we were getting on parts was insufficient. And we weren't getting uniformity in software images across all the computers in all our schools. We needed one-year warranties at a minimum; we needed shipment of computers directly to each of our schools; we wanted an operating system image that would remain the same on all computers we bought over time; and naturally we needed low cost.
I did my homework on refurbished computers, and what I found from CDI was this: They were going to give us a five-year warranty. They were going to provide the same base operating system image on every machine we bought for five years. We would get 10 spare computers for every 100 we purchased. And they were going to get us Dell computers so I would have recognized brand that I could provide to people. And we would get all this for less money than we would spend to build our own computers or buy new ones.
I will tell you what we learned by purchasing refurbished computers. It takes longer than buying new because you are getting computers coming off-lease. They have to be refurbished and then shipped out. So make sure that you do have some time. Also, there will be instances when you get a computer with a bad mouse or keyboard, but CDI gave us plenty of spares.
Another thing is the performance of a used computer will be slower than that of a new one. But in our testing it didn't matter because even two- or three-year-old computers are fast enough now to handle any of the educational software that we had on hand.
Now our end users are saying, "Hey, we got all these brand new Dells." They think of them as brand new; they look brand new and they perform like a new computer. We did tell them they were refurbished, but if you just walked into the school you couldn't tell, which was a good win for us because students are kind of picky. If a student doesn't perceive a computer as being good or usable, they might not use the computer.
Director of Instructional Technology for Lebanon Community Schools in Oregon
Our goal is to support teaching, learning, and business functions by ubiquitous access to computers. My definition of ubiquitous access is that a student is never more than a few feet and a few minutes from a computer. And, of course, we want to have best-of-breed products, the sorts of things that work. We want technology to be effective and not waste the time of students. Because in a classroom, you simply can't have the technology fail.
When it comes to buying computers, at the cost of new PCs our budget comes up way short in terms of what we need. So we really had to find another solution. For us, that was refurbished computers. However, the expectation of the public,parents, and students is that we have decent, good computers available.
I needed to buy long runs of identical computers. I needed popular, rugged, business-class machines. My strategy is not to have the latest, greatest of everything. It is to be just behind the curve. Schools don't actually need the very latest and greatest, because the so ware vendors and solution vendors that sell into our market cannot require the latest and greatest equipment or they will never sell any of their product. We have plenty of power when we are behind the curve just a little bit. So for us, working with CDI allowed us to get what we needed.
Price is just part of the equation. Part of our partnership with CDI is that we keep some spare parts here. We get the parts and we repair our machines. CDI might even come in without the best price, but you know the competitor might not be able to meet the large volume that we want to buy. And with other vendors, we don't know about the consistency of their product, and we don't know if they will be there six months from now either.
We like that with CDI when we run into something that is stumping us, we can just toss the question up and we will get an answer back. I think that by us being a good customer, they commit to being a good vendor. And it has been eight years now and it just keeps on working.
To view this Web seminar in its entirety, please go to www.districtadministration.com/cdi.