Buying Hardware Checklist

Pay attention to your users.
  • What are they actually doing with their computers?
  • What software do staff and patrons use most often?
In most libraries, staff and patrons aren’t using resource-intensive applications, so you don’t need the latest, greatest, fastest computers. However, if you’re buying machines for teen gaming or video editing, you may need something more robust.
Think about obsolescence.
  • You don’t need to pay a premium for the speediest PCs, but if you buy bargain-basement equipment, will it cost you more in the long run?
Remember, every few years, Microsoft releases a new, resource-intensive operating system (e.g., Windows Vista) and then stops supporting one of its older operating systems. So it’s important to strike the right balance. For a quick take on buying desktop machines, see A Simple Guide to Buying Computers. If you want a more detailed discussion, read Desktop Computers for Your Business.
For labs/public computing environments, consider business-model computers rather than consumer computers.Business-grade machines tend to be more durable.
Ask some questions about the vendors on your shortlist.
  • How long have they been in business? How stable are they financially?
  • What’s the average failure rate and/or return rate on their equipment?
It’s often hard to get a reliable answer to this last question, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Find out if the company offers imaging and installation services.
  • Will they install the operating system and the core software?
  • Will they install customized software and peripheral devices?
  • Will they come to your library and put all the equipment together?
All of these services cost extra money, but they’re worth considering if your IT department is short-staffed. For more information, see Deploying New Computers and Disk-Cloning in Libraries.
Ask about vendor support during installation.If you’ll be installing the equipment yourself, find out what kind of support the vendor is willing to offer during installation.
Ask about vendor support after installation.
  • What’s their initial response time to a tech support call?
  • What’s the time to resolution (e.g., the time between your initial call and the time the problem is fixed)?
  • Which problems will they help you with?
For more information, see the following section on warranties and service plans.
Determine whether you should do business with the manufacturer or with a hardware reseller.A reseller with multiple manufacturer relationships can sometimes simplify your life by serving as a single point of contact, handling multiple purchases on your behalf and presenting you with a consolidated bill. A reseller might also be closer to you geographically and better able to offer personalized service. On the other hand, resellers will charge you extra for this added value. For details, read Where to Buy a PC and What Is a Value-Added Reseller.
Check out the vendor’s disposal policy.
  • Can you return out-of-date equipment to the vendor, knowing it will be properly disposed of?
  • What do they charge for this service?
For more information, see Getting Rid of Old Computers Responsibly.