When you’re lacking time and money, it’s tempting to wait until a computer breaks or a piece of software becomes obsolete and then think about how you’ll replace it. Even in smaller libraries, this approach leads to unscheduled downtime, inconsistent service and funding problems. In large libraries, it’s completely impractical. When you replace a batch of computers or upgrade a major piece of software, your budget takes a hit, you may want to do testing, your staff may need training and you’ll spend a significant amount of time installing and deploying.
Sometimes you’d really like to replace those wheezing, five-year-old computers, but you’re a bit short on funds, so you have to make the TRS-80s last a while longer. To help you make the best use of technology that you currently have, we suggest you download our Prolonging Computer Use — Tips and Tools. It outlines some of the different ways to prolong the usable life of your equipment.
IT asset management refers to any set of processes and procedures that helps an organization keep track of its technology resources. At the simplest level, asset management is really just inventory control. What hardware and software do you own, and where is it located? In its more advanced forms, asset management can help you better understand how your staff uses technology, with the goal of becoming more efficient and standardized in your purchasing and decision making.
Communication between IT technicians and frontline staff breaks down occasionally, especially in mid-sized and large libraries. Frontline staff submit incomplete information about the problems they’re experiencing, and IT staff sometimes lose track of help requests. Help-desk management software offers several features to help improve communication. Most use a form of some kind to elicit detailed information from staff about where and when and how a problem started occurring. When someone submits a request, it goes into a queue so that no one gets preferential treatment.
Software is the big payoff. It’s the reason we all use a computer to begin with, but it can also be a huge source of frustration and wasted time. To minimize your trouble, consider how you’ll address software testing, deployment, asset management and patch management.
Disk-cloning software, also known as disk-imaging software, is a time-saving program that creates a sector-by-sector, low-level copy of an entire hard drive (or partition). Symantec Ghost and Acronis True Image are two well-known examples, but there are a few dozen others to choose from.
Is an extended warranty on a computer really worth the extra money? The answer, as usual, is “It depends.”
As with cars, TVs or any other large, expensive outlay, you don’t have to own the technology in your organization. You can rent desktop machines, servers, networking equipment and just about anything else. And while you usually pay a bit more in the long run, some organizations find it easier from a purchasing and accounting viewpoint. Before you lease any technology, you need to take some time to consider the advantages and disadvantages of the decision.
Partnership and collaboration are themes we’ve hit on repeatedly in the Cookbooks. When you’re buying technology, higher volume usually leads to better prices and better service. You can collaborate with state purchasing agencies, state libraries, regional library cooperatives, municipal IT departments, local colleges, K-12 schools, K-12 libraries and on and on. For more on partnering with other organizations, see Effectively Collaborating with Other Libraries and Partners.
Imagine a library where the director makes all the decisions and controls every last detail of the organization. The director is, of course, benevolent, well informed and creative, with unimpeachable judgment. Have you ever encountered this library in real life? Probably not because, in reality, we only have full control of very small projects. With anything else, we have to turn to stakeholders, both inside and outside the library. We need their support, funding, advice and approval.