Desktop Computing Recommendations for Penn:
|Figure 1 Recommended Minimum Configurations for New Machines|
|Hardware||Processor||Pentium 4 (2.0 GHz)
Athlon (1.7 GHz)
|PowerPC G4 (933 MHz)|
|Memory (RAM)||512 MB||512 MB|
|Hard Disk||40 GB||40 GB|
|Monitor & VRAM||17-inch CRT
(19-inch CRT or 15-inch LCD optional)
32 MB VRAM
(19-inch CRT or 15-inch LCD optional)
32 MB VRAM
|Sound||Sound Blaster compatible audio & speaker||Built-in audio & speaker|
|Miscellaneous||CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive
ZIP 250 drive
1.4 MB floppy drive
|CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive|
ZIP 250 drive
|Support Period||Until July, 2006||Until July, 2006|
|Operating System||Windows 2000 Professional
Windows XP Professional1
|Mac OS 9.2.x|
Mac OS X version 10.1.4+2
|Network Connection||High-bandwidth||10/100BaseT Ethernet||10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet|
|Low-bandwidth||56 Kbps V.90 modem3||56 Kbps V.90 modem3|
ISCs Performance PC Buyers Guide offers quarterly purchase recommendations for new systems that meet or exceed these specifications.
Given the continuous rapid change in computing technology, and the significant price difference between high-end and mid-range system configurations, many departments find that purchasing a new system based on last year's recommendations and replacing it in three years by June 30, 2005 reduces purchase and support costs. See the section below on Strategies Related to Total Cost of Ownership.
Penn's administrative systems desktop requirements are consistent with the desktop requirements outlined in this document, with the exception of BEN Financials in respect to native Macintosh. Currently, access from native Mac OS is not available, however it is planned for Fiscal Year 2003. Although a Macintosh with Virtual PC can run the current Windows Java client, Virtual PC is not certified by Oracle; therefore support is not guaranteed.
Several distinct categories of notebook computers are available, each designed to suit the needs of a particular class of users. Generally, laptop computers cost more than equivalent desktop computers and often lag a generation behind in technology. Also, given the physical conditions they are often subjected to, laptop computers generally have a shorter useful life than desktop computers (typically three years or less). Therefore, ISC is providing support for three years for major brands of laptop computers that meet the 2001-2002 recommendations published last year. The Laptop Computer Purchasing Guide was developed to help you in determining which combination of features will best serve your needs.
The following minimum configurations represent the general-purpose recommendations from three years ago. They will be supported by ISC for one more year only.
Users with systems that do not meet the 2000-2001 Desktop Recommendations (600 MHz Pentium III, 256 MB RAM, 400 MHz PowerPC G4, 256 MB RAM) should plan to replace those systems before July, 2003.
|Figure 2 Minimum Configurations for existing Machines; Supported until July 2003 ONLY|
|Hardware||Processor||450 MHz Pentium III||350 MHz PowerPC G3|
|Memory (RAM)||128 MB||128 MB|
|Hard Disk||9 GB||9 GB|
|Monitor & VRAM||17-inch Color SVGA, 75 Hz refresh rate, 8 MB VRAM
(15-inch, 1 MB VRAM minimum)
|17-inch Color, 75 Hz refresh rate, 8 MB VRAM|
|Miscellaneous||1.4 MB floppy drive
Zip 100 drive
|24X CD-ROM |
Zip 100 drive
|Support Period||Until July, 2003||Until July, 2003|
|Operating System||Windows 98
Windows NT Workstation 4.0
|Mac OS 8.6|
|Network Connection||On-campus||10BaseT Ethernet||10BaseT Ethernet|
|Off-campus||PPP (56 Kbps V.90 modem)||PPP (56 Kbps V.90 modem)|
ISC continues to support a four-year replacement cycle, but given the continuous rapid change in computing technology, and the significant price difference between high-end and mid-range system configurations, many departments find that a three year cycle reduces purchase and support costs. Departments interested in purchasing systems at lower cost are encouraged to use the 2001-2002 recommendations published last year as a guide, with the understanding that those systems will only be supported for three years. The Value PC Buyers Guide offers recommendations for current systems that meet 2001-2002 specifications.
Choosing between a three- and four-year strategy requires an understanding of local school or center computing needs. The following case studies illustrate how two different strategies may be appropriate in specific settings.
Case Study 1 - Administrative department that supports twenty-four staff desktops
A three-year replacement cycle will require purchase of eight systems per year, which at current pricing (~$1,250/system) will result in an annual system cost of $10,000. A four-year cycle will require purchase of six systems, which at current pricing (~$1,700/system) will result in a total of $10,200. A benefit of the three-year cycle is a reduced chance that the operating system and application software purchased will need to be upgraded during the life of the system.
Case Study 2 - School that supports faculty with high-end desktop computing needs
In cases where some users need the most powerful desktop systems available, a managed two-tier distribution strategy may allow units to get the most from their investment at both ends of the life cycle. In one strategy employed on campus, power users get new high-end systems every two years, with the replaced systems passed down to users with less intensive computing requirements for the second half of their four-year life cycle. This strategy requires the added support costs associated with the mid-life trickle down, but maximizes the value of the equipment over its useful life.
Leasing may make sense as a way to manage purchase and reduce total cost of ownership in cases where desktop equipment needs to be refreshed on a two-year life cycle. This is particularly true if systems cannot be redeployed as they are replaced. This strategy may be appropriate for some campus computing labs.
Buyers with limited budgets may choose to purchase less expensive configurations (in particular, less RAM initially). In such cases, an upgrade may be necessary during the life cycle of the desktop computer to ensure four years of useful life. Buyers with limited budgets may also choose to trade off various components of a desktop system depending on specific needs: for example, memory versus additional hard disk space versus a larger monitor. Remember, it is easy to add additional memory or peripherals later, but some components (like a smaller monitor) cannot be effectively upgraded.
ISC recommends purchase of extended warranties where departments are not prepared to make repairs themselves, especially beyond the first year or two of a computer's useful life.
If you are considering migrating from one type of desktop operating system to another (e.g., from Windows 98/ME to Windows 2000 Professional/XP Professional or from Mac OS 8.6/9.x to Mac OS X.x) you should carefully plan for this action. At minimum, consider changes that will need to be made to the LAN server in the department, software license costs, and file conversion costs. The level of expertise you have with the new operating system is also an important factor, and you should plan for training costs if appropriate.
While ISC expects support for recommended operating systems to persist through the four-year life cycle of the desktop recommendations, that may not always be possible. Be prepared for the possibility of an operating system migration during the next four years.
Please refer to the Windows System Specifications and Mac OS System Specifications for ISC recommendations regarding system configurations which support specific operating systems and versions. Long-term guidance is also available (in PDF form) for Windows Operating System Life-Cycles and Mac OS Operating System Life-Cycles
Low Cost PC's Not Recommended
Price reductions resulting from market competition and continued technical innovation make definition of "Low Cost PCs" a moving target. It is generally true, however, that computers priced in the bottom 25% of the current range compromise some combination of performance, reliability, compatibility, or expandability to achieve the lowest possible costs. Compatibility with recommended network products is a particularly important consideration at Penn.
Bearing in mind that you get what you pay for in most cases, and that the costs associated with supporting these systems typically outweigh the actual purchase price, ISC recommends that "Low cost PCs" not be purchased for general use.
The Value PC Buyers Guide offers recommendations for competitively priced systems that are compatible with Penn's network environment and are widely supported on campus.
The Computer Connection offers Apple and Dell configurations that match the recommendations discussed above.
ISC provides information on supported products.
Acquisition Services provides information on purchasing desktop computers (requires PennNet ID and password).
If your school or department is considering major changes or investments, ISC strongly recommends a consultation to weigh pros and cons in today's rapidly changing environment (contact John Mulhern III in ISC, firstname.lastname@example.org; 573-3567).
All desktop systems should have important data backed up and be virus-free. Additional information on information system security can be found at http://www.upenn.edu/computing/security/.
For more information on off-campus network connection see http://www.upenn.edu/computing/remote/.
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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