Desktop Computing Recommendations for Penn:
|Figure 1 Recommended Minimum Configurations for New Desktop Systems|
|Hardware||Processor||Pentium 4 (3.0 GHz) w/400 MHz RAM
Athlon 64 (2.0 GHz/3000+) w/400 MHz RAM1
|PowerPC G5 (dual 1.8 GHz) w/400 MHz RAM1|
|Memory (RAM)||1.0 GB||1.0 GB|
|Hard Disk||80 GB||80 GB|
|Monitor & VRAM||17-inch CRT or 17-inch LCD
(15-inch LCD or 19-inch CRT optional)2
64 MB VRAM
|17-inch CRT or 17-inch LCD|
(15-inch LCD or 19-inch CRT optional)2
64 MB VRAM
|Sound||Sound Blaster compatible audio card & speaker||Built-in audio & speaker|
|Miscellaneous||CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive
optional 1.4 MB floppy drive3
|CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive|
|High-bandwidth||10/100BaseT Ethernet||10/100/1000BaseT Ethernet|
|Low-bandwidth||56 Kbps V.92 modem4||56 Kbps V.92 modem4|
|Operating System||Windows XP Professional5||Mac OS X version 10.3.x6|
|Support Period||Until July, 2008||Until July, 2008|
|Estimated Price||$1,400 to $1,6507||$1,750 to $2,1507|
ISC's Performance PC Buyer's Guide offers quarterly purchase recommendations for new systems that meet or exceed these specifications.
This remainder of this document is divided into several sections:
Penn's administrative systems desktop requirements are consistent with the recommendations for general purpose workstations specified above, with a few exceptions for BEN Financials on Macintosh systems. Currently, only Mac users running OS 10.x will be able to access/view/markup invoice images in native Macintosh mode, without using Virtual PC. Mac users running other versions of the Mac OS (i.e., OS 9.x) will still need to use Virtual PC to access/view/markup invoice images. In addition, please note that all Mac users, including those running 10.x, will still need to use Virtual PC to access the Oracle applications (i.e., BEN Balances and BEN Buys). 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.
The following configurations represent the desktop recommendations from three years ago. They will be supported by ISC for one more year only and are the minimum configurations supported for this year.
|Figure 2 Minimum Configurations for Existing Desktop Systems; Supported until July 2005 ONLY|
|Hardware||Processor||1.0 GHz Pentium III or
1.2 GHz Celeron
|533 MHz PowerPC G4|
|Memory (RAM)||256 MB||256 MB|
|Hard Disk||20 GB||20 GB|
|Monitor & VRAM||17-inch CRT
16 MB VRAM
32 MB VRAM
|Miscellaneous||8/4/32 CD-RW or 6x DVD-ROM
Zip 250 drive
1.4 MB floppy drive
|8/4/32 CD-RW or 6x DVD-ROM|
Zip 250 drive
|Network Connection||On-campus||10/100BaseT Ethernet||10/100BaseT Ethernet|
|Off-campus||PPP (56 Kbps V.90 modem)||PPP (56 Kbps V.90 modem)|
|Operating System||Windows 2000 Professional
Windows XP Professional
|Mac OS 9.x|
Mac OS X version 10.2 +
|Support Period||Until July, 2005||Until July, 2005|
Several distinct categories of laptop 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 them in technology. Also, given the physical conditions they are often subjected to, laptop computers generally have a shorter useful life than desktop systems (typically three years or less). Therefore, ISC is providing support for three years for major brands of laptop computers that meet or exceed the 2003-2004 recommendations published last year. The Laptop Computer Purchasing Guide was developed to help you determine which combination of features will best serve your needs.
Given the continuous rapid change in computing technology and the significant price difference between high-end and mid-range system configurations, many Schools or centers find that purchasing a new system based on last year's recommendations and replacing it in three years (by June 30, 2007) will reduce purchase and support costs. Schools and centers interested in purchasing systems at lower cost are encouraged to use the 2003-2004 recommendations 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 closely match the 2003-2004 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 center that supports twenty-four staff desktops
A three-year replacement cycle will require purchase of eight systems per year that meet last year's standard, which at current pricing (~$1,000/system) will result in an annual system cost of $8,000. A four-year cycle will require purchase of six systems that meet this year's standard, which at current pricing (~$1,350/system) will result in a total of $8,100. An additional benefit of the three-year cycle is a reduced chance that the operating system and application software purchased will require an upgrade 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.
Finally, many manufacturers now offer four-year warranties, up from the fairly standard three years. If a workstation is going to be in use for the full four year life-cycle, these warranties (which typically add about $50 to the overall cost) may be appropriate.
Leasing may make sense as a way to manage purchases 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 system 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 upgraded effectively.
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 2000 Professional to XP Professional or from Mac OS 9.x to Mac OS X.x) you should carefully plan for this action. At a 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.
Operating System Support
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. Windows XP Professional and Mac OS X offer enhanced security options that may be needed to support strategic goals in the future. As such, aging but still supported operating systems such as Windows 2000 Professional may face earlier retirement than previous versions of the Windows Operating System Life-Cycles document indicated.
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 for Windows Operating System Life-Cycles and Mac OS Operating System Life-Cycles
Low-Cost PCs 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 30% 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 in most cases you get what you pay for, and that the costs associated with supporting these systems typically far outweigh the actual purchase price, ISC does not recommend that "Low-Cost PCs" 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.
Purchasing Services provides information on purchasing desktop computers.
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 connections see http://www.upenn.edu/computing/remote/.
If your School or center 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; x3-3567).
Information Systems and Computing
University of Pennsylvania
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