What’s the cheapest way to equip classrooms with monitors that have Internet access?

Joseph Videtto February 2, 2013
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I’m based in the U.S.

Our school about to upgrade computers, but rather than go the traditional PC/monitor/printer route, are exploring other options.

We’re looking for the most cost-effective route to replace 50 (very old) PC’s distributed throughout 2 buildings, to provide students with a total of 50 ‘seats’ that give students access to the Internet. We already have a network in place that’s about to be upgraded to fiber optic, and are open to all hardware options. The PC’s are currently locked down and continue to need to be locked down (which believe it or not really adds a great expense – especially when you have to pay a company to remove the old lockdown unit and install a brand new model for the new hardware : (

Also, we need printers, 25 in all – I’m thinking Laser jet for sure; I purchased a brother HF5470DW for about $200 and love it – think it was an outstanding value – double sided printing too. Anyone have a more cost-effective, reliable, low cost per printed page alternative ?

Thanks in advance.

  1. Alan Wade
    February 5, 2013 at 11:44 am

    25 printers x $200 = $5000
    Two decent laser printers will save you a lot of dollars.

  2. Oron Joffe
    February 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    Regarding the PCs, and assuming that this is quite separate from the question you posted about Optiplex GX260 etc, here are some cost effective options: keep your PCs, or replace with thin clients (e.g. from Wise) and invest in a Citrix or (Windows) Remote Desktop Services desktop. The cost of the server will mean that the savings won't be as huge as you hope, but the load of management will disappear (update? install once on the server, student tries to make a change? they can't, or it disappears when they log off, backup? back up one machine, etc, etc.).

    You can do the same in a Linux/X11 context and save even more money. Essentially, set up a linux server with all the software (internet access and anything else you like), and set up the PCs are X11 servers (in X11 the "server" is the bit that does the displaying on the screen). Software cost=zero. Hardware - a modest PC for the server, and ANY PCs for the students. However, you need to know to to set up a system like this, and it's not trivial, so you may have to buy in the expertise.

    As for printers, as others have said, don't buy 25 printers. The cost of printers over their life (TCO) is typically 3-4 times the capital cost of the printer itself, and this is on medium sized laser printers. What you want is the smallest number of the biggest and most cost-effective printers you can afford. Usually, as Jan pointed out, this is an MFP (what most people call "a departmental photocopier"). Contact companies like Ricoh, Kyocera-Mita, Sharp, Konic-Minolta (I'm sure I've missed out some names, basically all the traditional photocopier makers) and ask them what they would recommend. They may have special deals for education (in the UK the public sector, including schools, get AMAZING deals through government contracts). Even if not, they should be able to give you a purchase price or leasing/rental plan, and a "click charge" per page. What you need to do is to figure out roughly how much your school prints (your finance dept may be able to tell you how much paper the school buys every year), and then work it out over a period of 3 or 4 years (3 is better as the equipment is going to get hammered). You will be amazed how much money you can save by concentrating your printers. Also, as with the PCs, managing a small number of printers is much easier (who will buy and replace toner on the printers?). Consider getting one or two smaller printers as backup or for "privileged personnel" such as the school head, but keep the number to a minimum.
    Finally, consider getting a "Print Management Solution". This is the term for software that monitors, and optionally controls, who can print what and how much to which printer. There are many such packages and they work in different ways. Some allow you to charge for printing (money or "departmental credits"), others simply report, but all of them do two things: 1) they allow you to get a reliable picture of the use of printing at the school, and 2) they can act as a deterrent (mild or vicious!) to excessive printing. I'm not going to recommend a particular system here, but two you could look at to get you started are Papercut and PCounter. Good luck!

  3. Laga Mahesa
    February 3, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Can't help you with the PC costs as I don't know what the availability and pricing is really like for low end bulk in the states. Try to future proof as much as possible. Talk to local companies about sponsorship programs if you can. Helping schools out is cheap for than and priceless in terms of brand recognition and goodwill.

    With printers... definitely go laserjet. Don't forget the cost of ink - laserjet toner cartridges last for a long time.

    One per classroom, attached to the teacher's computer. Set up a fileshare, and tell students to copy print sources there, so the teacher has full (and free*) control over what gets printed.

    * There are a few good, and expensive, network management tools to do this but the above works fine, if a bit MacGyverish.

  4. Aditya Bhat
    February 3, 2013 at 6:15 am

    i dont know about ur printer but u can surely use LAN or WI-FI for your use.
    I think LAN will be more cheap cause u just have to set them up at 1 time and no extra cost for that

  5. Jan Fritsch
    February 2, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Well the cheapest thing would probably be some Thin Client running Linux (stand-alone) and lock them down.

    The next step would probably be either Remote Desktop Services or Citrix which means, again, you can use Thin Clients and they will last for quite a while as you only have to upgrade the server side in the future.

    Sorry, what the ***** do you need 25 printers for? We have ~25 printers for 300 employees which is already way overboard.
    Get one MFP Laser machine in each room and setup Pull Printing/Secure Print.

  6. Jim Chambers
    February 2, 2013 at 4:30 am

    Instead of 25 printers, I suggest that your school buys 2 ( 1/building) network printers that have a lower per page cost since toner cartridges have about 4x capacity of personal printer and lower maintenance cost. Better yet save trees and have students submit reports, assignments etc. electronically over network.

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