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School finds success with ex-corporate computers

A policy of buying refurbished CANZ computers has helped Waiopehu College achieve its hardware goals, writes John MacGibbon.

Waiopehu College, a 700-student secondary school in Levin, is well-equipped computing-wise, with better than one computer for every two students. Helping the school achieve this ratio has been a policy of buying refurbished former corporate computers.
The school takes a horses for courses approach to its ICT. The 380 computers include about two hundred refurbished computers for bread and butter work, 150 higher powered PCs for IT studies, photography and design classes, and 30 Macs for music classes. Added to this are more than 30 staff laptops.
There is also a mixed ownership policy. Refurbished computers are owned outright, while the other computers are leased.
Waiopehu’s head of IT, Bill Abbott, has been well satisfied with the refurbished computers, which he now buys from CANZ-accredited company The Ark. His latest purchase, last December, was 62 matching P4-3.0Ghz IBM ThinkCentres, most with 2GB RAM. The other refurbished computers are P4-2.6 or better. All, Abbott says, are more than capable for what they’re asked to do. This includes technical drawing, in a special room with 12 refurbished computers.
The students work online, using Google’s SketchUp.
Though they’re not the school’s main graphics computers, some refurbished models are used for Photoshop, and handle it well with plenty of RAM, which nowadays is cheap.
The relationship with The Ark has been good. “Any issues we’ve had, they’ve put right quickly,” said Abbott. But there’s been little to put right. The refurbished machines have been reliable, with a failure rate of “well under 10 percent.”
The school’s broad policy for refurbished computers is to buy 3-4 year- old machines and use them for another three years. Computers dropping off the stock have been recycled through the CANZ eDay event and some through Trash Palace in Porirua. The CANZ price is also attractive.
“Even though prices for new computers have dropped a lot over the last three or four years, I can buy up to three ex-corporate computers for one new PC,” added Abbott.

Operating system and networking
Apart from the Macs, all of the school computers use Windows XP, in a network controlled by Windows 2003 Server.
Office 2007 replaced Office 2003 recently, and Abbott says all computers, including the refurbished models, handle it well. Vista has been studiously avoided, but Abbott believes the next classroom upgrade of leased computers – due late this year, may be based on Windows 7. But this will only happen if the server software can be upgraded to be compatible with Windows 7.
“At the moment our tech support contractor says the combination is still only at the testing stage.”
The network can be monitored remotely, right down to an individual user, with the British AB Tutor application, while website access is controlled with Watchdog. There is a ban on social networking except for limited availability of Facebook before 8am and after 3pm, when overseas students use it to communicate with their families.
Maintenance of the Waiopehu ICT system is in two levels. An on-site technician spends 15-25 hours a week doing general support and maintenance, while higher-level support comes from an outside ICT support company whose technician comes once a week for six hours to check servers and do other tasks as required.

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Categories: Article, Issue 24

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