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Generic PCs For Corporate Use?

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the do-it-yourself dept.

IT 606

porkThreeWays writes "I work for a government agency supporting about 1000 PCs. The economy has hit us just like everyone else and we are looking at ways to save money. We currently buy Dell computers and even with our government discounts end up spending about $1,000 for a pretty mediocre computer. I had the idea of building our own PCs for considerably less. We'd spec out a standard configuration that we'd use for 18 months. CPU speeds and RAM sizes may change during that time, but socket types, memory standards, hard drive interfaces standards, etc, etc would be required to stay the same. We have Dell warranties right now, but I could see just keeping spare parts on the shelf and building that into the cost of the PC. We'd also be able to transfer Windows licenses because the Dell installs are non-transferable. However, I couldn't find anyone on the large scale doing this. Is anyone on Slashdot using PCs they built themselves on the large scale?"

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606 comments

$1000 a PC? (4, Insightful)

FlyHelicopters (1540845) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927360)

What is on them, a Core i7 with 12GB of RAM and an SSD?

Me thinks you're overpaying... Dell isn't that expensive, really it isn't...

Re:$1000 a PC? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927412)

A 12GB RAM Core i7 with SSD from DELL is at least 2k

software? dell wants like $150-$300 for office + (1, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927426)

software? dell wants like $150-$300 for office + over priced ram (Dell warranties may not like you having 3rd part ram)

Re:$1000 a PC? (4, Insightful)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927444)

Dell has better volume discounts than you ever will, both with Microsoft and the hardware manufacturers. They further offset this by bundling in a whole load of crapware on the default OS install.

Even after accounting for their profit margin and your time spent re-imaging the machines with a clean version of Windows, the cost from Dell compared to DIY for standard beige-box business machines should be somewhere between slightly cheaper and slightly more expensive; if it's the latter, a single point of contact for warranty issues is still perhaps worth the money. If it's the former, you win on all counts.

Re:$1000 a PC? (5, Interesting)

Lord Byron II (671689) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927556)

I did this recently. Not with 1000 machines, mind you, but five. Dell wanted an exorbitant amount for the machines, insisted that since we were getting hex-core processors that we must get discrete graphics, and a bunch of other technologies* that we just didn't need.

By going with Newegg and building it myself over a weekend, the price was cut in a little more than half.

*We do scientific number crunching, but don't have any GPGPU code right now. Our codes fit in an average amount of memory, are CPU intensive, and take up very little hard-drive space. Dell couldn't understand selling us a hex-core CPU with a 80GB hard drive. Further, we couldn't specify the number of PCIE slots (in case we do GPGPU later on), but they did insist on discrete graphics, which we absolutely didn't need. This quote came from their SOHO line. On the true "server" side of things, their prices are astronomical.

Re:$1000 a PC? (3, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927736)

By going with Newegg and building it myself over a weekend, the price was cut in a little more than half.

Whats your chargeout rate for weekend work?

Re:$1000 a PC? (1)

vought (160908) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927558)

You'll never be able to build and support hardware while maintaining your current net profits.

Penny wise, pound foolish.

Re:$1000 a PC? (1)

hodet (620484) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927448)

Came here to say this. Seriously, reading about building your own, I felt like I was blasted back to the 90's there for a second. Plus putting all those things together and keeping stock on hand. How does this not cost your employer a fortune?

Re:$1000 a PC? (1)

owlstead (636356) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927496)

Maybe, but last I looked at purchasing prices for medium businesses and I was appalled how expensive a new PC really was. Never mind the option of the SSD, here in Europe you'll have to make special arrangements for that it seems. Maybe it is because so many laptops are sold, but the PC's you can currently buy suck, and the screens suck even more. Try to get a cheap non-reflective screen with a good angle - it's almost impossible at any fair price.

Re:$1000 a PC? (2, Interesting)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927560)

It's easily that much buying from a manufacturer. These are equivalent to 3ghz. Core 2 duos with 4 gigs of DDR 2. Not at all your powerhouse system. Factoring in that these machines cost about $700 before discount as well as the amount of time and investment that goes into making the purchasing decisions I'd say that a grand per machine is a conservative estimate.

I raised this proposition to my managers as well, and got laughed at. Well, not really, but it wasn't taken with very much consideration at all. You have to remember that these are people who have been trained to believe in the free-market economy and capitalism and that it is their duty to conduct their business to support other businesses, otherwise the market as a whole is harmed. This, of course, is until there is a profit to be had from not supporting another business. They are loathe to cut out a middle man unless it means a substantial guaranteed return on investment. Building your own workstations doesn't guarantee a return on investment. At least not in the reality of office-land it doesn't. Maybe a small shop could do it, but it actually has more potential to lower the ROI.

Re:$1000 a PC? (1)

AnonGCB (1398517) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927852)

No way those specs cost 700 before discount unless intel is even worse in price/performance vs AMD than I had ever thought.

transferring Window license? (3, Interesting)

andolyne (1342935) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927370)

be careful transferring windows licenses... they're all OEM licenses and the T&Cs don't allow you to transfer them to another machine (ever). Of course this is based upon my knowledge from a few years ago when i worked in the licensing field, so things might have changed (IANAL)

Re:transferring Window license? (1)

lyinhart (1352173) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927450)

Licensing aside, it can be a pain just making the transition to new hardware. It ain't Linux. If you try to directly migrate your current installation of Windows to a computer and replace enough of the right (wrong?) components, Windows 7 will literally break itself and stop working.

Re:transferring Window license? (5, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927698)

Volume licenses for large corporates are about the same as OEM, so no problem there. As for hardware? stick with bog standard and Windows 7 (or any other Windows for that matter) won't say a peep. I did a 30 box rollout for an SMB that way, and last I heard they are happy as clams. I'd suggest AMD as Intel has been socket hopping too much lately, whereas AMD is backwards compatible. But you get a bog standard business class AMD motherboard (I've had good luck with ECS Business) and the ONLY thing that ever changes on those things is the GPU. The sound is all Realtek high def, the NICs are all Realtek too, the north and south bridge AMD. The worst you might have is windows asking to re-run WGA, which takes seconds on any real network, but I've frankly not seen it on the ones where I used bog standard business class. That is one of the nice thing about AMD Business class motherboards, I can carry the latest drivers for just about every board they current sell on a little thumbstick with space left over. There simply isn't much variation.

As for TFA? Go 5-10% over for spares and you'll be fine. If it is 1000 seats I'd want 50 spares just to cover Murphy's Law and to allow for expansion. Go with bog standard AMD dual core kits and you can pick up the hardware for less than $300 at someplace like Tigerdirect (hell last week they were selling AMD quads with 2Gb of RAM for $269) and your MSFT volume license will take care of the OS. Just make a disc image with the standard apps your place uses and you're good to go. I'm sure you have volume licenses for it so no worries, and by DIY you KNOW what is going into the PC. I've had bad luck with the lower model Dells really skimping on parts like caps. Better to get a board with good solid state caps that will really last. The ones I built cost $575 with 17 inch monitors and can be upgraded to a quad with 16Gb of RAM if someone has higher needs than the average office Joe. For a dual core with quality parts and 2Gb of RAM apiece it was really quite reasonable IMHO.

Re:transferring Window license? (2, Informative)

oracleofbargth (16602) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927462)

Most large companies are required to negotiate a Volume Licensing agreement with MS which results in a specific amount of licensing costs based on the FTE (Full-Time Employment/Equivalent positions) of the company, which are adjusted periodically, usually quarterly or annually. These type of licensing deals typically allow any number of workstation licenses to be used, and often end up with a similar cost to a typical OEM license.

Re:transferring Window license? (1)

Eponymous Coward (6097) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927840)

Required by whom? Companies negotiate volume licenses because they cost less and are usually quite flexible. The downside is that you agree to be audited by Microsoft.

Re:transferring Window license? (1)

Nuke Bloodaxe (582098) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927468)

There is the possibility of buying the retail copies, which are a bit less restrictive, but they cost a bundle. However, once you have them, you only need to buy upgrade copies in the future when moving from OS to OS [which is considerably cheaper.] Having said that though, and assuming it is specified in US dollars, that is a very high price per PC. For a business environment, with a lot of spare machines [not just parts] you would be buying render-farm level material there. I'd say you'd be quite happy spending $500 per machine, and still have plenty of power to spare.

Re:transferring Window license? (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927494)

The large scale operations that I have known have all had enterprise licenses with Microsoft, so they can just install Windows and Office without having to deal with individual product licenses for each one. I don't know the number of systems where this becomes cost effective.

Re:transferring Window license? (1)

Merlin.T.Wizard (1893384) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927508)

Right. But with XP at least, you could buy a retail edition that you actually could move from one computer to another. I haven't looked into the licensing for Win 7, nor for that matter, where you'd buy Win XP anymore.

I wish (0)

willyd357 (1293166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927376)

With software licenses being what they are, I just don't see this as being feasible on such a large scale. If you were to use open source, Linux, etc., it may be do-able. And awesome.

Re:I wish (1)

shougyin (1920460) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927490)

aye, paying for a Windows license would be expensive, where i would agree you should go the same route and change to a open source OS. You might have to hire some different techs for your IT department, but in the end you will save money not having to pay for support from Microsoft. As for building your own system (which i work on a government computer so i know what you are talking about) i would say it shouldn't be that hard to find a company willing to sell bulk parts at a pretty reasonable price. I have not looking into this, but i'm sure it's out there.

Don't do it (5, Insightful)

tftp (111690) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927400)

I had the idea of building our own PCs for considerably less.

This is an awful idea. I had some experience with such an experiment; it didn't work. The computers were failing left and right, and the vendor distanced itself from the situaton. You will first be forced to maintain all that herd, and eventually you will become a scapegoat.

Business is all about using money to make other money. It is a legitimate expense to buy a computer; it's tax-deductible on corporate level, so you don't need to squint too hard at the prices. Buy good computers with a warranty and on-site support and be happy.

Re:Don't do it (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927452)

the title says corporate but the summary says government.

Re:Don't do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927618)

In corporate America, is there a difference?

Re:Don't do it (1)

pharaohmd (895747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927838)

Yes there is....Corporations actually perform upgrades with equipment that meets the user needs on a regular and appropriate schedule.

The Government does NOT...

Re:Don't do it (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927500)

I had the idea of building our own PCs for considerably less.

This is an awful idea. I had some experience with such an experiment; it didn't work. The computers were failing left and right, and the vendor distanced itself from the situaton. You will first be forced to maintain all that herd, and eventually you will become a scapegoat.

Business is all about using money to make other money. It is a legitimate expense to buy a computer; it's tax-deductible on corporate level, so you don't need to squint too hard at the prices. Buy good computers with a warranty and on-site support and be happy.

^^this, I to have tried it, it just doesn't work, despite what people think dell are working on low margins but making it up with high volume. There are so many hidden costs to building and maintaining your own fleet. I worked at place that had the same idea and by coincidence it was dells we were thinking were over priced, we built and supported our own only to find out after 3 years that the average price ended up being almost 20% higher than dell even though initial costs were cheaper.

Re:Don't do it (1)

Fallon (33975) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927768)

I agree completely both from the corporate end of things & build your own home PC. I still build my own home desktop because I can get EXACTLY what I want, but it's more expensive even before I start figuring in my time.

It may (doubtful, but possible) be possible to build an equivalent PC to a Dell for cheaper, but only if you don't factor in your time, which will add up very quick. Don't forget your time isn't just your salary. It's double to triple your salary to count for benefits facilities and stuff.

Add on top of that, the prospect of some little incompatibility and you have to replace a component in every single machine, there go the savings you didn't actually have.

Re:Don't do it (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927834)

I used to build my own, now I just let Dell do it and cram in an extra HD and video card when it gets to me. SOOO much easier, quicker, cheaper, and I know it'll work the first time I hit the power button.

Re:Don't do it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927816)

I would really push dell for better prices. While I can't discuss details we pay around $700 for a pretty nice computer from Dell with a 20'' monitor. Let's just say we're a really big customer and one of the discounts dell gives us is because we have enough techies that when we call them its a real issue. They've even let us do some of the warranty work with reimbursement without having passed their exam.

Re:Don't do it (1)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927510)

I had the idea of building our own PCs for considerably less.

This is an awful idea. I had some experience with such an experiment; it didn't work. The computers were failing left and right, and the vendor distanced itself from the situaton. You will first be forced to maintain all that herd, and eventually you will become a scapegoat.

Did you happen to look at a thinclient option. This would negate the HW design, assembly and maintenance issues. With a PCoIP solution you can put all the effort into the server side. The licenses are bulk and transferable since they're all part of a VM. With the right thin provisioning and redundancy it could be very efficient and resilient.

Re:Don't do it (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927588)

We're buying HP PC's for under 400 that have enough power for me to run our bloatware (150meg ram) all in one company management software, VMWare running 98 with legacy tools, dosbox running even more decrepit legacy tools. Several spreadsheets, a remote desktop to the hideously decrepit 98 machine running legacy software that requires access to a custom 16 bit card and another program that needs access to a custom PCI card. Various in circuit programming tools from Lattice, Phillips, Microchip, Altera, Atmel our own engineers psychotic in circuit programming tools. Oh and we're running outlook.

It's running 32bit XP Pro and has 3gig, don't recall the model but it's an HP business PC.

Re:Don't do it (5, Informative)

Albanach (527650) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927718)

This is an awful idea. I had some experience with such an experiment; it didn't work. The computers were failing left and right, and the vendor distanced itself from the situaton. You will first be forced to maintain all that herd, and eventually you will become a scapegoat.

This is the correct answer. Seriously, don't even consider 1,000 hand built computers.

Buying 1,000 desktops should give you a lot of leverage. First thing you should be doing is getting bids from HP and IBM as well as Dell. But I'd have thought three quotes would already be a bare minimum in your corporate requirements. Remember and add a service deal. At $1,000 per PC, I'd be expect a four year maintenance deal with next day or even same day on site service.

Your thought was to have a standard configuration that would last 18 months. Well desktops should be able to run for four years, plenty of businesses are doing that already, and those Dell computers now have a lifespan 2.66 times that of your computers with Dell supporting the hardware for the duration.

If you have onsite tech staff, you should also be able to bypass technical support and simply declare parts as failed and have replacements shipped out. If you don't have staff that can support that, you should at least get priority business support that gets you a knowledgeable tech and a guaranteed fast answer time.

Re:Don't do it (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927810)

Yeah the only time it made sense was at my previous Government job where we were absolutely forbidden from buying new computers. No exceptions.

But we could fix existing computers. Sometimes some pretty major parts failed, too.

Virtual Machines (5, Interesting)

guibaby (192136) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927402)

Use server based VMs or terminal servers. Then use winterms for the desktops. You can get those for a couple a hundred dollars and they last forever.

Re:Virtual Machines (5, Informative)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927526)

I know a local fortune 500 company that tried this at one of their two buildings here at their corporate campus a couple years ago. Well, they are back to a desktop at every cubical now because they found if something happened, like a switch went down, suddenly all 100 - 200 terminals on that floor was down and no one could do anything until it was back up. With desktops, they may not be able answer emails, but they could at least still use office and get something accomplished if the network went down. You take 100 employs making 20/hr sitting and doing nothing for 2 - 3 hours and you've bought yourself the cost of the PC's.

Re:Virtual Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927608)

That's just bad administration. If you take the need for support away from the desktop, you need to ensure the underlying infrastructure has appropriate support for the new design. Invest in switch redundancy or onsite replacements to mitigate the risk. Sure the cost goes up, but if you do you ROI analysis properly you'll know whether this is feasible or not before you even start.

Don't knock a solution until you've designed it properly.

Re:Virtual Machines (3, Insightful)

guibaby (192136) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927612)

Load balance your virtual hosts or terminal servers across two physical switches with two connections to the core router. If they are terminal servers you can put them in separate locations and load balance the connections. If you have so many router/switch problems that the cost of lost productivity out ways the savings of minimizing your hardware/overhead, fire your network staff and start over.

Re:Virtual Machines (1)

sfprairie (626602) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927684)

Their network was not designed with redundency to support the vm servers. Or they cheaped out and did pay for network redundency.

Re:Virtual Machines (1)

omni123 (1622083) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927808)

You make it sound like redundancy in network design is a no-cost upgrade. I would wager that dual homing every switch and/or load balancing physical locations over 2x the hardware would easily exceed the cost of buying PCs over dumb terminals. Combine this with the fact that you are often pigeonholing the way people work and as a result will likely alienate a few power users (or worse users who need architectural software that is often not accounted for, especially in governments or councils which contain tens of these types of people).

It is almost always better to absorb the cost of the infrastructure and stick with your current Dell solution. Money is more easily saved elsewhere.

Re:Virtual Machines (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927636)

We just rolled one of these out last week - a HP thin client of some sort. The installation went like this:
1. Unit arrived. It crashes (screen goes black, mouse goes dark, etc) anywhere from during post to 2 hours later
2. Replacement unit arrived. Completely different model with 1/4 the RAM and 1/2 the flash, and different case.
3. 2nd replacement unit arrived. Doesn't even turn on.
4. 3rd replacement unit arrived. Seems to work okay. Installed on site
5. Call this morning - user reports that it completes POST but then the screen goes black.

Now we've got dozens of these things out in the field and none of them have ever given any problems so I know we're just unlucky in this case, but seriously, 4 units that are basically DOA???

Re:Virtual Machines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927746)

Two words for you buddy,

SHIPPING GUY

Competency of IT Staff (1, Offtopic)

ModernGeek (601932) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927416)

So long as you have an competent IT staff, you should be good. It's so much better to have internal people swapping out bad hardware and dealing directly with the RAM vendors, etc when possible. Not only do the vendors of specific hardware normally have longer warranties, they're normally faster than the end vendor at swapping out hardware. Think of it this way, if you keep paying Dell to do support and replacing bad hardware, then what is keeping another, less competent person from taking your job? So long as you create a good mechanism for keeping up with machines, parts, and vendor relations, you should be good. I highly recommend this approach. From my experience in government IT, it seems that the ones who go with vendors who provide a lot of support, the employee gets replaced with a drone who just interacts with said vendor. By doing what you're talking about doing, and doing it in a well executed and organized fashion, you are not only doing your employer a favor by saving money, you are also securing your job. You might want to do this in increments, maybe 100 computers at a time. That way you can find problems that you'd never think would ever be an issue. Doing things in small increments at first is probably the best move you can make. Also, think about keeping parts on hand, maybe enough parts to replace all the parts in every 25 computers or so. That way you can fix failed hardware on site, and then worry about swapping with the vendor later. If you keep up with your data, you can find out what fails the most and when, and then you can become more efficient in dealing with vendors, part swaps, and stocking of said parts.

Go to Walmart or Best Buy (2, Interesting)

bobjr94 (1120555) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927422)

I got our last computer at Best Buy for like 369$, dual core, 2gb ram, 320gb HD, more then adequate for running outlook and looking at craigslist.

and get poor PSU and other cheap parts better to p (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927492)

and get poor PSU and other cheap parts better to pay more / build your own and get better parts and not some 2gb ram system with on board video (VGA only) that eats ram. Get a least 4gb and on board is fine as long it has DVI / HDMI.

did you the whole thing? (1, Funny)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927428)

We'd also be able to transfer Windows licenses because the Dell installs are non-transferable.

the school I work for used to... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927440)

Mgmt killed the white boxes and bought IBM (now Lenovo) for half the machine at twice the cost. Failure rates are roughly comparable (lenovos probably have a slightly higher failure rate).

So, whatever was involved in that decision making process, cost of the hardware and reliablilty wasn't paramount. I think it is because my workplace is such a political environment, and they perceived risk to themselves by buying no-name.

Call HP (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927456)

They will set you up for considerably less than $1000/machine, as will Dell. When you add a service contract they aren't much cheaper though, but your equipment can get replaced with just a phone call.

If you want to build 1000 machines, go ahead, but it would probably take 1 person about 6-12 months to assemble them all. If you're spending a million bucks on PCs, hiring someone to assemble them full-time might be worthwhile. figure $700/pc for DIY, and $50k for the tech's salary. That's $750k for a lot less. And you can keep the tech around for support of the equipment instead of buying costly service contracts for every machine.

Re:Call HP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927564)

We use HP in our organization...complete pieces of crap...total disaster...bunch of brainless MBAs buy into this crap and we're stuck cleaning up the mess while they pat each other's back on the golf course. HP = trouble.

how so? (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927658)

I've had the opposite experience at 3 different companies. For the price you pay they are no better or worse than Dell or Lenovo. I did have some pretty bad experiences using a local shop that would build machines to spec. Sure they were exactly what we wanted and cheap, but no matter which local shop I used the quality seemed variable. With more DOAs than I would have liked considering we pay these guys to do burn-in.

All cheap computers are crap and trouble, it's all relative. I think your comment needs to give some contrasting situation for comparison.

Hardware vs Total (3, Informative)

klwood911 (731463) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927460)

One thing you are not taking into account is labor. By buying a Dell (I don't like Dell, but this applies to any manufacturer), the time and expense in building is included in the cost. When you look at parts, it looks less, but add your time in building, time to diagnose an issue when the machine doesn't boot, and time to RMA parts and repair said machine when it breaks. This adds up quick. I work for a company that built its own machines for sale and we found a company that could build and warranty them for $10 more. That $10 extra was very well spent. So remember, you are getting more than just parts, you are getting the time to assemble, repair and replace.

Re:Hardware vs Total (2, Interesting)

adamstew (909658) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927732)

At the company I work at, we get a lot of Grants & Contracts. Those grants and contracts will pay for all sorts of labor with no problem, but any equipment we have to pay for out of our own profit margin. Therefor, we tend to focus on the reverse: Put people to work and pay as little as we can for equipment. This means that if we can save any money in expenses, even at a cost of labor... as long as that extra labor cost isn't extreme, then we pay for the labor getting the equipment for cheap.

We get some very powerful machines for about $500 in equipment costs. We probably spend another hundred or two in assembly and support labor. But the assembly and support labor is money we'd be spending anyway.

Microsoft could be cheaper than Dell... (2, Informative)

Enabran Tain (1879306) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927474)

Software Assurance contract with Microsoft might actually be cheaper than paying for all those OEM Windows and Office licenses in the long run.

From that $1000 I agree much is probably software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927480)

Dell prices aren't normally nearly that out of whack, probably a lot of that cost is Office. If possible the easiest cost savings would be a switch to Openoffice (Libreoffice). Many employees will not be up to the task of learning something new, so it will be a good way to thin the herd.

Doubt that you'd save much $$ (1)

jimngo (320248) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927484)

You might save some money but if you factor in the cost of a Windows 7 Professional license then the small (and I mean small) savings doesn't offset the amount of time you spent spec'ing, purchasing, stocking, and building your workstations. This is because Redmond won't give you the same deal they give Michael Dell.

It's your ass on the line (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927486)

We provide a software product which we recommend the use of HP rp series Point of Sale terminals. Why? We aren't in the hardware business and when purchased as a bundle for an extra $250 per terminal they can buy a 5-5-5 warranty package on ALL the equipment and all the peripherals. Touchscreen goes bad in year 4, HP overnights a replacement. Receipt printer goes bad, they overnight a replacement. Barcode scanner goes bad, over night a replacement.

We have another company that sells a rebranded version of our POS for a niche industry and they elected to field cheaper equipment they built themselves for less $500 per terminal made up of dual core Atom boxes. Problem is, every couple months they go to order from Tiger Direct or EggHead, it's a slightly different box with different cases/psu's. Plus they order an extra box for every 5 they sell just to have on hand so they can ship it out overnight. And when they do it that, it costs them $100 - $150 in shipping costs. I don't know what they're field rate is, but I believe they are leasing out the boxes to companies for a monthly fee so technically they don't have to release their modified code.

Which I guess works for them, but I don't want to the hassle. And frankly, we've had a couple times where something wasn't working right. HP didn't mess around and just shipped a new unit. Client was happy, we were happy, everybody wins. Granted HP isn't the cheapest, but are competitive in the POS hardware market.

Legislation is against you (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927502)

I believe Microsofts EULA states you cannot transfer off that machine. And while with a good tech team, you can upgrade disk, GPUs, CPUs and memory quite easily. But a change in the motherboard or the case will often be cheaper to buy a computer from a supplier since they purchase in bulk and TEST alot better than you can.

Now, on the other side of the spectrum, open source has licenses that transfer to all systems, can interface with all Microsoft and Mac products (if the IT team on the other side knows how to properly configure for them). Need to interface with Ofice, use OpenOffice (still there are issues with the latest versions of Microsoft Office docs such as DOCX and XLSX). You can access calendaring and mail via the web or equivalent Linux mail tools that interface with Exchange servers. And for those who still need to use Windows, you can emulate it via virtualization without having to move to new equipment.

A third option would be to keep these machines all as 'thin clients' and move everything to a served architecture where they access all their applications from a central server/cloud/or clustered environment.

Re:Legislation is against you (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927638)

Great! Another freetard trying to ram Open Sores down everyone's throat.

When your customer asks for Windows and you try to sell them Linux it just shows that you're not there to serve the customer. Leave your religion at home and do the fucking job.

Re:Legislation is against you (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927762)

Wow. Your viloent reaction shows your own biase. I think the phrase' one who has a hammer sees every problem as a nail' best applies to you. i gave three separate scenarios to help the individual and Open source can be mixed and matched to lower costs. As always, Open Source is usually always a great answer in helping to lower costs regardless of propoganda from proprietary vendors.

This is why most startups choose to go with open source and continue along that route even after becoming successful; it is cheap, scalable and sustainable. This is not to say Microsoft does not also have a place if you WISH it to but to deny that there are alternatives that work equally well when Microsoft accepts that there are alternatives and has even embraced them on their own campus flys in the face of what even Microsoft suggests and has iterated.

Re:Legislation is against you (1)

tftp (111690) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927760)

Need to interface with Ofice, use OpenOffice (still there are issues with the latest versions of Microsoft Office docs such as DOCX and XLSX).

You probably never had to answer to hysterical calls for help from some middle manager who just had his carefully laid out MS Word document all chewed up by OpenOffice.

This can happen within the MS Office universe too. But it's better controlled there, and the integrity of your body is in no danger.

Businesses are not interested in taking risks. They are more than willing to pay for stability; now few people even remember how Windows crashes look like. MS Office works well enough and everyone has it. Running it in VMWare or WINE, or maintaining dual-boot, is just a waste of time.

Good luck with procurement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927518)

I think the procurement process is probably the big problem you'll run into. You obviously won't be able to buy a bunch of stuff on an agency credit card, so you'll have to go through contracting. I could be wrong, but I don't think you can buy that much stuff off of CDW-G. And with around 1000 machines, it will be a pretty big contract, which means it will go through contracting even slower than usual. Not to mention you'll waste a lot of people's time going through contracting than just sticking with Dell.

Bad Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927522)

My shop had done this a few years ago and we ran into the bad capacitor problem. The machines all failed within a few months of each other and the warranty on the motherboards was gone. I realize that was a worst case but shit happens.

Why not start a company? (4, Insightful)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927524)

It sounds like you could compete with Dell and that you should start a company. Maybe then you realise that 1kUS$ isn't that much for a system.

Don't make the mistake of not calculating the effort it costs you to assemble the systems yourself. Say you cost a modest 100US$ per hour to your employer and redo the maths.

You seem to know about hardware. Now consider how you will train co-workers to attain your level of expertise. Will you now be teaching as well? Think of what will happen when you'll leave the company. Don't worry, you eventually will move on to other challenges.

I myself build the systems for my own small business. It's costs me significant amounts of effort which I could put towards paying customers. I only do it because I like it and because I take the liberty to do so. But really, I probably shouldn't.

There is no cost savings (2, Interesting)

brunes69 (86786) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927528)

Unless you are some intern making $5 / hour or something, the amount of time you will spend assembling these things will far outstrip the cost savings.

IE - say you save $200 / machine. How many hours will it take you to build that? Three? Four? Now figure in how much you make per hour. Your "savings" are out the window.

Re:There is no cost savings (1)

Datamonstar (845886) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927600)

You are right, but I also spend a great deal of my time monitoring, waiting for an incident to occur. We have a very low incident rate, leaving me with a lot of free time on the clock (hence the /. browsing that brought me to this article int he first place). It can be done. We're expected to repair enterprise-grade servers, so there should be no problems with our entire staff learning how to build a simple workstation within a few hours of time that would otherwise be spent surfing the net.

Re:There is no cost savings (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927646)

In what bizarro world does it take four hours for a build. A KVM switch and a line up of 6 computers, go right down the line on all of them and its maybe 2 hours complete with software install.

Don't buy the Optiplexes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927548)

You can get entire Dell machines considerably less than $1K if you move over to the Vostro's, Quality of the hardware is less, but you still get them built to order and delivered as opposed to having to assemble the parts. They also use off the shelf components so you don't need to go through Dell if you don't want to for some of their proprietary parts. Personally I think they're crap hardware, but anything in this price range usually is if all the computers I get in for repair is any indication.

Get Optiplex 380s (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927656)

That's the current low-end Optiplex, and it's pretty good hardware quality for a pretty good price. IMO, its existence removes any incentive to go Vostro unless you positively must get the cheapest crap.

Re:Don't buy the Optiplexes (1)

supremebob (574732) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927756)

Sure, you're save about $50 a unit buying the Vostro's upfront, but if you have to order additional systems 6 months later you probably won't be able to order an identical system. That means having to support and update yet another system build with different drivers to support the small changes in the hardware.

With the OptiPlex models, you're guaranteed that the same model will be available for at least a year after it's originally released. You'll also be able to order practically identical replacement parts two or three years down the road if needed, which may or may not be available with the Vostro.

Don't do it yourself (4, Insightful)

uglyduckling (103926) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927586)

You're crazy if you think it's worthwhile building the PCs yourself. You can easily find an off-the-shelf PC for considerably less than $1000, probably less than $500, and unless you have a team of at least 6 people sitting around with nothing better to do then you won't save money building them yourself, and you'll just cause yourself a massive headache. Simply commissioning 100 pre-built PCs (presuming you're planning to replace 10% of them at a time) is plenty of work for a support dept., even if you're not making massive software changes.

Get a Windows site license (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927598)

Good fucking luck. If your self-built computers fail, it's your butt on the line. You may say "but $COMPONENT has a 3-year warranty!", but vendors are great at pointing fingers at other vendors unless you test enough to prove it's their component's fault. So there's some time wastage.

Then you have to learn to deal with support departments from n different vendors, rather than just the one OEM's.

But before you even get there, you have the enormous time outlay of building each computer by hand and (presumably) testing them to make sure they work, and possibly dealing with warranty replacements right away. Also? You have to buy retail Windows licenses to make them transferable, which is a few hundred dollars per copy.

It'd be a lot smarter to set up a site-license agreement with Microsoft. We can upgrade any computer to any version of Windows, provided it came from the factory with a Windows license. Don't know how much that costs - not my department - but it's really worth it to be able to say "OK, we've tested Windows 7 and it works well, so here you go". Also, that saves us $50 per new Dell Optiplex because I can get it from Dell with Windows Vista Home Basic, then install our Win7 Enterprise image. On top of /that/, you might find that if you set up a bulk order with your Dell sales rep they could cut you a better deal - that's happened to me before.

Re:Get a Windows site license (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927784)

From my experience, it is far cheaper and easier to buy new parts to replace faulty ones. You save time and tons of money when you don't worry about the warranty. We purchased $120 recorders since they had a 5 year warranty. To fix it, you had to send it back and expect a 2 week turn around. I would have liked to just buy a $20 one, and if it was faulty, or broke within 5 years, buy another. I would have to go through over 5 failures to still stay ahead in terms of cost, and would be ahead with saved time. That was recorders, and it is different, but I disagree that you NEED to go through warranties, just because you have them. Cut your losses and look at the bigger picture.

do the trade-off calculations! (1)

nonguru (1777998) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927606)

Do the math on the trade-offs.You have not mentioned what your organization does, but building PCs is generally low-value grunt work. (Built a couple myself because I wanted specific capabilities not inherent in a generic PC.) There a few questions you need to ask beyond just the capital cost of sourcing PC parts. How much is your (or your peoples' time) time worth? (There is an opportunity cost when using internal staff to build PCs.) Do you have people sitting around not doing anything else? (If you do then it's probably more cost effective to let them go - most costs are labor, not equipment.) Out of a 1000 PCs (as quoted) how many have you made a warranty claim over the past year? You'll have to write those claims off and factor in internal repair costs if you take on responsibility for the PC hardware. Spare PC inventory for possible failure is generally wasteful in that you carry the responsibility for capital purchasing and holding costs. Can you do a better job at predicting PC parts failure? Do you curently possess that information or can you obtain said information for your organization? I'm sure other slashdotters can come up with more questions to ask. I understand that my phrasing sounds negative but unless you know the answers I'd say you'll end up increasing total costs (CAPEX + OPEX). Good luck

WSCA (1)

lionchild (581331) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927628)

I would recommend trying to get into the Western States Contracting Alliance, WSCA, (http://www.aboutwsca.org/content.cfm/id/WSCA) and get reasonable HP workstations for ~$600 and LCD's to go with them for ~$200. You get a major name brand and save $200 off what you're currently buying from DELL.

Even if you don't buy from DELL, see how fast they lower your pricing when you have a quote from HP.

Additionally, WSCA is pre-bid, which means most government agencies don't actually have to re-bid, they can just order off this contract that's already been run through the whole bidding process.

What? (5, Informative)

parlancex (1322105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927640)

I think the answer might just be to try renegotiating your price or specs. I also work for a government institution with about 1000 computers and we pay about $450 with Dell for what I would consider a very decent desktop computer (4GB of RAM, Intel Core 2, etc.).

gov't discounts (1)

grimwell (141031) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927652)

Are the gov't discounts really that great? Last time I compared(summer of 2008) the gov't(state level) & education discounts available to me they were higher priced than what was currently available on Dell's website.

This situation arise because the prices & configurations are negotiated only every few years.

I'd suggest comparing the pricing of the same machine with & without the "gov't discounts". It would also be useful to know what kind of specs you are looking.

The Dell Vostro series for your basic office worker will you run about $500. As others have mentioned don't bother getting your windows license from Dell. At the volume you are dealing with it, you can a simple enterprise/site wide license from Microsoft.

What are you commenters talking about? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927662)

If you build your own computers, you are still getting roughly the same parts that Dell/HP would slap in there for a considerable amount less. How is the failure rate going to be higher? It's not! It will be equal. The difference being that you need a tech guy who can repair them when they do fail versus having to call in a Dell/HP tech.

Instead of telling this guy "Oh, this is a bad idea, I tried it and it didn't work." Give him the reasons why. I'm willing to bet the guys that are saying this work for Dell or HP and are just trying to scare him. After all, every sale counts, right guys? If you build a computer right, it won't fail.

And what does a government agency need 4gb of ram and a PCI-e video card for? Check their emails? Search a server side database? Manipulate a spreadsheet? Give me a break. The computer that can get all of these jobs done can be built for as low as $275 each. Pick up an enterprise copy of Windows/Office and be done with it.

Go directly to FoxConn (4, Funny)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927668)

FoxConn make most of the world's computers. Seriously. Approach them for what you need and say you need x1000. They'll build what you want without the 3rd party markup.

18 months? (-1, Troll)

Cornwallis (1188489) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927680)

Fuck that AND the gubmint. Private sector sticks with a machine longer than that.

Oh, that's right. You aren't accountable to anyone...you're the gubmint.

Re:18 months? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927800)

Mod parent up. What could you possibly be running that needs upgrades that often?

Couple of things (5, Informative)

jayhawk88 (160512) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927706)

- You need to have some very frank discussions with either your Dell rep, or whomever is speccing out your quotes. $1k for corporate-level desktop PC in this day and age is ridiculous; you should be expecting to pay more like $600-700. To give you an idea, I work for a state university, and we're currently giving about $550 for a Core2 E8400/4Gig Ram/160gig HD HP. Integrated video and no monitor of course, but a 3 year warranty. Sure you're not going to be decoding the human genome with that machine but it's more than enough for your average office worker. Don't be afraid to use HP as a club against your Dell rep; they're currently getting hammered by HP in the corporate world, and won't want to lose your account, assuming you're of any kind of size. I wouldn't recommend going to HP unless you absolutely have to though; service is horrible.

- Take some time to consider whether the time spent building custom machines is really worth the time of whomever would be doing it. Chances are, it is not. Either you're going to have someone making peanuts doing the work, or a skilled IT person who really isn't all that interested in doing what essentially is grunt work. In either case, you're going to see problems.

- If you haven't already, you should discuss this with your purchasing department before moving forward. Depending on the level of beauracracy that is entrenched in your level of government, building your own computers may not even be permissable.

You mentioned that you couldn't find anyone doing this on a large scale, this should be a warning flag. Lot of potential problems and pitfalls here, not the least of which is your cunning "transfer the OEM licenses" plan. There are a lot of better ways to save money on computer purchases.

Goverment huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927710)

You could go back to Ledger cards!

Building Your Own in a Corporate Setting (4, Interesting)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927722)

I'd advise against it. We tried it where I worked. It sounds good to build your own boxes on the cheap, but it rarely works out like that. You build your own computers. The cards (ethernet, video, etc.) you used a few months might not be on sale this month, so you now have multiple versions of cards. If buying them in bulk, the line probably gets refreshed so it's hard to buy the same model of hardware twice. Then, when you have to rebuild an older computer a year or two later, you have to remember where you put those drivers for that particular card that this computer uses. Since it was bought on the cheap, it probably isn't marked very well and unless you had the luxury of looking at the computer before it went down, what model it is might not even be known. Even then, since the hardware was bought cheap, the drivers might not be as easy to get online as one would think, especially if the company isn't around anymore. There is also all sorts of tiny details dealing with this or that hardware that has to be remembered. Then you need storage for all the bits, parts, and driver software. Trying to call in hardware warrantees for the products you buy will usually be much more time consuming than just calling your vendor and having them do everything based on the serial number of the broken computer. In the end, building and maintaining our own computers was way more trouble and man hours than just going with a name brand such as HP or Dell and using their warrantees. Whatever got saved in material costs in building our own computers got more than spent in extra man hours maintaining them.

Dell Versus Custom In House (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927734)

There are two main concerns with moving into a self-created solution - standardization and support.

Standardization
Dell may load a lot of bloat-ware on their consumer level machines but for corporations or the Government the Dell X-Image process can be used to standardize the base level install. This process allows for an IT department to build a base OS standard environment applications on a single platform of hardware regardless of the equipment in use. After baselining the system the image is uploaded via a standard web interface on which you also select the hardware platforms being used in the environment - laptop, workstation, desktop, thin client, etc. Dell then takes your baseline and codes it back using their X-Image process encorporating in all necessary drivers for the models you have selected then sends it back to you. It's basically an outsourced slipstream of the OS made extremely easy by Dell. The nicest part if you are a corporation or Government entity? It's free. Contact your Dell sales rep and ask about the process. This allows for standardization not only for hardware via the same manufacturer but also for the OS and applicaitons in use on those platforms.

Support
Dell may be a P.I.T.A. for consumer level services but for corporate or Government they are right there with HP and other high-end channels. Next day replacement part shipment - or within 4 hours based on purchased support for servers - means sites do not need to keep on-hand stock of components except for maybe a few key resources for critical systems. There is also no need to train your support team on how to replace these parts as Dell will send a technician to your site with the part to perform the replacement, test the system following replacement, and take the bad part with them for return to Dell. Considering the cost of the support of the systems is built into the purchase price of the system the overhead support cost is lowered and the staff is allowed to focus on the more "fun" issues related to using Microsoft products in a large scale environment. IF you wish to have in-house parts and repair capabilities, Dell will supply on-site sparing of parts and offer training to your IT staff to perform the actual replacement of parts. The best part here? If your staff is trained and completes the warranty work in house, Dell sends you back a credit of x number of dollars per "call" - I put x as the last time I was involved in contract negotiation was 5 years ago and while it was $40 per incident at that time I would expect there has been some change in amoount.

I work for the Government as well and Dell while in my opinion as an IT professional is annoying and bothersome to say the least, and while I know I could build a better, more powerful, and more robust hardware platform for the same cost, in an environment where standardization, quick support, compatibility, and operational state of my users are all at a premium desire of the customer, I say leave the headache of those messes to upper management and Dell. It may cost up to $250 more per system to have them supplied by Dell but considering standard rate of a technician and taking into account the amount of time needing to be spent on building and deploying, then training and support, combined in with overhead costs for maintaining parts and stock, the cost difference is a loss not a gain.

Try Equus (1)

custompccases (904255) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927776)

We use http://www.equuscs.com/ [equuscs.com] when Dell or HP don't fit a customer's needs.

As others have mentioned already you will need a volume license of windows if you want to transfer it. The nice thing about equus is that you can send them an image and any system you order from them will come with it preloaded. Oh and equus will be able to continue shipping XP Pro downgrade if you should need it.

Re Generic PCs For Corporate Use? (4, Informative)

pharaohmd (895747) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927780)

There are two main concerns with moving into a self-created solution - standardization and support. Standardization Dell may load a lot of bloat-ware on their consumer level machines but for corporations or the Government the Dell X-Image process can be used to standardize the base level install. This process allows for an IT department to build a base OS standard environment applications on a single platform of hardware regardless of the equipment in use. After baselining the system the image is uploaded via a standard web interface on which you also select the hardware platforms being used in the environment - laptop, workstation, desktop, thin client, etc. Dell then takes your baseline and codes it back using their X-Image process encorporating in all necessary drivers for the models you have selected then sends it back to you. It's basically an outsourced slipstream of the OS made extremely easy by Dell. The nicest part if you are a corporation or Government entity? It's free. Contact your Dell sales rep and ask about the process. This allows for standardization not only for hardware via the same manufacturer but also for the OS and applicaitons in use on those platforms. Support Dell may be a P.I.T.A. for consumer level services but for corporate or Government they are right there with HP and other high-end channels. Next day replacement part shipment - or within 4 hours based on purchased support for servers - means sites do not need to keep on-hand stock of components except for maybe a few key resources for critical systems. There is also no need to train your support team on how to replace these parts as Dell will send a technician to your site with the part to perform the replacement, test the system following replacement, and take the bad part with them for return to Dell. Considering the cost of the support of the systems is built into the purchase price of the system the overhead support cost is lowered and the staff is allowed to focus on the more "fun" issues related to using Microsoft products in a large scale environment. IF you wish to have in-house parts and repair capabilities, Dell will supply on-site sparing of parts and offer training to your IT staff to perform the actual replacement of parts. The best part here? If your staff is trained and completes the warranty work in house, Dell sends you back a credit of x number of dollars per "call" - I put x as the last time I was involved in contract negotiation was 5 years ago and while it was $40 per incident at that time I would expect there has been some change in amoount. I work for the Government as well and Dell while in my opinion as an IT professional is annoying and bothersome to say the least, and while I know I could build a better, more powerful, and more robust hardware platform for the same cost, in an environment where standardization, quick support, compatibility, and operational state of my users are all at a premium desire of the customer, I say leave the headache of those messes to upper management and Dell. It may cost up to $250 more per system to have them supplied by Dell but considering standard rate of a technician and taking into account the amount of time needing to be spent on building and deploying, then training and support, combined in with overhead costs for maintaining parts and stock, the cost difference is a loss not a gain.

ROFL (1)

Ephemeriis (315124) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927790)

I had the idea of building our own PCs for considerably less.

Seriously?

You may very well be able to source the parts for less... But then you're going to have to build and support them.

Dell has an army of minimum-wage employees. If you're a government agency, you probably don't have anybody who makes that little. So the cost for you to build one of these computers will be more than what it costs Dell. And it won't be as simple a build as reloading some Dell box because you'll have to grab drivers for each individual component.

There'll still be a warranty on most of the parts... But you'll have to identify which part actually failed, figure out the appropriate number, and call them. This will require more time and effort than simply calling Dell on anything that breaks. Good luck getting anything even remotely resembling one of Dell's 4-hour warranties.

And any real problems you have are going to come back to bite you in the ass. Get a batch of bad motherboards? That's not Dell's fault, that's your fault. Get some funky driver conflicts? That's your fault. Can't get replacement parts in a timely manner? Your fault.

You might very well see some up-front savings... The sticker price of the box you can build, compared to the sticker price of the same hardware with a Dell logo, may very well be lower. But once you start spending time building and supporting them I think your savings are going to vanish very quickly.

Honestly, I'm not sure what you're complaining about as far as Dell's prices go... We typically spend $1,500 for a machine. The hardware is generally more than sufficient for our current needs and there's always room to upgrade the RAM and CPU at least once. We typically order them with the 3-year warranty. We usually get Office and Adobe bundled, plus whatever monitor they're throwing in. The machine will generally last us 3-5 years depending on which bits of hardware fail in that time.

It's not that simple (1)

Hecatonchires (231908) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927798)

So you have some free monkeys, a large static free build room and lockable large supply room?

You must have a _lot_ of free time. Have you catered for your staffing costs? Security costs? Insurance? Do finance want to bring all those costs back onto the books that the Dell single number approach removes?

use AMD chips (2, Interesting)

cfriedt (1189527) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927802)

use amd chips. they're a fraction of the price of intel chips, and there's really no difference in performance.

Penny-wise and Pound-foolish (1)

CAOgdin (984672) | more than 3 years ago | (#33927836)

Sure, you'll save a few bucks...for a few months. Then, things will start failing. You'll find there're no hardware drivers for many of the parts inside, and when people start finding mechanical parts, like pushbuttons, sockets and controls, falling off, you'll discover that the caseworks maker doesn't sell spare parts. Also, as mentioned above, you'll have to pay for Windows licenses (unless you're moving to Ubuntu, too). I've got lots of happy clients, because I keep replacing the crap they have (e.g., the computer with a touch-screen display that overheats every Summer day afternoon) with brand-name products. They pay me my comparatively higher prices (considering the local dolts who call themselves my "competition") because I deliver stable, reliable systems that they never have to worry about (until, like yesterday, a UPS went up in smoke...quick to fix that one). Stick with reputable makers. Avoid the small storefronts that will "build yours" and put in everything cheap, but charge you somewhat less than brand-name products. Heck, I've only been in this computer business for over half-a-century, so my experience probably will be punished by others with a more "home-brew" bent...but you said it's a business, not a bunch of students. You should take a good look at whether, over the entire life (which will inevitably be more than 18 months!), you'll have made a good bargain. I'd wager that "white box clones" will end up saving you nothing.

Dell Outlet (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33927848)

Try the Dell Outlet. Great discounts and the very same warranty as new systems.
You can't order more than 5 per order, so it sucks to shop, but the savings can approach 30-40% on current model systems.

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