St. Lawrence College taps Dell for IT refresh

St. Lawrence College has partnered with Dell Canada to completely refresh all the technology on its Brockville, Cornwall and Kingston campuses.

Laptops, desktops, monitors, peripherals and software will be replaced for about 6,000 staff, faculty and students in every department, including labs.

Roughly 1,500 new machines from Dell’s energy-efficient OptiPlex and Latitude lines will be introduced in the next two years. This includes Dell’s OptiPlex 755 desktops, which boast a 75 to 78 per cent reduction in power consumption from previous models.

“We’ve been on a global mandate to try to be the best in that particular area,” said Dell spokesperson David Onafrychuk. “If you look at, for example, the EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) certification…you’ll see that Dell has one of the most certifications of any vendor out there. We’re absolutely paying attention to making sure our systems are not just environmentally sound, but each product that we deliver has to have a significant environmental lead over its predecessor.”

St. Lawrence College’s decision to put out the RFP was long overdue, said Glenn Vollebregt, senior vice-present, CFO and treasurer to the Board of Governors at the college. “We pushed our refresh mode…some of our equipment was five to six years old and it was at that point that we decided to go out to RFP,” he said.

This is the first time the college has partnered with Dell. “We needed equipment that we felt would meet the demand and needs of our students and our staff,” said Vollebregt. “We wanted to provide leading edge equipment, but equipment that was proven, had a track record and more importantly, a company that had a track record and stood behind their product.”

The ability to service their own equipment was key to the college’s selection process. “We are a self-maintainer, so it was important for us that when we went to a new vendor that we understood the type of equipment we were getting and the type of partnership we were entering into,” he said.

Dell implemented a self-maintenance program for St. Lawrence College, which allows staff to participate in Dell hardware maintenance training and qualify for the Dell Warranty Direct Self-Maintainers certification. “When you think about the service time, in a large organization such as St. Lawrence, downtime is just unacceptable,” said Onafrychuk. “The ability for them to bypass our help desk altogether and just tap into our supply chain and dispatch parts and/or parts and technicians immediately really does help.”

Finding a vendor who could work within a short time frame was also part of the selection criteria. “We need to do most of our work in about seven or eight weeks in the summer. Once school starts in September, you can’t be messing around and taking labs out of service, replacing equipment…it’s important the students have access to that,” said Vollebregt.

“I’ve worked both the private and public sector and there are challenges to both when you are doing a complete refresh. But one of the challenges colleges face is the timing,” he continued. “You have to make sure that the equipment is up and running and available for these students all the time…a lot of our labs, they’re 24 hours, so there’s very little downtime for us and a very short window for us to get this implemented.”

Securing assets is also key differentiator between enterprise and higher education refresh cycles, said Onafrychuk. “We had one customer tell us that on one evening someone went into the college and stole all their plasma displays…another particular customer said all their notebooks got stolen, 20-some odd notebooks, overnight. It’s always a struggle in higher ed to secure assets” he said. “That’s something I think that the more a vendor like Dell can bring to the table, where we have integrated security features built into a lot of our technologies that the college can tap into.”

According to Vollebregt, colleges must also cater to users who know their technology well. “Our students demand the best and they demand reliability and they really test this equipment out…our students come from an age now where they’ve pretty much grown up with computers all their lives. They know what’s good and they know what works and what doesn’t. So it was very important to us that we have a very reputable vendor that had a proven track record within this environment,” he said.

“I think the other thing that is unique is the institution really has a number of end users that the IT department serves. They have the faculty and staff and they also have the students. Each one of those requirements needs to be easily addressable,” said Onafrychuk.

“Another thing that colleges and universities really appreciate are long, stable managed lifecycles,” he added. “That’s something we’ve been fine tuning for many years now. They don’t like disruption to their technology and so we’ve provided them with very energy-efficient, yet stable Dell portfolio of standards with very, very long lifecycles as well.”

The partnership also includes managed delivery services, a direct student and employee purchase plan for discounted staff and student purchases and an automated B2B portal.

“We’ve spent years and years researching and understanding the needs and wants of both faculty staff and students and the importance of technology at the institution level,” said Onafrychuk.

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