06 March 2007

One-off purchases

Leasing changes the traditional approach to Divisional support for individual purchases of equipment.

In the past when staff have requested a non-standard item (especially computers) in place of the Divisional issue, they contribute the difference in the cost between the standard issue and their preferred configuration. We have then purchased the item as a one-off and spilt the cost across the IT Loan and their nominated cost centre.

With leasing this becomes more complicated. We lease in batches rather than individually for a number of reasons including for convenience of tracking, and we don’t want to take lease payments for an individual item out of two cost centres every three months for the three-year life of the item. Our preferred option is for people wanting non-standard issue items in the future to purchase or lease the item with full payment coming from their cost centre.

2006 IT Loan

The Division has extended its last IT Loan.

Financial Services Executive Director agreed that the Division could extend its 2006 Infrastructure Fund loan (the IT Loan) to 31 March 2007. Commitments against the loan to 28 February 2007 now equal the amount of the loan. No further commitments will be made. Further approved equipment purchases and leases will be funded from the Division’s 2007 budget.

Projects still outstanding for which allowances have been made in the 2007 budget are:

  1. New and replacement desktop, portable and server computers (mainly leased);
  2. Media Facilities refurbishment (completion);
  3. Multimedia Showcase of Student Work; and
  4. Autocue

Colour Printing

The change to colour printing offers its own challenges.

At its meeting of 17 November, 2006, Executive noted the TSU Report which proposed the introduction of colour multifunction devices (MFDs) in each of the Division’s buildings as replacements for large format printers that were end-of-life. The TSU Report noted that:

“The challenge is in containing the printing costs. Black prints cost around 1 cent per impression, colour around 10 cents. This ‘click charge’ covers the toner and maintenance of the machine, so apart from the cost of the MFD and the paper, this is all that is paid for keeping the devices printing over their five-year expected lifecycle. As a comparison, desktop colour laser printers like the HP 2800 series cost 18 cents + per impression for toner and drum costs alone, with any maintenance paid for separately in addition to the consumables. Paper cost is extra but then all devices use the same paper so the cost is the same no matter what printer is used.

The devices can be configured to limit the access users have to colour printing: each user can have unlimited, quota-limited or no access to colour printing (but can still print in black). Printing can be monitored by individual user so costs can be managed.

It is proposed that access to printing in colour be restricted to certain individuals in each building. Staff wishing to print in colour would need to send the jobs through these people, with Schools deciding if there needs to be any further approval process (say the permission of the Head of School) before the job was done.

The TSU will monitor usage (and cost) and provide a report to Executive each month for noting: any cause for concern in terms of printing cost could then be identified quickly. If the cost of colour printing did become an issue, policy and restrictions could be tightened up further.” TSU Report 14 November 2006

The MFDs were recommended for purchase by the IT& I Committee, and with the approval of Executive and the PVC were funded from the 2006 IT Loan. The devices were installed in 9C24, 20C13, 5B60, and 1C146 in February 2007, administration staff in each building were identified as approved users of the printers (allowed to print in colour), and staff were notified on 2 March 2007 of the arrangements for use. Training by Canon and the TSU on the more advanced features of the devices is being offered during the week of March 12-16.

PC users can print to the devices in black, but for Macintosh users the system is complicated and unwieldy. Printing in black to the colour MFDs is more expensive that printing to the existing black MFDs (1 cent per impression for the colour MFDs as opposed to .9 of a cent for the older ones). We are therefore encouraging staff to print to the older devices, using the newer ones for fail over when the older ones are unavailable for any reason.

In line with Executive approval all colour printing and copying is being sent through administration staff. This is not a long-term solution as administration staff are busy and the additional load of controlling the colour printing is inefficient and time consuming. In the longer term the MFDs can be set up to provide all staff with an ID and pass code. A quota can be set and reports generated showing who printed what. Such reports could be used to charge Cost Centres for the usage. The reports would need some manual administrative work to calculate totals to be charged to each Cost Centre.

The report for printing to the devices for the first month (until 28 February 2006) follows.

Impressions Total Black Total Colour
















Monthly Stats

Stats to the end of February show no great surprises: tracking other years as expected, with rising demand and responses as semester begins.

I’m also trying to track the number of staff (and staff-like entities: those people the TSU supply staff services to), but the data is unreliable at the moment. We are looking at making this more reliable as time goes by, but we don’t have direct access to the authoritative source for the data (Alesco) and have to relay on ICT Services’ scripts which for some reason include and exclude people apparently at random each day. For what it’s worth on 31 January 2007 the figure was 491, on 28 February it was 458, 5 March it was 435 and 6 March 524.