Save some money this year

A few easy ways to save some cash in the new year (and some things you should actually spend some money on)
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

Everyone loves saving money, and probably us Ed Tech'ers more than most.  I've stumbled across a few spiffy money savers in the last month or so that I wanted to toss out for consideration and would welcome Talkbacks from anyone who has some more (or who utterly disagrees with my musings...).

  1. Don't buy cable.  Check superpages.com or wherever and find your local cabling distributor.  While installing new Cat 5e or Cat 6 can go a long ways towards improving bandwidth and stability on your network, especially as more of your networking hardware goes gigabit, there's no need to buy this stuff.  Cabling distributors (or even your local telco or ISP) sell rolls by the thousands of feet.  They have no use for the 300 or 400 foot "shorts" that get left over and many will donate these to schools and non-profits for a tax write-off.  Besides, if you're new at pulling cable, it's not quite so painful to toss the cable you kink or keep practicing with those crimpers if you didn't pay for the cable.
  2. Thin clients are good.  But not if you buy a $500 Winterm.  Whether you are running Edubuntu or Windows Terminal Server (or something else server-centric), you are probably going to save some money and some headaches, assuming your network infrastructure can handle the increased traffic (better run some new Cat 6 - see 1. above).  However, even "real" thin clients can be had from OEMs with an embedded OS and management tools for under $200.  Rip the disks out of your old hunks of junk and tweak the BIOS and most computers can also be converted to thin clients without too much effort.  I can't understand the market for "high-end" thin clients, though.
  3. Buy from an OEM.  Although I love to tinker and ready George Ou's recent post on building your own PCs with interest, I can't buy into this for Ed Tech.  Want to have your AV club or computer club build some computers for a project?  Cool.  Want to deploy 25 (or 50, or 200) new PCs?  Talk to an OEM.  Most first-tier vendors like Dell and HP have negotiated contracts with state governments, allowing you to purchase at substantial discounts and get a great warranty and support.  Say what you will about the demise of Dell tech support, but I bet your computer club doesn't offer accidental damage protection.  Or a box, out of which you can pull a completely ready-to-use computer.
  4. Install new systems yourself.  At a recent school committee meeting, it was suggested that we outsource the install of about 100 new computers and a new server architecture.  I am only one guy after all and I'm known for my liberal use of zip ties and power strips.  However, if you can round up a few people to help (even trusted students) and have a clue what you're doing, there is a lot to be gained by handling installations in-house.  Most importantly, your work is free, even if it takes a bit longer than using the local geek squad.  More importantly, it's a lot easier to support a system down the road that you built (and properly documented, of course) than one that was built for you.
  5. Kick relatives out after 3 days.  Oh wait, that's not Ed Tech is it?  Sorry, I was joined by an awful lot of family over the holidays and I'm afraid I'm still having flashbacks.
Happy New Year!
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