When buying several computers or a network for your schools, don’t be swayed by low initial costs. Upkeep and maintenance typically total one-and-a-half to two times as much as the original purchase.

The way to think of this phenomenon is by viewing computer systems on the basis of a total cost of ownership (TCO). Budget for many related expenses, including software, staff training, support, replacement costs, retrofitting of classrooms, and connectivity.

Here are some hard numbers culled from a study done in the California school system a few years ago:

1. Hardware and infrastructure costs are only 40 percent of TCO.

2. Computer maintenance may average as much as $2,000 per computer per year.

3. Installing and maintaining a technology infrastructure over the first five years costs $500 per student.

4. Staff development can reach 20 percent of TCO (and this is a study before training was emphasized!); instructional materials can reach 25 to 27 percent; and upgrades, maintenance, and related expenses can reach 12 percent.

Contrast these numbers with what an average school does today. Computers are replaced on average about every seven years, as compared to private-sector replacement about every three years. Teacher training rarely exceeds five percent of the technology budget, and software is 10 to 14 percent. These numbers are inadequate, and the gap will only increase if the need for better training and regular software upgrades continues unabated.