School districts have awakened to the impact that technology has on their budgets–not only the purchase of technology, but the use and maintenance of the technology over its life cycle. Known as the “total cost of ownership,” or TCO, this concept is crucial for properly planning future technology purchases.

The author categorizes school districts into one of three types, based on their acceptance of this TCO concept: “TCO-Savvy” districts; “Doing the Best We Can” districts; and “Worry About It Tomorrow” districts. Here’s a description of a TCO-Savvy district, which is the ideal:

  1. Budget allocation. A significant part of the technology budget allocation (15 percent to 30 percent) should go toward staff development. A tech-savvy district also ensures funding to replace each computer every five years or less.
  2. Support staff. A ratio of at least one full-time tech support person for every 50 to 70 computers in a decentralized system, or at least one tech support person for each 500 computers in a networked system, is ideal.
  3. Software maintenance and support. Tech-savvy administrators accept that users’ software needs are diversifying as new products are developed. They ensure that currently used packages are upgraded and new programs can be absorbed into the system.
  4. Installation. A tech-savvy district ensures timely installation of network wiring, additional electrical outlets, and other items needed to support computers. It also schedules installations to coincide with other site maintenance activities.
  5. Bandwidth. Provides sufficient bandwidth for tomorrow’s interactive, multimedia activities.