Here’s how I approach equipment procurement. Counter to the “anything goes” Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, I am a proponent of providing a standard platform as much as possible, at least when the institution is providing the equipment. I’m not advocating “one size fits all,” as you want to at least analyze the needs of a given subset of users with similar needs and treat them as a class and even then there sometimes exceptions, but I do think that there are advantages to “one size fits most” in many environments. Given the success of web apps, the platform and make/model decision has become less important to meet the varying needs of individual users. However, there are still strong institutional and user benefits to standardization. These include cost savings from quantity discounts when ordering, shared accessories, shared management tools, and less support time from learning the quirks of different makes and models. Standardization also prevents any problems that might arise from the perception of inequity if different members of the same class of users get assigned different equipment for the arbitrary reason of what’s available at the time. Finally, standardization helps users get better support, as they can more easily learn from one another when they share the exact same resource.
Given this, my practice is to forecast the projected user base over the lifespan of the equipment and purchase enough units to furnish those users with the same equipment plus a 3-7% spare inventory (depending on the likelihood of breakage in environment in which the equipment will be used) both to cover units down for repair and those that completely break over the projected life.
Excuse the “drafty” nature of this post. Inspired by John Udell (via Scott Hanselman via James Clear), I am taking to opening up my writing that might otherwise be constrained to e-mail or other small-group correspondence to a larger audience for any value it may provide to others and for the improvement my own thinking in any broader feedback that I receive in so sharing. Any post tagged WIP (work in progress) originated in this way, though the current draft may reflect revisions and expansions as time progresses. I welcome your comments!