IT Tips: Hardware
Spare PC vs. Onsite Support
- New PC purchases typically include a one- or three-year warranty plus an additional fee for on-site maintenance. If you have one or more dealership staff members capable of performing rudimentary PC troubleshooting, compare the cost of purchasing one or more spare PCs to the annual cost for on-site support for all dealership PCs. A spare PC combined with a strong dealership data backup policy will ensure minimal downtime if a PC fails. Similar comparisons should be conducted for terminals, printers, and other types of PC peripheral devices.
- When purchasing PCs in quantity, consider the value of the standard PC warranty. Most come with a one- to three-year warranty that allows you to mail in your PC for repairs, or you can purchase an extra service agreement that allows for quick onsite service. However, it might be beneficial to forgo the extra service coverage and stock an extra PC to temporarily replace units mailed in for repair. Similar benefits could be realized by stocking spares for the standard printers and terminals in the dealership.
- If your dealership uses a server (computer) for the dealership management system (DMS) or to host other computer applications, it should be covered with an onsite service warranty. However, onsite service warranties are not required for a desktop or laptop personal computer (PC). If one fails, another dealership PC could be used while the first is shipped to the manufacturer for repair. A server’s operation is more critical than a single desktop PC. If a server fails, one or more dealership departments would operate at limited capacity until the server problem is resolved. In addition to storing data, the server(s) may contain key computer applications and a link to the Internet that is used throughout the dealership. You should consider installing a backup server to take over if the primary server fails. Also, ensure individual servers include redundant components where possible to minimize the failure of a single server.
- Installing Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) on all servers, key PCs, printers, phone systems, and equipment providing your Internet connections could minimize costly failures from temporary power outages or power spikes.
Unused PCs and Printers
- Every January, check all dealership departments for unused printers, terminals, and PCs. Look in closets, below counters, and under desks.
Old PCs and Printers
All dealership PCs should be capable of operating with the most current Microsoft operating system and office productivity software (Microsoft Office, Sun StarOffice, Google Apps, etc.). Older PCs (over four years old) may not operate with recent versions of the software products.
Consider replacing older printers with new, energy efficient, faster models. It is more efficient to link PCs to a “shared” printer than directly connect a small printer to each PC.
In most states it is illegal to dispose of computer and printer equipment in the regular trash disposal process because the equipment contains hazardous materials. A disposal process should be developed and include consideration for the following options:
o Contact companies that offer computer equipment recycling services. They may offer payment for the equipment if it is considered to be re-marketable in whole or some of its components. Usually there will be a net payment for the service. The companies may offer “data destruction certifications.” That involves the destruction of PC components, including storage devices, with procedures that adhere to commercial and/or government guidelines.
o Charitable organizations may accept older computer equipment as donations and provide a tax deduction in addition to fostering goodwill in your community.
o Consider leasing the dealership computer equipment rather than purchasing it (as described in the next section). When the lease stipulates that the lessor receives the equipment at lease end, it relieves the dealership of the responsibility for disposal.
Remember to ensure that all sensitive data is completely deleted from all memory and storage equipment prior to removing the equipment from the dealership. The removal process should ensure that sensitive business information (customer, employee payroll and tax data) would not inadvertently be obtained others.
- Protect and purge your dealership files, as well as your personal files - Eliminate private documents permanently from your hard drive.
When you stop and think about it, your dealership and home computer holds a lot of information about your dealership and you personally - credit card numbers, bank account details, passwords, medical information, Web sites you've visited, and all information you share via email. For details on how to purge your files click here.
Standardize PC Operating Systems
- Getting all the PCs in the dealership to run the same Operating System (i.e. Windows XP or Windows 7) and the same office software will make it easier for employee training and for technical support of the applications. Even if you bought the computer from your DMS vendor, there is usually a way to upgrade it without compromising their support.
- During a multi-year lease agreement for dealership IT equipment and computer applications, you may add or replace terminals, printers, and PCs. If it is economically possible, specify that the new equipment’s lease termination date ends at the same time as the initial lease.
Audit IT Invoices
- Semiannually, audit one month’s invoices for all dealership IT equipment, applications, and services. If there are charges you don’t understand, request a prompt, written explanation from your vendor. If you discover that obsolete equipment or software is still under maintenance, check to see if the contract allows you to cancel the maintenance.