Models of Efficiency

Customer Care, Office of Information Technology at Boise State University

Relocating Computing Hardware
University Business, December 2013
Boise State University
Program Category: 
Employing an assessment and relocation strategy consolidated the  number of locations with computers and printers on campus, but easier  access to the technology has increased usage.

Despite having 4,500 computers and dozens of printers deployed campuswide at Boise State University in Idaho, students had to wait in line to print out assignments and term papers during busy times.

CIO Max Davis-Johnson arrived in 2010, and officials began taking a closer look at how technology was being used, and where. Davis-Johnson uses the phrase “keeping score” to describe this process of tracking technology usage to ensure that every available asset is being productive for the university.

Mark Fitzgerald, director of customer care, is the man who has been tracking and relocating computers and printers to better match usage demand patterns on campus.

“We’re offering much more for the same money spent,” Fitzgerald says. “We’re getting more usage of the hardware and serving students more effectively.”

The key was moving computers closer to students and classrooms. Using Sassafras KeyServer, Fitzgerald and his team tracked which lab computers were getting the most usage, both in terms of number of students logging in and the amount of time spent on the computer in total.

Based on that data, computers in seven manned labs were consolidated into three and the employees from the four labs that were shuttered were reassigned to new walk-in centers. The remaining computer units were placed in lobbies and common areas. The easier access has driven computer usage up by 20 percent.

The same assessment and relocation strategy was used with the department’s 43 printers. The campus had high volume, color, desktop, plotter, and other models, but they were not all in the right location for the type of jobs being printed. So Fitzgerald’s department moved them, using Pharos and WebJetAdmin to manage the process.

“We moved the resources out closer to our classrooms and then adjusted the placement and size of the printer to match usage patterns and cost efficiency,” he explains. As a result, printer usage also increased by 5 percent.

Perhaps even more important, the lines at printers are gone. Students can now send print jobs from any computer to any printer on campus.

Behind the scenes, the department upgraded Microsoft SCCM, which is used to more efficiently update, patch, and manage computers during off-peak times—such as in the middle of the night.

Another efficiency win: Previously, setting up new computers on the network was a time- consuming process that took all summer to complete. Now, instead of three months, the same process takes only three weeks.

Boise State has also significantly increased wireless coverage on campus. Performing the same type of usage assessment as the computers and printers, the Office of Information Technology set up more than 1,000 wireless access points. Students can log onto the internet from anywhere on campus.

All of these improvements in efficiency were completed at no additional cost to the department. In fact, to continue to staff labs and open the walk-in support centers would have cost an additional $140,000 in student labor, plus $25,000 for added hardware to keep pace with demand, for a total of $165,000.  

Instead, the university simply made better use of what it already had.