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Dealership Hardware - Computers for users in 2010

Discussion in 'Other Cool Technologies & Services' started by Alex Snyder, Jan 21, 2010.

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  1. Alex Snyder

    Alex Snyder
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    President Skroob

    First Name:
    Alex
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    DealerRefresh
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    I post this because I like to think that we're not the only ones feeling a hardware vs. software conflict.

    Traditionally we have been far beyond the typical dealership in providing the latest and greatest computers and equipment for our employees. With the economy down-turn we have not done much in the way of upgrading our machines, but have continued working with vendors who are extremely proactive. Our vendors are definitely the best, but as they roll out new things our hardware is certainly showing serious signs of being outdated. We are going to do something about it, but we have a debate as to which is the best way to go.

    1. Virtual PC's for non-management positions with a massive server (least expensive way to go)
    2. Continue to upgrade Thin Clients/Neowares for non-management positions (medium-expensive of the list)
    3. Buy all new PC's for every sales agent, and cycle Thin Clients to non-management/non-sales positions. (most expensive)

    Aside from moving to Virtual PC's, we're playing in the 6-digit territory no matter which way we go, but the struggle comes in balancing who wants what.

    IT Department: can manage Thin Clients and Virtual PC's remotely with less concern for security breaches and viruses because they're essentially only managing one big computer.

    CFO: cheapest thing that will get the job done with the most amount of security

    Sales Department (all): Fastest machine possible that will allow full utilization of the newest goodies vendors roll out.

    Service & Parts Departments: Whatever will run the DMS, Parts ordering, OEM software, and Service scheduling software. However, they recognize that Fixed Operations is getting ready to receive a technological shot in the arm and will have larger hardware needs in the very near future.

    Management:
    already equipped with decent PC's, but some are in need of more RAM and Quad Core processors. Managers need serious multi-tasking capabilities.

    Our vendors: some are vehemently opposed to virtual PC's and Thin Clients. Most don't support them whatsover.

    With that last statement about our vendors' stance, you'd think this was an easy decision, but the money is probably the biggest issue. In order to get to where our vendors want us to be, we're looking at a mouth-dropping sum of money that requires a lot more investment on our IT department's time.

    Is anyone else in this same boat? Has anyone made any policy changes such as making the sales staff responsible for providing their own hardware (almost everyone has a laptop or is willing to invest in one)?
     
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  3. ghen

    ghen
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    call me Jason
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    Every time I look at thin clients as a cost cutting solution it never works out on paper. I figure that the maintenance would offset in that it would be just trading one problem for another. With that in mind, the price of thin clients are so ridiculous compared to your bargain computer from Lenovo or Acer or anyone else that server costs tip the favor way against thin clients. If you can find some way to make this work financially then more power to you. But don't let anyone fool you into thinking they're less time/money to manage.

    So in my shop I'll just be sticking with the tried and true method of upgrading bargain computers as they start dying and using the dead machines to create some Frankenstein monsters that last another year or so on average.

    I also much prefer mid tower computer cases. If you're going to go with a regular desktop computer, don't get those ones that are half as thick! They overheat -all- the time, and when the power supply dies in 3 years (which it will) you'll be spending twice as much getting the manufacturer part because 3rd party ones don't fit.

    Here is what I currently buy:
    PC Connection - TopSeller ThinkCentre A58e : 2.6GHz Pentium Dual Core 2GB RAM 250GB hard drive


    That being said, don't trust your IT guy if he just wants to throw servers at a problem without the numbers to back it up. Speaking from personal experience, people in IT LOVE complexity. The more complex the solution the better. This is for two reasons. Perceived job security as the only person that knows how to work a system, and the ability for complex problems to alleviate boredom. Now I pray that my boss isn't reading this because I really need another server!!!

    Finally, trusting salespeople (or anyone really) to bring in their own computers for work is asking for disaster. Not only will it give IT major headaches because the employee won't let IT secure the device the way it should be secured, but whatever they bring in will most likely be their old slow garbage computer with spyware galore. This will ruin productivity. I had one service shop with about 75% home computers and you'd be amazed the junk that people think will work in a business environment. I just recently swapped them all out with the PC I linked above and suddenly things are actually working the way they're supposed to.
     
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    #2 ghen, Jan 21, 2010
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2010
  4. Dukesbiz

    Dukesbiz
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    Garrett
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    I know this thread is about hardware...but how do you see the Fixed Operation Department growing in the upcoming years. What are the deficiencies that you see technology helping with?

    Also, what kind of computers is everyone running in their technician bays? I saw that GM is mandating 1 computer for every 2 tech's. Is this the way the whole industry is going?

    Make it a Great day!
    Garrett
     
  5. ghen

    ghen
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    Jr. Refresher

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    The same one I use everywhere else. We probably have close to 1 computer for every 2 techs. maybe a few extras.

    When I buy computers I go for robust quality parts that just happen to be "old" and "slow" compared to everything else on the market and thus are less expensive... But you know with computers everything on the market is a 2-3x upgrade over what you currently use anyway.
     
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  6. Alex Snyder

    Alex Snyder
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    :rofl: I'm sorry to laugh, but I have certainly found "job security" to be a high priority when looking at various folks in the IT field. I can't say how much of that priority is at play within our own organization, but I'm glad you said it and not me.

    Thanks for the very informative and honest reply :thumbup:
     
  7. Alex Snyder

    Alex Snyder
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    President Skroob

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    As I believe 2010 to be the year of consolidation, I see this consolidation being driven by CRM companies. It has been far too long that sales, service, parts, and bodyshops have been so disconnected. Our only technological connection has been on the accounting side through DMS technologies, but what does that do for the customer? CRM companies are beginning to incorporate more dealership departments, and eventually we'll all have the same hardware needs as we work out of the same CRM system.
     
  8. Hoib

    Hoib
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    Hoib
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    Hey - I'm glad to see this thread started! Wish it'd been started about a month ago when we were "in the hunt" for hardware.

    @ghen - nice pick! We did Acer's M265 for the same $. I admittedly am partial to Acer quality having a small repair business on the side: I have never had an Acer on the bench. Seriously. 3 gB RAM, smaller HDD on ours but we went with Win 7 64bit w/ downgrade rights to XP pro 64bit. But basically the same beast. I'm config'g the 6 of them now for deployment. I suggested this route because we want to be positioned for Win 7 when our software vendors (Netstar, Autobase, Arkona) say they will officially support Win 7. As of now, they will only "un-officially" support Win 7 except Netstar who says that if you do you're on your own. We went with MS Office 07 Standard Ed. Could probably just as easily worked with OpenOffice for the amount of use it gets.

    Our company, very small, cannot do a full fledged IT dept. Not even a part-time one for a 22 workstation config. The parts mgr wears the official IT hat and has me come in to push buttons, swap disks, answer questions, train, etc. I work pretty cheap, I think, too. So they can't do the traditional server-client model. Thin client - I don't trust. Virtual PC - no one trusts and we don't have the gear for it without more investing. Asking employees to bring in their laptops? No way! Security concerns abound. And I have to agree with ghen here as well about what software people will think works best in a business environment versus use at home.

    So our simplest, easiest, solution pretty much is in alignment with the "ghen-way" - cheap mid-tower style workstations for our "unmanaged" archetecture. Seperate but consistent anti-malware on each. NAS backup device just purchased (but yet to be installed! Yikes!) Most mission critical functions are browser based. And we let the vendor worry about backup, versions, and all that. This has a downside - it leaves you vulnerable to what's happening with Arkona/DealerTrack at the moment. But life is a series of tradeoffs, isn't it?

    Good thread and I'm enjoying reading about everyone else's experiences here! Thanks!

    H
     
  9. ghen

    ghen
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    Jr. Refresher

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    *head grows larger*
     
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  10. bpreston

    bpreston
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    Getting Refreshed

    First Name:
    Bobby
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    Regardless of what computer you ultimately go with has anyone found leasing to be > purchasing new computers. For our dealer group our IT guy estimates we get an average life of 5-6 years out of a computer, however, the last 2-3 years of those computers' lives are spent running slow preventing our employees from working as efficiently as possible. I am just starting to collect some lease numbers, so not sure if it will make sense numbers wise, but it would be nice to to get new computers every 2-3 years so you don't have to deal with employee complaints about their slow computers, low efficiency, and an IT guy too busy to get around fixing the old computers. Thoughts?
     
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  11. Jerry Thibeau

    Jerry Thibeau
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    Bobby,

    Have you considered a Citrix networking solution.
     

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