A big part of what we do at Emerald Data Solutions is help save taxpayers money. So, when we learn that an organization is planning to purchase a state-of-the-art computer, loaded with all kinds of software, for each board member, we cringe. Providing computers to the board does not have to mean spending $2,500 per laptop for each board member. This document will explore ways to reduce one of the major costs of going paperless: computers for board members.
What are the requirements for BoardDocs? Not much. To review documents, all you need is a computer that is connected to the Internet and, in most cases, the free Acrobat Reader. Macintosh or PC - just about any operating system that has a current browser will do. Packets are not downloaded or distributed to the computer, as all information is on the Internet. Since users are just “looking” at documents on servers, users can move from computer to computer and see the same data. Users do not have MS Office or any special software to look at documents.
Basically, a 1.5 GHz computer with 1 GB of RAM and a 20 GB HD with one our our SUPPORTED BROWSERS. We do recommend that Windows XP or Mac OS/X 10.3 or better be used since they are easy to connect to the Internet.
Note: To help duplicate the private nature of notes taken by elected officials, we electronically replicate the existing private note-taking process. Notes can be categorized and managed by the authenticated end user, are private to the individual user and are now stored in a completely separate database on BoardDocs' servers.
Do you even need to get computers?
Board members will need computers to access documents in BoardDocs for two different tasks:
To access the Internet to review documents prior to the meeting and to do research; and
In the Board Room or Council Chambers so that each board member can follow along with the meeting. This does not mean that organization must provide laptops for board members. If board members have computers at home, then they already have a way to prepare for the meeting. The only remaining need is to provide them with computers in the meeting room. Most school districts have laptop carts that can be used when the board meets. This is a great option for organizations looking to “try out” a paperless solution. Once the board and administration are more comfortable, an investment in dedicated computers can be made.
Early on, we discussed the minimal requirements for the computers. So why purchase new computers? Consider taking existing computers and recycling them for use by the board. Re-image or reinstall the computers, upgrade the operating system and designate them for use by the board. Then purchase the new computers and allocate them to users that need more computing power.
Still considering the purchase of computers for the board, but would like to save some money? All of the major computer suppliers (Apple, Dell, HP and IBM) offer off-lease, old stock or reconditioned computers at greatly reduced prices. These systems are all tested and certified by the manufacturer and come with a warranty. In most cases you cannot tell them from new. By purchasing systems directly from the manufacturer’s outlet store it is easy to find excellent computers in the $500 - $800 range. An outlet laptop was used to write and publish this document!
The Apple iPad
Both BoardDocs Pro and BoardDocs LT are supported on the Apple iPad. This support brings together two market leaders to provide BoardDocs users with an absolute best-in-class way to access BoardDocs' Cloud-based offerings. iPads are remarkably affordable, powerful and easy to use.
State Money, Grants and More
The governing body most likely approves every technology purchase for your organization. The primary provider of computers for your organization would like the logo to be on the computer that the board members are using. That logo would also be viewed by anyone attending a meeting - and if you are televising your meetings, on TV as well. A corporate grant to enhance the governance process and provide the public better access to the activities of the board is a possibility. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.
In some states, you can use state funds to purchase the technology to support your move to paperless. In New York, the Central Regional Information Services Center can help school districts use state money for BoardDocs services and the technology to support it.
Check to see if there are any grants available for paper reduction or sustainability. In the process of going paperless, your organization will save reams of paper from being used and reduce carbon emissions by omitting packet delivery.
These are just a few ideas on how governing bodies can reduce the start-up costs involved in going paperless. A little flexibility and investment in time can save your organization thousands of dollars.
Here are some links to selected outlet stores:
You may also want to periodically check the Dell Outlet Facebook and Twitter feeds. Everyday, these sites post money-saving coupons on new and refurbished computers. Here, you may discover savings of over 30% off the listed outlet price: