What Students and Faculty Will Never Tell You (Even If You Ask)

Look at your phone. Are there apps that you haven’t used in months? Do you have an old tablet or laptop sitting at home collecting dust? You might have apps or devices taking up space that you’ve simply overlooked. 

The same happens at colleges and universities, but those unused computers and applications have a higher cost. They take up image space and quietly drain your budget.

Asking professors what they don’t use, or expecting students to produce a list of resources they don’t need isn’t realistic. And if you dare to ask faculty what they do need, they’ll likely say they need everything, even if it hasn’t been used in years. Instead, you can identify unused resources and remove or re-allocate them to better serve students and staff. 

Hardware They Don’t Use

What hardware do you provide for professors and staff? Desktop computers, laptops, staff labs and shared offices all may be used differently. Sometimes professors have a school-issued laptop, but they prefer to use their own. Or they’re provided with a desktop in an office, but they prepare, teach and grade in different locations. A standard tech package may not work for everyone.

Identifying those unused computers can help you focus refreshes and maintenance in the places where faculty and staff need them most, rather than on a blanket solution for everyone.

How to Know Which Computer Labs are Used the Least

Software They Don’t Need

Consider the audiobook subscription or a gym membership you got at the beginning of the year. You had great intentions, and you’re hesitant to cancel it because you still want to read more or work out every morning. These subscriptions are quietly charging you every month with no real benefit realized.

The same happens in higher education. Department heads and faculty are great at requesting software. They can provide a list of what’s needed for upcoming courses and how many licenses they want. However, when that class is attended less than expected, or the application gets replaced by a new version or similar app, do they come back and tell you to cancel the subscription? Probably not. 

Even if faculty haven’t requested a specific number of licenses, you may over-deploy software for other reasons. 

Global Deployment and Discoverability

Deploying site-wide licenses ensures that students can find the software they need when they need it. If Mathematica is on every machine in the Math Lab, then a student can sit down at any computer and get to work. In this case, software is deployed to meet the need of discoverability–in other words, deployed so any student can find it easily, rather than actual demand. But discoverability can be solved in other ways, like using the LabFind app

Increasing Discoverability of Tech on Campus

To find unused applications, you’ll need to compare the usage of similar applications and know what’s outdated. Think about expensive licenses like design software and statistical analysis software. Do faculty request SPSS for their classrooms when students actually use R? Is QuarkXPress still on your design lab machines while courses are taught with Adobe InDesign? Do you have a site-wide license of Microsoft Word while most students (and the businesses where they’ll eventually get hired) work on Google Docs? It’s important to know what students actually use, not just what professors want them to use.

How to Know Which Applications are Used the Least

Why Efficiency Matters

Even if you aren’t expected to run the most efficient or budget-conscious IT department, there are likely projects that you want to do, but can’t fit into your budget.

Everyone has projects that need funding or priorities that demand more budget than what’s available. Think about what you could accomplish if you had more money now, and didn’t have to wait until next year’s budget to get started.

LabStats has saved universities tens of thousands of dollars by identifying unused hardware and software, providing valuable insights in as little as a few weeks. The average annual cost to acquire and maintain a computer is between $800-$1,000. Most schools can eliminate 5-10% of computers without sacrificing service levels–meaning students won’t notice they’re missing. If demand for computers is high in certain labs, moving computers from underutilized labs can save thousands every year.

Software is usually over-deployed to ensure students can find what they need. However, over-deployment of just 3 software packages can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. LabStats can help show you where software is being used, so you can streamline offerings without affecting student perception of availability. Even with conservative estimates, there’s potential for significant savings with LabStats.

To learn more, schedule a walkthrough.

How Mount Royal University Uses LabStats

Mount Royal University traded manual headcounts and number-crunching for LabStats’ automated usage tracking software. LabStats helped Mount Royal University eliminate 4 underutilized computer labs, saving up to $25,000 per lab every 4 years, and freed up those spaces for additional classes.

We caught up with Mount Royal University to see what’s changed since they started using LabStats.

With 12,000 students, 70 people in the IT department, and around 150 labs on campus, Mount Royal has its hands full trying to meet the demands of their students, their budget, and their management. Then CIO Michael Barr and his team were experiencing challenges in different areas, but they originally looked into LabStats to help automate the manual labor they were trying to complete themselves.

Mount Royal University Uses LabStats

Number Crunching for Weeks

Before LabStats, Mt. Royal employed lab monitors in all of their labs to manually tally all of the students that came into their labs. But this took up a lot of time, effort, and money. Once a  semester, at least one team member consumed for weeks on end simply number crunching and creating reports.

With LabStats, the team was able to automate and streamline this process to understand not only computer usage, but also software usage data. No extra time or manpower was needed to pull together tables and reports. With just a few clicks, they had accurate and reliable data at their fingertips.

Hidden Savings

The IT team originally thought their labs were being fully utilized, but when they actually ran the reports they found that there were a number of labs being underutilized. With data from LabStats, they were able to eliminate 4 separate labs with 35 computers in each. In one lab, they were able to save up to $25,000 every 4 years by eliminating unused computers.

The lab spaces were then freed up for additional classes.

Tracking Usage to Save Money

This webinar discusses the the University of Texas El Paso’s (UTEP) real-life applications of LabStats and its positive effects on UTEP’s IT department.

This webinar focuses on 4 main how-to’s LabStats can help with:

  1. How to optimize your computer labs to maximize resources
  2. How to allocate restricted budgets
  3. How to collaborate across departments
  4. How to publish live availability of resources

Lizette Gameros, Director of Support Services in the Technology Support Department, explains UTEP’s experience using LabStats. Some of the needs and challenges they were facing include:

  • Understanding the Lab Environment: Accurate lab and application usage
  • Reporting and Analysis: Efficiently gather and present data
  • Resource Optimization: Allocation of funds with a restrictive budget
  • Lab Management Facilitation: Collaboration with labs managed by external departments

She then explains their use of the Login Summary by Group report and the Application Summary report. These reports have helped her and her team in multiple ways from creating consistency between labs to reducing excess costs from unused software licenses.

After Lizette’s presentation, Tyler Jacobson walks through some more aspects of LabStats not previously covered:

  • Focus Reports: Making strategic and focused decisions to allocate resources
  • Tags: Identifying aspects of hardware and software
  • LabMaps: Live information about where computers are available

He explains what these features can do and how they can be customized for your experience. When LabStats is customized for your specific needs and challenges, you make the best use of your limited money, time, and resources.

For any questions, schedule a walkthrough.

Are You Overpaying for Software?

Universities waste thousands of dollars every year on software that students aren’t using. One university recently reported that they saved more than $40,000 a year by cancelling unused software licenses after analyzing usage trends with LabStats. Here are 3 ways to make sure you’re not overpaying for software:

1. Compare software licenses installed to licenses used

Consider the software you have installed across campus, is all of it getting used? It’s easy for unused licenses to get overlooked. For instance, last year the English department, sick of students not citing sources correctly, fought for 200 EndNote licenses. But how many students used a free site like EasyBib on their own laptops to cite sources instead? Has anyone asked? How many students do research on the campus computers versus their laptops?

To answer these questions, you need a report that tells you exactly how often those expensive, budget-draining programs are being used. You might be surprised to see the real usage history. It would be quite a relief to your budget to cut the extra licenses.  

small computer labs vs. large resource centers on campus

2. Identify where each type of software is most used

Although all licenses might be used throughout the day, it’s still good to check where they are used most and focus usage to a specific lab. For those students who need to use one of the 400 Adobe license computers how many would wait in line at the library lab rather than walk across campus to the design lab? Is the east side lab all fitted with ARCHICAD being neglected by students who have all their classes on the west side of campus? Being aware of location can save you thousands of dollars a year.

3. Set up alerts and tags to continue monitoring software use

Want to know how often an application is used each week? How about a semester? Using the tags feature in LabStats, you can set up alerts on certain applications and get notified if an application hasn’t been used for a week, month, or even two days. Knowing this can set you on a path to streamlining your license purchases to maximize utilization.

Unused software can be one of the biggest drains on a university’s IT budget. But with reports that show you when, where, and how long software is being used, you can save thousands of dollars every year simply by understanding which licenses to renew.

Related Case Study: Texas Christian University

Harness the Power of Data to Make Budget Decisions

How do you sort through endless opinions, requests and assumptions to make tough decisions for your computer labs? And then once you make a decision- like expanding a computer lab, reducing software licenses, or upgrading hardware, how do you justify it to administration?

Instead of relying on assumptions and guesswork, use data to answer these 3 common questions.

1. Is the software we’re paying for actually getting used?

When considering whether to add or reduce software licenses, you’ll want to look at the maximum number of instances an application was used at one time. Often you’ll find that a percentage of the licenses are never touched, which allows you to reduce the total number you’re paying for (woohoo!). If you find that licenses are reaching maximum usage consistently, consider adding more.

Application Launch History Report
Application Launch History Report

The above report shows how many times Adobe Photoshop was used each day over the course of one month. You can see that 25 licenses exist, but no more than 16 are ever used at once. With this data in hand, you can justify reducing the number of Photoshop licenses in this lab.

Since LabStats software was designed for universities, you can set parameters in this report to get the most accurate data. Select a custom date range (consider one month, one semester, one year, etc.) while excluding weekends and holidays. You can also use this report to see installed software and web applications, and compare similar applications like Photoshop and GIMP.

2. Should I add more computers?

Before you go out and buy more computers, take a look at the highest number of computers that are being used at the same time. If nearly all the computers in a lab are occupied, you may need to add more or increase lab hours. If you’re seeing that your computers are underutilized, you can confidently deny the request and work on solutions to increase use of what you already have (like displaying open computers to students via LabMaps).

Computer Lab Peak Usage History Report Graph
Peak Usage History Report

The above report shows the total number of computers used in a lab each day over the course of one month. The dips represent weekends as this lab is closed during weekends. You can tell that on the busiest days, only 45 of the 60 computers in this lab are used at once. If this trend continues throughout the year, then there’s no need to add computers to this lab.

The Peak Usage History report opens up opportunities to dig deeper and try different solutions. If you find unused computers, look for a commonality (older versions, missing software, located closest to the lab manager, etc.). Once you spot a trend, then you can develop a solution like focusing upgrades on the unused computers, moving them to another lab, or removing them completely. LabStats allows you to quickly recognize what’s happening in your labs, and then dive deeper to come up with the best solution for your campus.

3. Do we need more (or less) computer labs on campus?

Adding a computer lab is no small request, and not something you can leave up to guesswork. To make this decision confidently, you’ll need to be able to compare the activity across all your current computer labs. Oftentimes labs are vastly different sizes, so instead of comparing the number of computers used in each, look at the percentage of computers used in each lab.

Computer Lab Usage History Report Graph
Usage History Report

The above report shows the percentage of use across 8 labs for one month. Each of these labs are different sizes (for instance, the Library has 400 computers and Acadia has 20). Since none of the labs exceed 60% usage over the course of this month, it doesn’t seem necessary to add another lab.

The Usage History report may also reveal locations on campus that see the most activity. If you have funds to add a computer lab to your campus, the data can show you where it would be best placed (perhaps near another busy lab).

You can also use this report to see trends. If the data revealed that smaller labs were at 90% capacity while the one big lab (the library) was at 20% capacity, you might conclude that students on your campus prefer smaller lab spaces, and then move computers in the library to smaller study rooms or other places on campus.

Thinking about closing a lab? Run a Usage History report to identify the lab with the lowest percentage of use, so you can close a lab with the least effect on student experience.

The next time a big request comes across your desk, or you need to make a change in your campus computer labs, harness the power of data to justify your decision.

Becoming the Budget Hero

“Find room in the budget.”

We’ve all been there. Every resource at your disposal is crucial in its own way and used for a specific purpose. With all the moving parts of your department, it can be difficult to not only decide what and where to cut, but also to justify those decisions to administration.

We’ve partnered with universities for over 15 years, and every time an IT department is faced with finding more room in the budget, this is what we recommend:

Discover where resources can be reduced or eliminated.

Understand which labs are frequented most often and which are not. A lab that is empty every afternoon does not need to stay open outside of its busy hours. In most cases, the computer that is closest to the lab monitor is the least used. Age of hardware and available software applications also affect how much a computer is used. Once you have the data on hardware and software usage, you can confidently eliminate unused resources to free up funds in your department budget.

Understand where resources can be redistributed and used to max capacity.

Seeing which labs are most often at capacity and which are not allows you to redistribute hardware where needed, which reduces the number of unused computers. If one lab is constantly busy, you might decide to reallocate computers from an underused lab to support student demand in the more popular one. Instead of requesting more resources off the bat, learn where you can pull from within your existing inventory.

Find and eliminate unused software licenses.

If 50 of your computers have an expensive software license, like Mathematica, but you notice that a maximum of 20 are ever used at a given time, you might decide to only renew 20 licenses and use the extra money on something students will actually use.

With LabStats computer lab monitoring software, you can easily find the drains and pains on your budget to redistribute resources when necessary. Who doesn’t love a little data to backup a decision?

3 Common Mistakes that Drain Your IT Budget

Just like that subscription to Audible you always intended to use, these 3 overlooked practices are quietly draining your school’s IT resources, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

1. Paying for software that isn’t used.

Yes, Professor Kim fought hard for those 400 Adobe CC licenses 2 years ago, but has anyone checked in to see if they’re actually being used? Of the 400 students in the design program, how many are commuters with their own laptops & software? How many would rather wait in line at the library lab rather than walk across campus to the design lab? In reality, one license per student doesn’t always work out, and odds are a percentage have never been used.

Whether you’re shelling out cash for an expensive license suite or nickle-and-diming a subscription for each computer, unused software has got to be the biggest budget-suck of all time. Learning how, when and where your priciest software apps are used is the key to a balanced budget that keeps both students, faculty and administrators happy.

2. Letting computers collect dust.

Hardware is not a one-time cost. Hardware upgrades, labor-intensive lab management and maintenance of aging machines are constant drains on your budget, adding up to approximately $1,000 per computer per year.

That means if you have 20 lonely computers– you know, the ones in dark corners of the lab or right next to the lab manager’s desk, you might as well wave goodbye to $20k of your budget at the start of each school year.

3. Keeping labs open too long.

If you’re paying a lab tech to babysit an empty computer lab, you might as well just throw a chunk of your budget out the window.

When it comes to choosing a lab, students are picky- they consider lab size (is there going to be an open computer?), noise level (am I going to be able to focus?), installed apps (does it have the software I need?) and location (do I really want to walk that far?).

Knowing what students are looking for is key to scheduling computer lab hours, and avoiding fully-staffed, empty labs.

How to Stop the Bleeding

Outsmart these silent budget thieves with accurate data. Start tracking hardware and software usage across your campus to eliminate unused software applications, right-size labs and streamline staffing. With LabStats computer lab monitoring software, you can start to see trends in as little as two weeks, and be ready to make big budget decisions with confidence in the first year.

It’s time to take control of your budget and make every dollar count.

Stop Fearing Budget Cuts

Budget cuts have been all too common in university IT departments since ‘08, and the trend of reduced spending doesn’t seem to be slowing down. How can your IT department succeed with increased demand and a shrinking budget? Rather than expecting the same approach to bring a different result, you can utilize data to make the most of your current resources.

Whatever your budget, there’s likely room to optimize. Off the top of your head, how many computers go unused on your campus everyday? How many expensive software applications remain unopened for weeks at a time?

Guessing can only get you so far, and those guesses represent dollars in (or out of) your budget. The key to getting the most out of a barely-there budget is data. Usable data. Nobody has time to track lab activity by hand, scour spreadsheets, or fiddle with a home grown solution. And since salaries and staffing aren’t immune to budget cuts, accurate data has got to be easy to gather, primed for decision-making and shareable up the ladder.

That’s where LabStats comes in. What could you do with an extra $1000 in your IT budget? $5,000? $25,000? One customer recently reported that they’d saved more than $40,000 a year in unused software licenses after analyzing usage trends with LabStats. We can go on and on about our origin in a southern Utah computer lab, our 15 year history as a market leader in higher-ed, and our forward-thinking development team, but none of that matters unless it works.

LabStats software is proven to optimize tightening budgets. Just ask Manhattan College, Middle Tennessee and Cornell. Or call a Product Specialist (that’s what we call our friendly sales guys) and set up a walkthrough to see how you can make today’s budget feel more like the glory days.

Spending too Much on Computer Lab Software

Faculty and students all want different Computer Lab Software to be available in their university’s computer lab. But, technology budgets are often limited. To balance a budget, lab managers need data. Data plays a key role in discovering areas of spending worth cutting back on. Manual data tracking methods are often what lab managers resort to. Yet, variables such as differing peak lab hours make it hard for managers to get accurate data. In some cases, alumni donate money to universities. Those universities must report on how they spent the donation.

Anne Anderson, an associate professor at Lehigh University, discussed how critical usage reports were to her benefactors. She stated, “We had no way to track the usage of programs in our labs. Many of our programs were either gifted to us or supported by alumni, so being able to report on their usage was critical. We needed a program that allowed us to track usage in an easy-to-use-format…”

Without usage tracking software, it is impossible for lab managers to get information on their application licenses. Unused licenses could be costing universities thousands of dollars. Collecting data through usage tracking software is the easiest way to find information on a lab’s resources.

Tracking data like computer lab software usage, hardware needs, and student usage demographics guides a university in its technology budget spending. With the usage tracking capabilities, LabStats offers, customers have a simple way to weed out unused software and save money. LabStats provides specific and simplistic data. An administrator can customize the data to fit an individual lab environment. Gathering real-time data is important for keeping a lab up-to-date. LabStats has several usage tracking features.

Data collected on the number of computers used in a lab helps lab managers deal with the question of hardware. Data on peak lab hours and computer usage lets administrators know how many students are using their machines a day. The more or less used the machines are determines if the lab can get rid of hardware or if they need to buy more to support usage demands.

It is important to track software usage to determine application licenses that are not serving the faculty or students. LabStats is designed to only track applications that result in meaningful data. For example, data would become cluttered if the software tracked an operating systems’ default applications. Furthermore, LabStats focuses on applications that students are actively using. Data would again become compromised if the software were to track any application that was open regardless of how much time the student actually spent using it. Lab managers do not need to waste time sifting through unnecessary data to find meaning. These are a few examples of how LabStats operates to reduce spending through data.

Tracking website usage can be helpful. Labs that boast expensive computer lab software become irrelevant if students are only using the computers to access websites such as Facebook, YouTube, or the University’s home page. Knowing which sites are accessed allows lab managers to take action by either putting strict lab usage rules in place or relocating the software to an area where students who would use it can access it.

Updating and upgrading benefit a lab. But, when a lab manager has data from LabStats guiding those choices, the outcome can mean thousands of dollars saved.

As a research institution, the University of Southern Mississippi was looking for a way to cut back on unnecessary resources and make more use of their funding. Lab Coordinator Brian Soule from the University of Southern Mississippi discovered LabStats at a conference he attended. He realized that LabStats could resolve the issues he was facing in his lab. He purchased LabStats for his computer lab and ended up saving the university money. After using the data provided, he said, “We’re cutting a certain application from 203 licenses to 25, saving us around $10,000.”

Computer Lab Software Tracking