School districts commonly maintain fleets of devices of varying makes, models, and ages. With the introduction of Device Lending Programs, your school district will need to address the length of time it will maintain each device.

As devices age, hardware failures tend to increase, some software may function more slowly, and eventually, the device will no longer be supportable. School districts have long attempted to maintain digital devices for as long as possible to reduce new expenditures while balancing functionality and supportability. Remote learning and 1:1 programs increase the necessity for reliability because instruction and learning rely so heavily on the device.


Calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO) includes far more than your devices’ purchase price. The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) provides comprehensive tools to help you calculate your TCO. This is especially important as school districts expand their technology services to students to include device lending programs or 1:1 programs. 

  • Older devices will not perform as quickly as newer devices. This is particularly noticeable when devices are required to conduct more processor and memory-intensive tasks, like real-time video conferencing. If your learning plans rely on real-time video-based classroom instruction and collaboration, consider whether your older devices will reliably perform as needed. Devices that worked perfectly well in a classroom setting may not function well in a remote learning environment. Lost productivity has a cost that also negatively impacts learning.
  • Older devices tend to require more repairs. This underscores the need to have a reliable help desk system that allows you to track technical support issues. Increased repair rates may increase your IT staff’s workloads or even require you to grow your team. Additionally, frequent downtime can result in more students without devices, which impacts learning for those students and impacts teacher planning and instructional methods.
  • Devices have a residual cash value, but the older the device, the lower the residual value. Consider retiring devices from service earlier when the device is still usable and resellable into a used device market. Some companies purchase your devices, pick them up, wipe data, and refurbish your devices. The cash value can then be applied toward the purchase of new equipment. By shortening your lifecycle and leveraging the residual cash value of the device, you can ensure better functionality and supportability. Depending on the devices and your lifecycle, it is possible to lower your TCO.
  • A four-year replacement cycle for 1:1 programs is common. Extended manufacturer’s warranty services generally cover three years. If you sell your devices after three years, your residual value will be higher than after four years, plus your school district will not need to cover the cost of repairs for devices with no warranty protection.
  • A one-year replacement cycle is unusual but could eliminate the need to purchase an extended warranty. By lowering your initial purchase price combined with the higher residual value of the device, it may be possible to deploy new devices annually at the same cost as a traditional multi-year lease payment.
  • School districts that routinely purchase device insurance (especially larger districts) may find that the actual cost of repairs and replacements covered by insurance plans is lower than insurance premium costs. Budgeting and paying directly for repairs and replacements as issues arise can reduce your overall TCO.


All devices have a functional end-of-life determined by the operating system developer. While it is possible to maintain and use a device after its operating system developer has stopped supporting the device, it means your device will no longer receive essential operating system and security updates. Other software developers will also begin to introduce versions of their software that require the newer version of your device’s operating system. Each of the major operating system software developers maintains lists of devices or minimum specifications needed to run the latest versions of the software.

Apple publishes lists of which devices are compatible with their latest operating system software releases (iOS | Mac OS). Historically, Apple has released major updates to both of its operating systems annually. When new versions are made available, most years, certain older iOS and Mac OS devices are dropped from the list of supported devices. Typically, iPads that were released approximately 5-6 years prior are dropped from the supported devices list. For its MacOS, laptops, and desktops released more than eight years previously are dropped.

Google generally provides about six years of support from the date a Chromebook model is released. It is important to note that many Chromebooks that are manufactured and sold today were initially released a few years ago, and their expiration dates are based on the original release date. School districts should pay attention to the expiration dates of models as they consider new purchases. Google maintains a list of expiration dates here.

Microsoft’s operating system has a history of maintaining compatibility and support for many years. Currently, for both Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, the minimum technical specifications are a one gigahertz processor, 1 GB of memory, and 32GB of storage space.


1 | Examine your total cost of ownership.

2 | Look for ways to reduce your total cost of ownership while maintaining or even improving functionality, reliability, and supportability.