While doing research, I received the following email from a colleague at the UofM. This person is a desktop configuration manager in one of the colleges. The email gives good reasons to utilize the purchasing options negotiated by OIT for the University of Minnesota community (as I know my opinions aren't reason enough...)
Components in a consumer grade computer will typically be of lower quality (power supply and so on). Please understand that the components themselves are only the beginning of the concerns.
Warranty support options and contracts have to handled differently than for standardized computers. Computers that are purchased by the University through a standardized program have additional contractual support. A home based computer could have it's warranty voided by having a regional tech open the case to perform maintenance. At a minimum simply having to take the time to support a non-standard computer will result in excessive and needless labor costs.
There are also licensing concerns with regards to the operating system and software that is installed on the computer. Some software that is 'free' to home users such as 'Spybot Search and Destroy' or 'AVG' is very distinctly not free in a work environment. This can have significant financial implications.
For example the University of Minnesota has licensed Symantec Antivirus through a site license. If your Best Buy computer is pre-loaded with McAfee (or whichever other software vendor paid advertising money to Gateway) and used in a work environment it can result in the University being financially culpable to a vendor that the University does not have a contract with. Similar agreements are also used for Operating Systems and productivity software such as Microsoft Office.
When purchasing computers a range of models is chosen for support. This allows the University to standardize support costs such as image development, software and spare parts availability.
Introduction of a non-standardized computer is also a security threat as the computer may have a virus inadvertently installed on it by the user or the factory. If the environment is subject to federal laws such as HIPAA the use of a non-standardized computer could also result in a HIPAA violation and fine.
Regulations for many standards require that any computer that is put into production to have gone through a standardized imaging process.The very first thing that IT does with any computer - Windows, Mac, Unix or otherwise is to wipe the hard drive and load a standardized image on it. This is an industry best practice and the University owns specialized tools just to support this practice.
Please do not use non-standardized computers through third party vendors. Your temporary cost reduction on the front end will more than be lost on the back and constitutes a security risk to the rest of the production network.