Purchasing a computer for work can be a daunting task. There are so many brands and so many different types. Which one is the best for you? How much should you spend? Do you need a laptop, desktop, or hybrid? What about an all-in-one or a touch-screen computer? How does a business decide what to get? There is no magic formula to follow to make certain you get the perfect computer, but there are a few things to keep in mind that will help you make your decision. Here are 10 tips for buying small-business computers.
1. Don’t Be Cheap.
Time is money. You will spend more in wasted time waiting for a cheap computer than you will spend on a decent computer. Yes, that bargain computer you found for $300 was a great buy. Its lack of speed will cost you far more than that. Pony up the dough and spend at least $500 on a decent computer.
2. Pick an Operating System and Stick with It.
There is little overall difference between Microsoft Windows OS and Apple Mac OS. Use the same operating system for your entire company, unless you have specific needs dictating one operating system over the other. In the long run, either OS will get the job done.
3. Decide Whether or Not You Need Portability.
Will your work require you to work out of the office? Then get a laptop. If you are likely to never leave your office, get a desktop. Desktops are generally cheaper for similar hardware (this is a rule of thumb and is not written in stone). Desktops are hardier, more easily repaired, and easily upgraded. If you need to work at home, on the road, at client meetings, etc., then get a laptop. When you’re at your desk, just plug in a good monitor and regular-size keyboard. You can save some cash by skipping out on a docking station. Most laptops have all of the ports you need.
4. Get the Best Processor You Can.
The processor is the heart of your computer. If it’s slow, your machine will be slow. It is also the most difficult piece to upgrade. You can always add more RAM (memory) or get a larger hard drive later on.
5. Speed Isn’t the Only Processor Spec to Consider.
A good processor will have multiple cores. You need at least two, and four is about as high as most users will ever need to go. Users who will be rendering 3D models, photo-realistic images, animations, modeling, or analysis could need eight or more cores. Verify that with your software vendor to figure out the ideal number of cores.
6. Use as Many RAM Chips as Possible.
Your computer’s motherboard will have RAM slots in multiples of two. You should fill them all, no matter how many there are. If there are four slots, put in four RAM chips. This will provide four access points to your RAM. The more access you have, the faster things will go. Think of it this way: If all of your water pipes are the same size, will you get more water from two pipes or from four? RAM works the same way.
7. There Are Different Types of Video Cards for a Reason.
A video card designed to work for games works great for games. It is not designed for CAD work. You can probably get your work done (or play your games) just fine, but don’t assume that if it works well for a game that it will work well for you. Games are meant to render the screen quickly and frequently. If it makes an error, it’s no big deal because in a fraction of a millisecond the screen is changing anyway. If you are rendering a video or 3D model, the screen is going to stay the same for a while. It has to be right. Find the right video card for your needs.
8. Purchase ISV-Certified Equipment.
Autodesk and many other software vendors perform their own tests on hardware and certify them. This is called an ISV or Independent Software Vendor certification. Companies that make the software test the hardware to make sure it works well with their product. If they say it’s good to use, it’s good to use.
9. Avoid Buying Last Year’s Model.
Buying last year’s model can save you money in the short term, but I refer you back to tip number one. You should buy the latest motherboard, CPU, etc. Your computer is designed to last about three years. If it’s a year behind before you buy it, then you are already behind.
10. Remember That You—or Your Employees—Will Be Using This Tool Everyday, All Day Long.
Make sure it does what you need it to. Any delay caused by the computer costs you money, and that cost will be higher than the cost of the computer.
Buying a computer can be daunting and expensive. It’s easy to get caught up in the line-item expense. Keep in mind that any issues caused by the computer will cost you money. Spending a little bit more up front can save you money in the long term. It is difficult to measure that cost.
Before upgrading your computers, have your users measure their downtime or any delays caused by the computer. When they get their new machines, do the same thing. The new computers won’t be perfect, obviously, but you will see fewer delays and less downtime, saving you money. Additionally, getting a new computer will boost employee morale.