Buying a computer for business can be intimidating. What type of equipment or device do you need? Should you buy a certain brand? Should you shoot for a specific price range? What about clearance items? How does a business owner decide what computer systems to invest in? Here are 9 tips for purchasing small-business computers.
I bet you want to know if there is a magic number for a “good computer”. There isn’t – but we’ll get to the price, too… but it is just so important that you read all the other tips first, and you will see why we talk about the price last. So let’s restart the count. No peeking!
1. Intended Use
This is the first and utmost important tip you can get on buying a new computer: consider your desired outcome. What is it that you want at the end of the day? Not with the purchase process – but with your business, overall? Now think, how can the right computer network, – the bloodline of your day-to-day business operations, – how can it help you get there?
Here is the list of questions you need to answer to yourself before you start shopping for computers for small business before you start talking to any computer sales reps or IT consultants.
- How does your business use the computers now?
- What type of software programs does your business depend on now?
- What type of operating system your software requires? What other requirements it may have? For every software you need, look for System Requirements in the description. If you are not sure about it, ask the software vendor. Remember, you use more than one type of software program, so don’t forget to check other programs, as well.
- How is your business going to use the computers in the near future?
- What are your plans for computer use in 2 years?
- Are all of your employees computer users?
- Do their job descriptions have the same work requirements for the computer system?
- Do any of your employees need portable devices (i.e. laptops, tablets, phones, etc)?
- If your employees require portable devices, what conditions would they be used under? For example, contractors on the job site may need a bit sturdier devices or require extra accessories compared to someone who occasionally works from home.
- Would the devices run the programs that require synchronization? – which leads us to the next point:
- Are all of the systems you intend to purchase compatible and interoperable, and with software compatibility and interoperability in mind?
- Do you have a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) environment – do you let your employees use their own devices for work purposes? Related read: How to Minimize Risk with your Employees BYOD – laptops, phones, and tablets
Now that you have gone through the first layers of questions, you see how you can’t simply say to the store clerk or your IT consultant: “Just get me something at $500 a pop!” You need to define what you need, separate what you need from what you want, and then you can arrive at the next steps…
2. Operating system
Choose an Operating System that suits your needs best. Overall differences between Microsoft Windows OS and Apple Mac OS operating systems are not that significant, but the software that people tend to use on one or the other may differ. The rule of thumb says if your business is a bit more of a left-brain type, go with PCs, if more of a right-brain, go with Macs – simply because usually the most “business calculation” type of software is mostly designed for PCs, and “art department” type of software is mostly designed for Mac users. If you are not sure what is best for you – check your mission-critical software requirements (if you are still not sure, consult with software vendor). Try to “aim for the same”. Unless you have specific scenarios, for example, your type of business requires a majority of the users to rely on Windows-dependent software, while your art department works best with Macs, select the same operating system for all users in your organization. Consistency is the key for long-term use and maintenance.
This is important: go for the best processor, or CPU (Central Processing Unit). A processor is often compared to the heart of your machine: if it is not slow, your computer will be slow, too. In addition, it is the most difficult part of the system to upgrade.
Getting computers with the best processor now can save you some dough in the long run. Alongside speed, a number of cores is something to consider, too. Choose the processor with at least two cores. If your business computers do some “heavy lifting”, for example, CAD work, rendering 3D models, creating and working with extra high-definition images, animations, modeling, or database analysis could need extra cores – eight or more. Check with software maker for system requirements.
4. Memory (RAM)
Aside from the processor, if you need your computers to be fast or to have options of extra memory: computer’s motherboard has Ram slots in multiples of two. Even if you think you don’t need extra memory now, you can always add more memory (RAM) later by getting RAM chips and filling the slots on the motherboard, providing it with more access points to your RAM. That would help to give your system extra speed. Of course, speed depends on other factors, too. Related read: Top 11 Reasons for PC issues and tips on how to Fix Slow Computer
5. Video Cards
Not all video cards are created equal. A video card for an occasional “recreational use” of watching YouTube videos and websites-embedded media will not work on the gaming machine, and the card that is best for gamers will under-perform with more serious applications, such as CAD tasks.
The type of video card you have will dictate the speed of rendering, and it is especially important for jobs that need extra video processing or professional high-definition artwork.
6. Age of equipment.
Buying refurbished computers is not quite like buying a certified pre-owned car. Try not to think like that, and do not fall for buying a “gently used” or last year’s model. It may work for a home use, like when grandpa wants to play his card games, but for a professional business operation buying used or old equipment is not recommended: today’s average computer’s optimal service term is 3 years. If you do not invest in the latest processor, motherboard and so on, you will not only compromise on best performance, but also bring the inevitability of an upgrade much closer – will not save, but lose money in the long run. Opt for the new systems, and you will not regret it.
7. Type of equipment
We recommend buying Independent Software Vendor (ISV) certified equipment. An ISV makes and sells software products that run on one or more computer hardware or operating system platforms. Companies that make the software, test the hardware to make sure it is compatible and performs well with their software.
- More on definition of ISV: http://searchitchannel.techtarget.com/definition/ISV
- ISV resource example: http://www8.hp.com/us/en/campaigns/isv-certifications/mcad-isv-certification.html?jumpid=ba_yt8mgi675q
ISV-certified equipment is your best bet to make sure that pieces of your hardware and software “puzzle” go well together for smooth operations.
….and now the drum-roll, please… The costs:
(Did you skip the tips and scrolled right down to the costs? Go back and start with Tip 1, no cheating – and if you did not peek – good! Read on)
It may be tempting to stick to a certain budget or go for clearance items. Don’t. If you still ask why – read the previous tips again.
When you define what computer systems, and what type of computer network your business requires to continuously rely on the mission-critical, day-to-day processes, you can arrive at what it would cost you to get that in place. You can then research online to find the systems to find out the price for each component of your future network.
If you did your homework and answered all the questions above truthfully, only now you can estimate the cost of the new computers. If it is not in your budget you need to do some soul searching and, once again, remember your desired outcome. Is downtime in your budget? Is loss of revenue in your budget? Is loss of employee productivity in your budget?
This is not where you want to cut corners. There are still ways to save money or work with your budget (on that read in the next tip), but for your own sake, do not go for the cheapest option when buying equipment. You waste time waiting for a cheap computer, you will be wasting time daily on a computer that under-performs or requires frequent “fixing”.
A bargain may be a great buy on day one. A year later you will see how its lack of speed, and maybe even downtime can cost you far more in money and headaches. Multiply it by a number of employees – and you will see how investing in a better computer today will bring you a better ROI.
…But wait! There is more… Of course, there is more! Read this important next tip:
9. Get a second opinion.
Now it may be tempting to just go get the new machines, unplug the old ones, plug the new ones back in, but you know you need to reinstall the software, backup the local data, and a lot of other things that need to be done right in order to keep running business as usual, without downtime.
Talk to professionals. If you have a Managed Service provider on your team, they may even talk to you first – as they monitor the health of your computer systems, they may be aware of any potential issues before you are, and can give you professional guidance as to what you actually need. Sometimes what you think you need can be underestimated, and your MSP can help you see where and why. (If you don’t have a Managed Services provider – give us a call at 201-493-1414, we’d be glad to help.)
MSP can save you money and perhaps find the solution that fits your budget: Managed services may be able to negotiate special pricing directly from vendors because of the partnership programs. Some service providers may be able to assist you with a leasing program, a great option to maintain a budget. Related read: What is Better – to Lease or to Buy Computer Hardware Equipment?
It is not just about buying new computers, but also about installing them right and making sure that your whole computer network operates at its best with them in place. A professional IT Company, a Managed Service provider would be of a great asset to you in this process – to help you scope the right equipment, plan the installation, and getting the job done right the first time.
Are you in process of looking for new systems for your business? Is your computer network performing at its best? Are you satisfied your current IT? Do you just wish technology would just work as it should so you can focus on running your business?
We can provide you with a consultation, and show you how we can work proactively with your organization to maximize your return on investment and minimize your risks when implementing new technology solutions.
You can call us directly right now at 201-493-1414 to talk to talk one of our specialists, request a call above, or fill out the form to your right so we can send you more information to start a conversation.