Most businesses nowadays need IT functions for day-to-day operation. Whether you require computers for accounting, video production or simply email and internet, choosing the right equipment can benefit your company in a number of ways including long-term suitability and cost-effectiveness.
Drilling down to precisely why you need computing functionality is essential as it will drive both what computers you look for and how much you’ll need to spend. You may need specialist software packages or peripherals that require substantial budget. Read our guide to analysing your IT needs for more information.
Desktops v laptops
Desktops and laptops have widely different purposes. Laptops are generally less powerful and more expensive due to their smaller size and mobility, but can be essential tools for travelling executives. Whether you need a laptop or desktop will depend on how the computer will be used; if it’ll stay at your desk then a desktop with a decent monitor will be the best choice. If you’ll need to take it home at night, or will travel with it, a laptop is the only suitable choice. You may wish to consider a laptop and a decent desktop monitor; this gives you the freedom of a laptop but the ability to use it like a desktop when you’re in the office.
Who will be using it?
Consider the individuals that will be using your computers. Those less IT savvy may require uncomplicated operating systems whilst more experienced users may be able to use an open-source operating system to save money. Staff with disabilities may need adaptive software or peripherals to enable them to use the computer efficiently. If any of your employees have reduced eyesight they may need a larger monitor in order to work headache-free.
The best hardware is very expensive and is often designed to run cutting-edge programmes. If you are just using computers for email and internet access, you don’t need the latest hardware.
- Hard drive – files are stored on the hard drive, which is generally measured in gigabytes or terabytes (a thousand gigabytes). Text takes up very little space so you won’t need a large hard drive if the computer will mostly be used for dealing with documents. Graphics and video are very data-intensive and require significant hard drive space.
- Memory – otherwise known as RAM, memory is used by computers to store data that is currently being accessed and is most often measured in gigabytes. When you load a program, for example, it is put into memory so you can quickly access it. Insufficient memory is a common cause of computer slowdown and can impact staff productivity. Ensure computers have sufficient memory; as of 2011, around 3-6gb would adequate for most general computing tasks.
- Processor – processors are the computer’s ‘brain’ and are generally measured in gigahertz, although the picture is complicated because processors are often made up of several smaller processors which increase its power but do not increase the gigahertz figure. Most modern processors will be able to handle general computing tasks but if you’re buying computers for intensive activities like graphic design, speak to a dedicated computer company before making a purchase
- Monitor – monitors are unfortunately often overlooked but are one of the most important parts of a computer because the user will be looking at it for significant periods of time. Make sure the monitor is at least 19” diagnolly and offers a refresh rate of above 70Hz. Read our full guide to choosing computer monitors for employees for more information.
Consider what software your business will need. Specialist packages, such as for graphic design or CAD, are often very expensive and will eat into your hardware budget. Operating systems are included in the base cost when buying computers from major manufacturers but may come at additional cost if buying from a less well-known retailer or internet specialist.
Warranty and support
In business environments longer warranties and a fast response to technical issues are extremely valuable services. IT downtime can significantly hit the bottom line so getting back up and running quickly is invaluable. Look for long warranties – over 3 years where possible. The best support services combine remote help (virtual repair, telephone support) and same-day or next-day pickup and return for more serious issues that can’t be fixed remotely.