A typical computer’s lifespan is 3 to 5 years and a business computer is no different. Choosing the right model for your needs is an important piece of the puzzle though.
Choose wisely and it could last longer than average. But choose the wrong solution and you could find yourself faced with the need to upgrade within a year or two.
There’s no single “best” computer for every business. It depends on how you use it, what you need it to do, and several other factors. Let’s look at what you need to consider when choosing a small business computer.
The first thing you need to get sorted out is exactly what you’re going to do with your computer. Some applications will need a lot more power than others. You don’t want to buy an under-powered PC but you also don’t need to spend unnecessary money on power you aren’t going to use.
If your computer is used for common business applications like email, internet, word processing, and accounting, you don’t need a lot of power. A mid-range PC will have plenty of memory and processing power to meet your needs now with room to grow.
If you’re doing a lot of calculations or analysis on large amounts of information or you need to be able to edit high-quality images or video, you’ll need a PC with more memory, storage, and processing speed.
One of the most important things to consider is whether you need the portability of a laptop computer. Laptops are more expensive than desktop PCs for equivalent power and they are typically less upgradeable.
They’re also more likely to be damaged, lost, or stolen if they’re being used on the go.
Generally, a desktop PC is the better choice if you don’t need the portability of a laptop. You’ll get more power and the ability to upgrade the computer at a lower cost.
When you start looking at your different options, you’ll see a lot of technical specifications. Things like processor (CPU) speed, RAM, hard drive or SSD storage capacity, and the operating system all vary from one brand and model to another.
You don’t need to become a technical wizard to figure out what’s best but you should at least be aware of what these things are and how they’ll affect the performance of your PC.
One of the most fundamental choices you’ll need to make is whether to get an Apple or a Windows-based PC. Apple computers all use the macOS operating system, which runs completely different software than Windows-based PCs. Most applications are available for both platforms but once you choose one, you’ll be locked into it unless you replace your computer.
The central processing unit (CPU) is the computer’s “brain.” The CPU runs the software you use every day and manages the rest of the components of the computer.
There are two factors to consider when choosing a processor clock speed and number of cores. The clock speed determines how fast it can process information and the number of cores determines how many things it can do concurrently.
Clock speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz). The higher this number is, the faster your PC will operate. Higher clock speeds also use more power though, so if you’re using a laptop it can affect the time you can run on battery power.
Cores act like separate processors. For example, a dual-core CPU can run two processes at the same time and quad-core can run four. More cores means better performance but similar to the clock speed, it can also affect your battery life on a laptop.
There are two types of memory you’ll have to consider RAM and storage.
When you load an application on your computer and start working on a document of some sort, that’s all handled by the RAM. It also runs the operating system and other things the computer needs to do when it’s running.
Having more RAM means you can work on larger projects and have more applications open at once. It will also help speed up the computer by reducing the need to offload things to the slower type of memory, system storage.
System storage is where you save your documents, install applications, and store any other information you have on the PC. It comes in two main forms, hard drives (HD) and solid-state drives (SSD).
Hard drives have spinning platters with a needle that reads the information stored on them. They work much the same as a record player. Solid-state drives have no moving parts, instead, they store information on computer chips.
Hard drives are less expensive than SSDs and come in larger capacities but they’re quite a bit slower. Some higher-end computers have both, an SSD for performance and an HD to store large amounts of information.
The graphics card is responsible for “drawing” everything you see on the computer monitor. If you’re working with video or 3-D graphics of some sort, you’ll need a faster video card with more memory to handle the processing. These cards do all the graphics processing on the video card so the CPU doesn’t have to shoulder the load.
If you’re working with text, browsing the internet, and doing typical office-related tasks, the most basic video cards will be more than adequate.
If you’re using a laptop, it will have a built-in display but you might still want a larger external monitor when you’re using it at your desk. If you are using a desktop PC, you’ll most likely need a separate monitor.
Monitors come in various sizes with a range of resolutions and graphic quality. The monitor is one of the most important components of your computer because you’ll likely be looking at it for hours every day. Make sure you choose a size and display quality that is comfortable to use for long periods.
Most computers have a typical lifespan of 3 to 5 years but you can extend this by upgrading components when you start to outgrow the PC. Things like RAM and storage can be upgraded as you need more memory.
This is one of the biggest differences between a laptop and a desktop computer. Laptops typically have limited upgradability, if any at all, where desktops tend to have more space to add new components. If you choose a computer that has room for expansion, you can add new features when you find you need them instead of paying for them now.
But keep in mind that as technology advances, new features might be available that aren’t compatible with older machines. And newer computers tend to get less expensive over time. By the time your computer is getting a bit long in the tooth, it might be more cost-effective to replace it rather than upgrading it.
The warranty and support is an important feature on business computers, even more than on a home PC. If your business PC goes down, it can bring your business to a stand-still.
Make sure you get at least a one-year manufacturer’s warranty with the computer but longer is better. Ideally, you want to have it covered by a warranty for its expected lifespan. If you plan to replace it every three years and you have a three-year warranty, you shouldn’t be faced with any repair costs during that time.
You may also want to consider a support contract. Computer companies offer support services beyond the hardware to manage things like system security, antivirus protection, backup solutions, and many other things. If you don’t have your own in-house IT team to look after this, outsourcing it can be a good solution.
While you don’t want to over-spend on your business PC, the cheapest option is not necessarily the best computer for small business. Cheap computers often use less reliable components and likely have shorter warranties.
Look for well-known brands that stand behind the PCs they sell. You might spend a bit more than a comparable “white box” (generic) system but you’ll likely end up spending more than the difference to maintain the cheaper system over its life.
Think of your business computer as an investment, not a cost. It’s a tool that makes your business run more efficiently and might even be instrumental in creating the products or services that you sell to your customers.
You can most likely write it off on your taxes, either in part or in full, so there are financial advantages over a typical home PC as well.
Whatever brand, model, and style you settle on, it’s going to be with you for the next several years most likely. Make sure you do your due diligence upfront and choose the model that’s going to meet all your needs over that time.
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