Whether your business operates from a single PC, or your company has hundreds of desktops, you’ve faced the challenge of finding “everything you need, and nothing you don’t”. Buying the wrong computers at the wrong time (especially in bulk) can be a tremendously costly mistake; but all businesses are different, so it’s hard to nail down absolute rules. Here are a few thoughts that should guide you as you shop around for your next upgrade.
Don’t get more than you need
If your company is big enough to employ an IT staff, they probably have all sorts of suggestions (like a kid in a candy store), but only you can decide what your business really needs. If you do a lot of complex calculations (like statistical analysis or modeling), edit video or render 3D graphics, then top-of-the-line, current-generation processors and graphics cards are your best bet; but if your company only uses your computers for basic functions like email, presentations, and payment processing, you might even consider replacing some PCs with tablets. For a compromise option, check out a mid-range processor from Intel or AMD, with 6-8 gigs of memory and a built-in graphics card.
Also consider portability—while laptops may seem like the chic business accessory to have, it usually makes more financial sense to equip in-house employees with desktops. You can routinely find desktops with the same capabilities as a high-end laptop for half or even one-third the price—and they’re much easier to upgrade when they start to slow down.
Look beyond desktops and laptops
Many companies are changing how they look at computers in the work-place: offices that issued laptops in the past are switching to high-end tablets; they’re cheaper, much more portable, and customizable to a company’s needs. If your company has a lot of employees that don’t do processor-intensive work, look into installing terminals.
Terminals are bare-bones computers that use a network interface and a centralized server to perform most functions like emailing or word processing. Terminals range from $200-$400, and while cheap, are very limited in their capabilities and require high-end servers and an IT staff to manage them. Terminals can save large companies money, but likely will be more hassle than they are worth for smaller businesses. Most companies will offer tech support with a purchase, so look into the quality and language training of their support staff to see if it will be beneficial for you or your employees.
Don’t skimp on security
Whether it comes in the form of employee or customer tampering, or corporate espionage, you’ll want to ensure whatever computer you get is as secure as possible. Investing in trusted anti-virus software will be essential, especially if you have multiple computers networked together. One infected computer could bring down your entire operation if you fail to make sure all your computers are virus-free. Internal security measures are also a good idea to protect especially sensitive programs like your budget software and payroll system. If you have mobile computers, like laptops or tablets, make sure you have bought software or apps that will allow you to remotely access them—and carefully train employees to password-protect and lock their devices.
When you’re looking at an upgrade, don’t just buy what you need for the moment—think about the expanding needs of your business, and the reliable advance of computing power over time. Hard drive space, for example, gets cheaper every day, and it’s modular, so you don’t need to worry about buying a lot up-front; but for things like processor power and RAM, an underequipped computer will only get worse. Crashes, lack of memory, and more will all be more common, and you’ll lack the flexibility to adopt new business software that outstrips your obsolete computers’ capacity. Downtime for a computer means potential downtime for your employees, so make sure they have something that will get their job done the way it needs to be done.