Shopping for a new computer can be a confusing process. We’ve worked with businesses long enough (over 20 years!) to know there is no one-size-fits all computer option that will work for all business uses. We are a certified reseller of many of the popular brands (Dell, HP, Lenovo, to name a few) and will happily work with you to quote out a computer to fit your needs for you and your business (just email firstname.lastname@example.org to get the conversation moving). If you’re shopping or considering a new computer at all for your business, there are several things you need to consider.
Budget: While you can go down to your local electronics store or big-box store and get a dirt-cheap computer, that computer is going to have some serious limitations that are going to make it a very unpleasant experience for business use. It’s likely going to require some upgrades and additional purchases to make it functional with your network. These upgrades might include:
- Hardware upgrades: The computer might need additional hard drive space or RAM to be able to run your business applications.
- Operating System Upgrades: The dirt cheap computer is going to require an upgrade to the Pro version of the Operating System so it can be part of your Windows domain (generally an additional $100).
- Application Software: Do you need a copy of Microsoft Office because you don’t have an Office 365 subscription? Depending on the version, that can run up to $500.
- Bloatware: Cheaper systems also come with additional bloatware and applications that you don’t need and will undoubtedly slow your system down.
Our general rule of thumb is to budget $1000 for a Desktop and $1500 for a Laptop. With those values in mind, the items below will become an after-thought.
Operating System: If you plan on running Windows in a corporate environment where you have a server, you’ll want to make sure you have the “Pro” version of the operating system installed on your computer. Cheaper computers will generally come with the “Standard” or “Home” versions. You’ll also want to make sure your critical applications are compatible with the version of Windows you’re planning on running (Windows 7, 8, or 10). If you’re having trouble getting Windows 7 computers (which some apps still work best with), let us know as we can still get them.
Form-Factor: Are you looking for a laptop or a desktop? And did you know desktops come in different shapes? Here are a few things to think about:
- Laptops generally come in three styles:
- UltraBooks, which are very light, thin, and portable, but may not be as expandable or as fast as other options. The thinner and more lightweight is generally more expensive.
- Standard Notebooks: Usually the best option for most people as these are getting lighter every day yet still have the expandability and performance options.
- Desktop Replacement: This is a rarely-used style of laptop in a business environment. They have the most options, can sometimes support multiple hard drives and multiple graphics cards and even monitors as large as 18-inches or larger, but these systems are hot and heavy and suck up batteries. They’re meant to be tethered to a desk.
- Desktops can come in a multitude of sizes as well. While each manufacturer might call them different names, here is the basic progression of sizes from largest to smallest (and the smaller you go, the less customizable/expansion/upgrade options you generally have):
- Desktop/Small-Form-Factor (also known as SFF)
- Ultra-Small-Form-Factor (USFF)
So think about your work space, which type of system will work best in your environment and location. Laptops can be purchased with docking stations so that they can replicate the desktop experience (dedicated mouse, monitor, keyboard, etc…) when you’re at the office, but you can then take it home or on the road with you and work with the same machine. But they are more expensive and customization options are limited.
RAM: At the bare minimum, you want 4GB of RAM (aka memory) in your system, preferably 8GB. If you’re running a ton of programs at once or working with large data sets or files, you might bump it up to 16GB of RAM, but 8GB of RAM will work very well for 95% of business users.
Hard Drive: There are two basic hard drive technologies out there that you can purchase, so you’ll want to make sure you’re not comparing just on size any more.
- Mechanical/Rotational Hard Drive: If you see something like “5400 RPM” or “7200 RPM” in the computer’s specifications, that means it’s a mechanical hard drive. Mechanical hard drives have been around for decades and are generally cheaper and available in larger capacities, but they are slower than the next technology on the list.
- Solid State Drive: Solid state drives (also known as a SSD) are incredibly fast. They are much faster than mechanical hard drives and they can speed a computer tremendously by making the upgrade. It used to be that SSDs were a great deal more expensive than mechanical hard drives, but the gap is closing. That being said, there is still a good-size gap in price. SSDs in larger capacities are still quite a bit more expensive. We’ve found if you need the extra space on your local desktop, it’s sometimes better to get the SSD for your boot/application storage drive, and then get a secondary hard drive for your data files (this is where the form-factor discussion above comes into play).
- Update: We actually wrote an article that goes into this difference a bit more in-depth. Click here to check that out.
CPU: CPUs are not the bottle-neck, performance-wise, like they had been the past, and the performance difference between various lines isn’t going to be as noticeable for basic office work. However, we still recommend going with Intel i3, i5, or i7 processors, and avoiding the Pentium Dual Core or Celeron lines of processors. AMD-brand processors are generally cheaper, but don’t perform as well and use more power than equivalent Intel processors. If you’re looking to compare real-world performance among processor lines, you can also put the processor model number into CPUBenchmark and compare.
Warranty: Don’t buy a computer with less than a three-year, next-business-day onsite warranty. You want them to come fix your computer, you don’t want to have to ship the computer back somewhere to get it repaired. Also avoid warranties provided by a third party, as those are always more difficult to get support from versus the warranties provided directly from the manufacturer. There are a couple warranty add-ons you will want to consider when purchasing a new machine.
- Accidental Damage Protection: We generally won’t sell a laptop without this protection. It provides warranty protection for drops, spills and other accidental damage (standard warranties won’t cover this). While it’s not an absolute requirement for desktop systems (it doesn’t add much to the price), we consider it a requirement for laptops that actually leave the desk.
- Defective Media Retention: If you work in a HIPAA-regulated environment, you generally can’t have data leave your location. If you have a hard drive fail in a computer, manufacturers generally require you to send the defective hard drive back to them, generally so they can verify the drive is defective and they can refurbish and resell. That hard drive could contain PHI. This relatively inexpensive coverage makes it so you don’t have to send back the hard drive and deal with potential HIPAA issues.
Brand: We generally will only sell Dell, HP, or Lenovo machines. Why? The three of those companies have been around a while and have good support. If you’re buying a computer for your business, you don’t want to mess around with cheaper brands that then are a pain to support and get replacement parts for. We’re an authorized Dell, HP and Lenovo reseller and can provide quotes for specific models if you’re interested.
Where Are You Buying From?: Is the company that sells you the computer going to stand behind you after the sale or will they disappear? We like to think we have good reasons for folks to buy from us, and have even created a dedicated page on our Website on why you should buy from Weston.
What other things confuse you when shopping for a business PC? Let us help: contact us today!