Office computers can be a fun purchase, but with so many choices and so much marketing hype, it’s easy to get carried away and spend more than you need to.
So before you even begin looking at options, identify what you need. That’s true whether you’re buying computers for the first time or upgrading your current system. How many of your employees need their own computers? Do you also want shared computer stations? What sort of memory and processing speeds do your employees require? What about monitor size and resolution?
Once you understand how many computers you need and the functions they must perform, you can consider whether your needs will best be met with desktop computers, laptops, tablets or a combination of the three.
- Desktops may cost less than laptops for a comparable amount of computing power. High-end desktops can be more powerful and offer more storage capacity than high-end laptops. They are usually easier to upgrade and you can attach any size and resolution monitor you want. But desktops take up space and they can’t easily be carried around the office, to client meetings, to your home, or on trips.
- Laptops can cost more and may have less computing power, but they offer far greater flexibility for the employees who use them. With laptops, your staff can work from home or on the road or make multimedia presentations at client’s offices. Laptops make it easier to collaborate in the office. Laptops can also plug into a monitor or other peripherals, allowing flexibility while still functioning like a desktop.
- Tablets are becoming increasingly sophisticated, with faster processors, higher resolution screens and less weight than their predecessors. With a vast array of apps available, these mobile devices can perform many of the functions of traditional computers. They can be especially useful for such things as presentations, generating estimates and taking payments while outside the office. However, they have a limited capacity for word processing and other traditional office tasks.
- While they’re no match for a full function computer, smartphones may be a good computer alternative for employees who need access to email, calendars and certain specific software but don’t otherwise require a computer. For example, an employee who works hourly in the field could communicate with the office and with customers, access email and record time worked via smartphone, making it easy for the employee to stay in touch and saving you the cost of a computer.
Price is likely to be a major concern. A good rule of thumb is to avoid buying more than you need in terms of features like processor speed, graphics cards and memory. If your employees only perform basic word processing functions, they can get by with a relatively basic computer. But if you are working with video or complex data, you’ll need better graphics and processing capabilities and a higher-end monitor.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to buy the same computer for every employee. One employee may do well with a basic laptop while another may require a desktop model with a fast processor and high-end monitor. Buying the computer each employee—or employee group—needs can help you avoid overspending while still ensuring everyone has the right setup for the work they do.
Here are other tips for designing and choosing a computer system:
- Talk to your employees about the work they do and their computing requirements. You may be surprised at what you learn.
- Get recommendations from an IT professional who has experience working with companies your size and in your industry.
- Make sure all your computers and devices are able to synch with one another, so employees can access information and perform functions such as invoicing and estimating from remote locations.
- If you are considering mixing Apple computers and PCs in your office, make sure you have resolved compatibility issues and that essential software will work on both platforms.
- Consider how often you’ll want to upgrade and how costly that will be. In general, desktop computers are easier to access and upgrade than laptops.
- Make sure your server can grow in capacity as your company grows.
- You should be storing your data in the cloud or on a server or external device. That means that you don’t need to pay for extra memory on your individual computers.
Choosing a computer system is all about assessing your needs and making a plan – before you go shopping. A well thought out computer system will help you avoid costly impulse purchases and will give your employees the features and computing power they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently.