My Computer is so old, you need a stamp to send an email!

8:45am – Morning meeting at Joseph Bloggs & Co.

“Good Morning Team! The first thing that I would like to discuss is our computer systems. As we know, they are quite old and running slow and is having an impact on our day-to-day working. Management has decided to update the systems with new ones and has seen an amazing deal at PC World(or Currys or other electronics shop) on PC’s (and/or laptops) which we think are great value and are more than suitable for the type of work that we do here. We will be getting them in the next couple of weeks and getting them set up for you…”(Team have smiles on their faces as they are getting new and better equipment to work on – yay!)

*6 months later*

“Why is this damn thing running so slow?! It’s taking forever to load! Oh for f**** sake! It’s just crashed again! It wants to do another update?! It just updated yesterday!!”

Lost time due to computer equipment issues can be detrimental to the productivity of your workforce, customer service as well as loss of income.

Does any of that sound familiar? Maybe a colleague or friend even suggested to go to a local big electronics retailer to buy new PC’s and/or laptops for your business? The painful truth is that a lot of small to medium sized businesses, who don’t have a dedicated IT team or outsourced IT Team (Managed Service Provider – MSP) tend to go down this route when it comes to upgrading and updating their IT equipment. The thinking being that “…a PC is just a PC and a laptop is just a laptop. As long as it does what I need it to do then it will be fine. Plus it’s cheap as they currently have a deal on” (That statement alone is just asking for a world of trouble down the line.) We all know that the budget for new equipment is a big factor in deciding when to buy and where to buy.

A: “Ok wiseguy! Tell me why I shouldn’t go to a big electronics retailer to get my IT equipment? After all, they are the experts!”

B: “But are they though?”

A: “Well they wouldn’t be as big as they are if they didn’t know a thing or two about computer equipment.”

It is correct that big electronics retailers, such as PC World, have got to be very big because of their expertise in the field of electronics, but in my own opinion, the expertise is not what it is now compared to, say 10 years ago.

The process they tend to follow for resolving any issues with your PC or laptop involve a procedure to diagnose (as you would expect), then a flow chart is followed to identify the issue i.e. does it do this? If so, this is the problem and replace X. The problem with this approach is that the issue with your laptop could be caused by different components and if X is changed and the problem still persists, then something else would need to be changed to rectify the problem. This then becomes an exercise to replace until fixed instead of accurately pinpoint the issue and resolve. Therefore, it can swiftly become more expensive to repair your 12 month old laptop than it cost you to buy.

Full disclosure – Not ALL big electronics retailers work in this way. In fact, (and I am in no way a fan of Apple – again, personal preference), when you go to the Apple store and speak to the “Apple Geeks”, they know their sh*t. Their knowledge of Apple products and how to resolve issues with them is top notch.

Today, the budget computer industry is booming, purely because the computers are cheap and they offer some shiny features to entice you i.e. Touchscreen, a low cost and low capacity Solid State Drive etc. The tech industry has developed massively in recent years and the industry has identified markets to cater to the consumer (keyword – consumer) and offer cheaper alternatives in terms of specification and use. But the consumer is a different type of person compared with the business user.

If you were to go and buy a PC or laptop for personal use i.e. internet browsing, emails, occasional word processing or creating a spreadsheet for your home budget etc., maybe playing the occasional candy crush game (do people still do that?!) – you catch my drift – basically, not using the machine for longer than 2-3 hours at a time – then by all means, hop over to PC World, choose your machine, ask the sales rep all the questions you need and walk away with your brand new PC or laptop.

At this point, after explaining the above, you might even turn around to me and say,“Well, those are pretty much all the activities that my business does so why isn’t it still a viable option to buy a PC or laptop from PC World?” (If you are playing Candy Crush at work then you seriously need to have a word with yourself!

So this now leads me to delve deeper in to the more technical side of choosing a PC or laptop. *Groan!* and *Eye Roll* followed by “I don’t know much about computers”. As a business, to be absolutely brutally honest, it is in your best interests to know. So let me help you. Let me give you a few pointers and advice on how to choose the right PC or Laptop for your business.

Before I delve, let me explain why it matters whether you use a consumer class PC/Laptop or a Business class PC/Laptop: –

1. Consumer class PC’s/Laptops tend to have less powerful CPU’s e.g. Intel’s Pentium, Celeron, Atom ranges. With less powerful CPU’s come less robust and cheaper internal components such as the motherboard. As a result, consistent extended use can cause the components to overheat and fail which may not be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

2. Consumer PC’s/Laptops are not built to last. They only really have a life expectancy of around 3 years – less if you use it for extended periods of time.

3. Business class PC’s/Laptops have much better quality internal components that can handle consistent extended use with ease. Typically, a PC/Laptop in a work environment is used for 8+ hours per day versus 2-4 hours for a consumer PC/Laptop. That is a lot of hours and a lot of strain you are putting on the machine.

4. The life expectancy of a Business class PC/Laptop can be up to 5 years with heavy use.

5. The specification on Business class PC’s/Laptops tend to be much higher and geared towards performing numerous tasks simultaneously.

6. Extended warranty on a Business class PC/Laptop can cover more than on a consumer version. The warranties also give the option for next day onsite repair, parts replacement and accidental damage. It is always wise to buy the extended warranty for the PC/Laptop’s for your business otherwise getting any faults fixed, especially if a new part is needed, can be quite costly.

Let’s go with the pointers

We are going to assume the following: –

1. You are looking to replace the computers for your business.

2. You have had them for over 5 years

3. You are using the computer for around 8 hours per day (a typical workday) and using the typical application packages e.g. Microsoft Office, PDF reader/editor, email application, internet browser, a specialist accounting package, CRM software package and maybe another specialist software package specifically for your business and doesn’t rely on having a powerful graphics card of some sort e.g. for editing videos, pictures, rendering etc.

4. You are finding that the number of times that you are experiencing issues is steadily increasing.

5. The time it takes to complete regular tasks i.e. opening an application, saving a document or spreadsheet, accessing emails, is taking longer and longer.

6. Running Windows 7 or earlier, or running Windows 10 upgraded from Windows 7 (i.e. the computer came loaded with Windows 7 and then was upgraded to Windows 10)

I will do my best to keep this as simple as possible with very little tech speak and I will try my best to explain any tech speak.

Gaze in to your Crystal Ball and look to the future

In order to find the PC or laptop that is most suitable for you and your business, you first and foremost need to consider your business goals for the next 5 years. Your business goals will play a vital role in deciding what computer equipment is best for you. The last thing you want is to invest in new computer equipment then find that it is not up to the job following an anticipated growth in your business. Your business goals may include one or a combination of but not limited to: –

1. Plans to expand/reduce the number of employees

2. Switching software packages based on business activity e.g. you may switch your CRM software to a competitor because of the added benefits

3. Plans to expand offices

4. Move to cloud based working

5. Addition of new software

6. Expansion of services to what you are currently offering e.g. you might be a cleaning company that offers cleaning services to commercial customers but plan to expand in to offering cleaning services in the construction industry.

Once you know what your business goals are for the next 5 years, then we can consider the specification of the computer equipment that you need. The specification of the equipment that you need can be broken down in to 4 main factors.

Factor 1 – What brand is it and is it a consumer or business class PC or laptop?

1.1. Each different brand has models catered towards the consumer market and the business market.

1.2. VaraTech works with only 3-4 leading manufacturers (Dell, Lenovo, HP and Terra) so therefore I will be discussing these. The reason we have picked these particular brands is because they give us a broad enough range of options to offer our clients, are the most reliable in terms of quality and offer excellent support.

1.3. The 2 most prominent indicators of whether the computer you are looking at is most likely a consumer or business class machine are

1.3.1. The Central Processing Unit (CPU – i.e. the brain – but it is not always the case).

1.3.2. The installed version of Windows. All business class PC’s/Laptops will have Windows 10 PRO installed. Consumer class tend to have the HOME version.

Factor 2 – What kind of CPU has it got – The brain?

The CPU (Central Processing Unit) or the “brain” of the computer will determine whether or not it is capable of performing the tasks you need to accomplish on a daily basis.

2.1 The performance of the CPU is classified by: –

2.1.1. The manufacturer
I always recommend Intel processors to my clients. But not just any Intel processors. I recommend Intel’s “Core i” range. (Intel Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7. There is a Core i9 but that is more for gaming or graphics heavy applications.) You may have heard or seen the Intel Atom, Intel Celeron and Intel Pentium ranges. These I would stay away from as they are less powerful and tend to be geared towards the consumer rather than the business user. Core i3 tends to be for light use computer users, Core i5 tends to be for moderate use computer users, Core i7 for high use computer users and for comparative purposes, Core i9 for heavy use/gamers/AutoCad users.

2.1.2. The GigaHertz (GHz) – speed of the processor.
Typically, the higher the GHz, the faster it will perform tasks. On average, you want to be looking at processors that are 2.0GHz to 3.0GHz

2.1.3. The number of “cores”.
The term “cores” refers to how many individual “brains” the CPU has. Typically, the more cores a CPU has, the more tasks the CPU can perform at any given time. You can get CPU’s that are single core and anywhere up to 18 cores. Laptop CPU’s typically have 2 cores (Dual Core). PC’s on the other hand typically tend to be 4 cores (Quad Core). To make this simpler for you – 2 cores (Dual core) for a laptop or 4 cores (Quad core) for a PC, is more than plenty for your needs. Once you start going to 6 cores and above, you start looking at more specialised PC’s and Laptops.

RECOMMENDED – For a business user, I would always recommend a Core i5 processor with 2.0GHz or above with either a Dual (2) Core or Quad (4) Core capability.

Factor 3 – How much memory aka RAM (Random Access Memory) do I need?

The memory of a PC or laptop is very loosely based on the human short term memory. By this I mean that in the same way that your brain carries out 100’s of tasks every day with or without your knowledge, only a small percentage of the tasks are then stored to your long term memory. The memory in your computer allows you to carry out multiple tasks until you decide to hit the “Save” button and commit it to the hard drive (long term memory)

3.1. Computer RAM is measured in Gigabytes (GB). The higher the number of GB, the more tasks that can be performed without impacting the speed of the machine. The memory works in tandem with the CPU so that it can process everything you are doing quickly and efficiently.

3.2. RAM sizes (now) typically range from 4GB to 16GB on PC’s and laptops. They can go higher but that’s when you start looking at specialised computers and servers for example.

3.2.1. As a rule of thumb, 4GB memory should be the absolute bare minimum. However, with advances in tech, the new standard is swiftly becoming 8GB as a minimum.

RECOMMENDED – For a business, I would always recommend 8GB as a minimum with the option to upgrade if necessary.

Factor 4 – What size hard drive (Long term memory)?

The hard drive of your computer is your long term memory. When you hit that “Save” button, you are committing that file to the long term memory to be retrieved later.

There are a 2 main types of hard drives for your computer – Hard Disk Drive (HDD for short and is also known as a “mechanical” drive as it has moving parts) and Solid State Drive (SSD for short and doesn’t have any moving parts. I use the following comparison crudely and loosely but it is almost like a big memory card).

N.B. There are more than 2 types of Hard Drives e.g. for servers, for CCTV, for backing up but we are going to concentrate on what is best for your business computer.

4.1. Hard Disk Drives (HDD’s) are slowly being phased out. They are not dead yet and still have a use in the business world today. They come in 2 physical sizes 3.5” and 2.5”. The 3.5” are used in PC’s and have options for higher storage capacity. The 2.5” are mainly used in laptops. Their storage capacity tends to top out at 2TB. You can use a 2.5” drive in a PC provided the PC supports it. HDD’s are great because they offer high storage capacities so you can store huge files without having to worry about running out of space any time soon. The downside is that because they are mechanical and have moving parts, they are susceptible shock and failure as a consequence. The speed at which they work to access files and load applications is also another downside. Compared with Solid State Drives, they are much slower.

4.2. Solid State Drives (SSD’s) are swiftly becoming the norm. The 2 main reasons for this are the speed at which they function and the reliability of them. SSD’s can work at least 2x faster than HDD’s and because there are no moving parts, it makes them less susceptible to failure. That is not to say that they won’t fail as they can and they will; it is that there is less of a risk of failure. The downside with SSD’s is that firstly, they can be quite expensive compared with HDD’s. They are coming down in price as the manufacturers are opting to put them in computer systems as standard rather than an optional upgrade. The other downside is that the capacity of SSD’s is not quite that of HDD’s. SSD’s typically come in (or slight variations of) 128GB, 250GB, 512GB, 1TB sizes. The 128GB and 256GB have really come down in price and the 512GB are slowly coming down too. The 1TB on the other hand is very expensive at around £200 at the lower end. The physical size of them is 2.5”. There are other types of SSD’s based on new technology and size, but for now, I am discussing the 2.5” version.

4.3. The other types of SSD’s that would be relevant to a Business class PC/Laptop are

4.3.1. NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory express) and;

4.3.2. M.2 (Formally called Next Generation Form Factor – NGFF). (There are a couple more but they are not relevant in this instance).

M.2 and NVMe look very similar to a RAM module except the actually store information. The main difference between these two SSD’s are the read and write speeds at which they perform. Typical read and write speeds are :-

HDD – 140MB/s / 120MB/s
SSD/M.2 – 550MB/s / 500MB/s
NVMe – 2000MB/s / 1500MB/s

As you can see, SSD’s/M.2 perform better than a HDD and an NVMe performs better than an SSD/M.2. This is just to show a comparison of the choices that you may encounter when looking for a Business class PC/Laptop.

RECOMMENDED – For a business, I would recommend a Solid State Drive/M.2 with 256GB capacity. You may find that a Business class PC/Laptop with an SSD may have either a 2.5” SSD or the M.2 fitted. If 256GB is not enough storage space, then in a PC, you can have a 256GB SSD as your main drive and then have a high capacity HDD for extra storage space. That way you get the best of both worlds. It may be difficult to do the same with a laptop but it can be done with some selected makes and models.

Anything Else?

Other features that will help make life easier are the USB ports. Most laptops are now fitted with the latest USB 3.0 and 3.1 ports. (They are blue if you want to identify USB 3.0/3.1 from the older USB 2.0, which are black). The reason this is important is when it comes to transferring data to/from a USB stick or an external hard drive. If the USB stick or external hard drive have a USB 3.0/3.1 connection and you plug it in to your USB 3.0/3.1 on your laptop, then you can benefit from transfer speeds of up to 10x faster (USB 3.0) or 20x faster (USB 3.1) compared to USB 2.0.

Everything else is personal/business preference. What I mean by that is the size, colour or even the different types of connectivity features. It’s up to you whether you want your new PC/Laptop to have a HDMI port (although most do have one nowadays) or whether it is black or silver or if you need it to be touchscreen and convert in to a tablet. Maybe you do need your new Business laptops to convert to a tablet so that when you are with a client, you can fill out the necessary paperwork and have them electronically sign to complete the transaction straight away and start the after sales process immediately.

Hallelujah! We are finished!! 

And that’s about it! There you have it, a guide for you to follow when buying new PC’s/Laptops for your business! If you feel that buying the new computers is going to require a big up-front investment, then you would be correct! Every business has a different budget when it comes to investing in new IT equipment. But don’t let the investment amount put you off because the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have done your research, read this guide and will be buying top quality products from a renowned manufacturer should help you feel at ease.

Seriously though, we have a budget that we need to stick to…

If you still have reservations about the amount you need to invest then you don’t have to invest up-front. Speak to us now and we can provide you with your required equipment on lease terms. That way, you can get the benefit of having brand new Business class PC’s/Laptops for your business – with warranty, increased cash flow and you can upgrade at the end of the term. Click here to find out more about leasing your equipment or head to our Contact page now and call us today.