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With Computers, One Size Does Not Fit All
I’ve been leasing a car through my business for a long time.Every three years, I turn the old one in and get a new one. And every time, as the renewal date approaches, I tell myself, “This year, I’m going to upgrade to the ‘Sport’ model.”
If you’re not familiar, and according to Wikipedia, a Sport model is an upgraded version of a vehicle (I drive a Honda Accord), “designed with an emphasis on dynamic performance, such as handling, acceleration, and top speed.”
It sounds so cool. But then, I come back to Earth and remember that for the couple of miles I drive back and forth to my office, “handling, acceleration, and top speed” are not high on the list. If anything, I’d prefer a car that is quieter on the highway, something a sport model is decidedly not!
Different Needs, Different Options
As part of SMR’s onboarding process with a new client, we define different “user profiles.” Then, based on the work that needs to get done, we provide a recommendation as to how each profile should be configured. Like choosing the best vehicle, one size definitely does not fit all.
For example, an office worker that’s just doing web browsing and using the Microsoft 365 suite (Excel, Outlook, Word, etc.) can probably do just fine with a computer that has an Intel Core i5 processor, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD for storage, and the default graphics capability that comes standard.
But that’s not everyone. We have a financial services client that regularly works with very complex Excel models. Here, an i5 processor might take 30 seconds to recalculate every time a change is made. So, for those that work with these models (not everyone in the company), we recommend a faster processor such as the i7, or even the i9, if a lot more processing power is needed.
Three Factors to Consider
In configuring an appropriate computer, consider three elements:
- Processor. How fast it can calculate something. The more calculation-intensive the need (e.g., statistical modeling, engineering, high-end graphics), the faster the processor should be.
- RAM. This is the computer’s “short term memory” — the workspace it uses to do whatever it needs to do. If the RAM is too small for the task at hand, the computer needs to constantly copy information back and forth between it and the hard drive, slowing things down considerably.
- Drive. A solid state, 256GB drive is adequate for most office workers.
Users involved in graphic-intensive work (video editing, CAD, etc.) may also need something beyond the base level of graphic capabilities.
Avoid the Retail Outlets
Often, companies shop strictly on price, an approach that invariably leads to places like Best Buy, Staples, or Micro Center. However, doing so will almost always result in the purchase of the “Home” version of Windows, rather than the business-optimized “Pro” or “Enterprise” versions.
Using the Home version is problematic, mostly because it does not support the ability to update, monitor, and fix all computers centrally across the organization, a weakness that severely limits your IT staff in keeping your network up-to-date, secure, and optimized.
We also strongly recommend against purchasing computers from Amazon. We’ve purchased supposedly new Dell laptops and have experienced a higher than average failure rate combined with difficulties getting support.
Stick With the “Big Three”
Dell, Lenovo, and HP are the major players in this space; each has multiple product lines broken into “consumer” and “business” categories. You’ll have a much more positive experience if you purchase from the business side.
Business computers are more “supportable.” They are designed to be maintained, and if you need to get inside one to make a change or correction, it is much easier to do.
Match the Warranty to the Machine
Desktops and laptops lead very different lives.
A desktop is moved infrequently and typically lives “out of the way” — under a desk or in another protected area. Laptops, of course, are subject to much more abuse. They are carried back and forth to meetings, tossed in car trunks, dropped, spilled on, and subject to a wide variety of food detritus.
When it comes to warranties, desktops generally need just standard protection against failure (drives, system boards, etc.). Laptops require a stronger level of coverage, what is generally known as “accidental damage.”
At first glance, it may seem that things are working just fine with your organization’s computers.
In practice, however, you may have some users who are less productive than they might otherwise be due to machines that are too slow, small, or outdated, and other instances where you are buying and maintaining equipment that is more expensive than necessary.
Overall, you will avoid headaches and save money if you take the time to match and configure the computers within your organization to the needs and work habits of your employees.