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How to pick the right PC for your business

October 11, 2011

There can be few businesses left that don’t need a reliable PC on a day-to-day basis – especially as more and more business involves email and the internet in some way.

PCs change so quickly it can be a scary process researching and buying a new one. Here is a handy non-technical guide to the main issues to consider, before you part with your cash.

What will you use a new PC for

What exactly are you going to use your PC for? Is it really just to do your accounts and read your email? Or do you think you will be playing the latest graphics-intensive games during your lunch break?

Many people either over or under estimate the uses they’ll have for their PC, especially if it has been a while since they bought a new machine. Make a list of the things you need to do, and the things you’d like to do. This will make your other choices easier.

How long will you keep it

With a little care and attention, the average PC should easily last three years, if not longer. Most PCs are replaced because of new software requirements, rather than because the hardware has failed. If you anticipate your main software needing to be updated regularly, it’s better to buy cheaper PCs that you can afford to replace more regularly.

Brand name

A few years ago, the only way to guarantee reliability was to get a brand name PC. Now it’s possible to buy a PC from a company you’ve never heard from, and get many years of happy service from it.

Worldwide standards have risen sharply as prices have dropped. At the same time, look at the support and infrastructure of the company you are buying from. Will they still be around in a few years time to offer updates and other support for your PC?

Laptop or desktop PC

Laptops are fully portable and take up less space, but tend to be more expensive for a lesser performance than desktops. Look back at your usage list – if you only use the PC at work, get a desktop and hide it under a desk. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it’s easier to upgrade desktops than laptops, as there is more room in the box to play with.

Processor speed

The processor is the brains inside your computer. It’s a chip which is measured by the amount of power it has and how fast it is. Don’t worry too much about this, the processors are so fast these days that you virtually can’t go wrong for everyday business use. Just ask whoever is selling you your PC if it’s a relatively modern chip.

Memory

This is more important to worry about than the processor. The bigger the memory, the faster your computer will be. That’s because it has more space to think, so can perform tasks faster. A good rule of thumb is to buy as much memory as you can afford… being stingy here will slow down everything else. Extra memory is easy to buy and add to most PCs – there’s a free tool to check your PC here.

Disc space

Your hard disc is where you keep all your information, including all programs and files. Again, these days you don’t need to worry too much about this. Most new hard discs are huge, and it’s relatively cheap and easy to buy extra hard discs which can plug into your PC by USB. The low cost of USB memory sticks and DVDs/CDs has also made storage cheap and easy.

Do you really need a new mouse

One way to keep the cost of your new PC down is to look at everything that is bundled with it. Many new PCs, especially those sold in shops, come with a new screen, mouse, free printer etc. Do you really need all of these? Your old accessories will fit your new PC… and remember the new ones are not really free, you’re paying for them in the overall bundle price. By sticking with your old accessories, you’re saving money and the environment!

Do you really need all that software

Just as with accessories, many new PCs come bundled with a load of software. You probably don’t need it and won’t use most of it. Your PC only needs Windows to work, plus any software you use on a daily basis – probably Outlook for email, Word to write documents, Excel for spreadsheets etc. If you already have licences for these, why pay for them again?

You will need updated programs if your old ones are several years old. Sometimes you can pay for an update rather than whole new software. And there is plenty of free software available that will replace these programs, such as OpenOffice.

Where to buy

If you know what you’re doing or exactly which PC you want, the internet is the cheapest way to get one. You can easily control exactly what you buy and get the best price. Try Misco who have a wide range of PCs from different brand names to choose from.

If you’re in a rush or need help, then a chain or a local shop will be able to help. Be aware prices will be a little higher as you’re paying for the help and increased overheads. Plus the chain stories may try to bundle lots of extras in that you don’t really need, or sell you a support contract that might not be 100% right for your business.

Disposing of your old PC

Not only do you need to make sure all private data is totally removed (not just deleted), but there are new laws affecting how you dispose of old equipment like PCs. The business that sells you a new PC should be able to advise or help you out.