One of the most common questions we get asked is “What is a good computer to buy?” That is a loaded question and varies greatly depending on what the computer will be used for. Most people also seem to get confused with certain hardware components in terms of what the component does, as well as looking at systems side by side where they seem similar but the price varies greatly. We have created a guide that will help you choose the right type of computer for your business.
Windows or Mac or Linux?
This is the starting point for most people. By now your preference has likely been made as to the platform for which you prefer.
Windows computers are the most common computers used in business due to their wide ranging software compatibility. Almost all software is designed to work on a Windows computer, especially when it comes to business applications.
Macs are most common with consumers, home users and in creative industries. For a long time, if you work involved anything around graphics, content creation, video, etc, then a Mac was the way to go. However, in recent years, the Windows PC world has blurred the line and you can purchase a Windows computer with plenty of power to meet your creative needs.
Linux systems are the rarest used of the three operating systems. Unless you are extremely techy or have a very specific need, a Linux system is likely not a good fit for your business. Most business software is not compatible to run on Linux systems and since most people have never used a Linux system, there will be a big learning curve.
How Do You Plan to Use the Computer?
Will the computer be running your business applications? If so, we recommend checking hardware requirements with your software vendor(s). Software providers always provide a minimum and recommended specs to run their software. If you are running multiple pieces of software on a computer, then you have to look at all system requirements to help you determine what you need. For example, lets say you are going to run Microsoft Office and Quickbooks desktop version. Both Office and Quickbooks require 1GB of RAM, so your computer will need at least 2GB of RAM to run this software.
Anyone using computers for graphical work such as photo editing, video editing, content creation, etc will require a higher powered computer since this type of work is demanding on CPU/Processor and RAM.
Also consider how you work on a PC. Are you a multi-tasker and run multiple applications at the same time? For instance, do you leave your Outlook open for email, stay logged into Quickbooks and have a web browser open to surf the internet? The more applications you run simultaneously, the more power you will need in the computer. If this describes you, consider yourself a power user.
What is Your Budget?
You always want to get the most bang for your buck, so understanding how you will use the computer and what you need to have good performance will help you choose a system that meets the hardware requirements and fits your budget.
Common Components Explained
Here is a breakdown of common components in computers and how they affect performance on your computer.
CPU/Processor – This is the brain of the system. The CPU processes all of your commands, crunches data and really is key indicator of system performance. We always recommend Intel processors and most commonly Intel Core i3, i5, or i7 processors, with the i5 processor being our most common. Intel Xeon processors are typically used in servers and high end workstations (high powered graphical systems).
Processors also have a speed rating in Ghz. Of course the higher the number in Ghz the faster, but the reality is this – a 3.0 Ghz processor vs 3.2Ghz processor will have milliseconds of difference. It is better to check how many ‘cores’ the processor has. Today, most computers have at least 2 cores, but faster computers will contain 4, 6 or 8 cores. Think of cores like additional processors. The more cores, the faster your performance and ability to handle running more applications simultaneously.
RAM/Memory – People often get this confused with hard drive capacity as both are measured in GB. RAM/Memory does not store any data permanently, but rather is the operating memory of your computer as you work. When you open a program such as Outlook, Outlook is using RAM to run and then when you send/receive email, the CPU is accessed. The more RAM you have in the computer, the more applications you will be able to run simultaneously while maintaining performance. We recommend at least 8GB of RAM for any business computer.
Hard Drive – The hard drive is what stores your data. Your Operating System, such as Windows gets installed and stored there. Any software you install is also stored on the hard drive. In a business environment, the capacity is typically not as important since most data should be stored on a server. Storage for hard drives is measured in gigabytes (GB) or terabytes (TB). 1TB = 1000GB. If you need to store a bunch of files, then you want a larger hard drive.
Hard drives can also affect performance. SSD hard drives have significantly boosted system performance, so we always recommend SSD hard drives. SSD drives have become much more affordable in recent years, but can still carry a higher cost if you need a higher capacity.
Video Cards – For most people, the built video card such as the Intel HD Graphics is more than sufficient. However, if you process photos, videos, are a gamer, etc, then you want to get a computer with a graphics card. Graphics cards can also enable you to run multiple monitors.
Warranty – For business computers, we recommend purchasing a computer with a 3-5 year warranty to ensure you can get replacement parts for the life cycle of the computer. Technology moves fast, so you should always be looking to upgrade your computers every 3-5 years.
As you can see, there are several things to take into consideration when purchasing a new computer. It is always best to consult with a professional to help you navigate the differences between systems.
Here are the specifications for our most commonly recommended computers for business:
Processor/CPU: Intel Core i5
RAM: 8GB RAM
Hard Drive: 256GB SSD
Operating System: Windows 10 Professional
Warranty: 3 years