Where do I buy a business PC?
If you’re working with an IT partner, like Lean On Me I.T., purchasing a new PC through them may have benefits over purchasing directly from a manufacturer or retailer. Working with an IT partner, ensures you select the best equipment for your business needs and can potentially streamline the setup and implementation. It may also be possible to save money through your IT partner. At Lean On Me I.T., our partnerships with global distributors and manufacturers, like Dell, enable us to get computers and accessories at a lower cost than the average business can.
What's special about a business PC?
A lot of small business owners will just go to Best Buy or Amazon to buy a PC. They may see it as convenient or may even find a computer at a consumer retailer is cheaper than purchasing a business PC due to a special/promotion. When you buy a computer from a retailer like Best Buy, you are purchasing something designed for personal use which may not have the same quality hardware, warranty term/coverage or version of Windows. Even accessories like computer monitors differ from a personal model and a business model, with the business models built to be used 8+ hours a day vs 2-3.
It can be difficult to see the physical differences between personal and business PC’s, but business PC’s are generally built with higher quality hardware. A business PC is built to be used all day every day for anywhere from two to seven years while a personal PC is built to be used 2-3 hours a day for one to two years.
Most computers purchased from a consumer retailer will come with a 1 year limited warranty, while some may only be 6 months or less. All Windows computers purchased by Lean On Me I.T., on your behalf, will come with a minimum of a 3 year warranty with the option to extend up to 5 years. There is also the option to add accidental coverage, which is a great thing to consider for laptops.
Windows Home vs Pro
Most personal computers come with Windows Home, while business computers will come with Windows Pro. There are a number of key differences, but the most meaningful to most businesses has to do with user management and maintaining company control of your devices. With Windows Home the user will have to setup their own user tied to their personal email. This can become a challenge if you need access to the machine when they are on vacation or when they leave your company. If they leave, or are terminated, and you don’t have their password, you can be locked out of your own company computer. With Windows Pro, you’re able to link the computer to an active directory server or to your business Microsoft 365 account with Azure AD to manage users at a company level. This company level management ensures you always have access to your company equipment.
Computer specs, what do I need to know?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when considering the type of computer and its specs. The first step is to decide whether you want a desktop or a laptop, but even within those two categories there are a world of options. The physical properties of a computer are going to depend heavily on the role you need the machine for, but the performance specs are something that are a little easier to generalize and walk through. When evaluating specs for a computer there are four main categories to consider, the processor, RAM, video card and storage.
When reviewing machines there are two processor manufacturers you’ll see Intel & AMD. For business computers Intel is the majority leader by a large margin. AMD processors are mainly geared towards personal devices with gaming being where they shine the most. When looking at Intel processors you’ll find four core types. I3, I5, I7 & I9. I would encourage you to stay away from I3 processors completely due to their lack of performance and it’s very uncommon for a business role to require the power of an I9, leaving the I5 & I7 for us to dig into. Both the I5 & I7 will serve most business needs, so I generally look at it in terms of lifespan. Although an I5 will do most business tasks sufficiently today, you’ll likely need to upgrade within 2-3 years. An I7 will often be more then you need today, but will allow you to get 5-7 years out of a PC before needing to upgrade. Often times the cost difference between an I5 and an I7 is ~$100 or less, so I encourage most clients to get an I7.
Discussing RAM can sound very similar to a discussion of an I5 vs I7 processor. Most basic business roles can operate without issue with 8GB of RAM, however upgrading to 16GB will ensure their PC doesn’t get bogged down when they have a lot open at once and will allow for a longer lifespan before needing to upgrade. Even roles that only operate in a web browser can benefit from 16GB of RAM as browsers like Google Chrome can use a lot of RAM. Furthermore the price difference between a PC with 8GB and one with 16GB is minimal. Some specialty roles, like those dealing with CAD, graphic design or video editing may benefit from more RAM, in which case 32GB and even 64GB become options.
Most business PC’s don’t come with a dedicated video card nor is there a need for the average business user. However, if the machine will be used for CAD, video editing, or something similar you may want to look for a PC with a dedicated video card. In these cases, your software vendor will often tell you what their recommendations are, making it easier to narrow down your search.
SSD’s are commonplace these days, however not all SSD’s are created equal. Any PC you select, whether desktop or laptop should come with an M.2 SSD, if not you should move on. Furthermore, there are different M.2 performance standards, but even the lowest end M.2 SSD is over 6 time faster than your older SSD’s and 25 times faster than your old fashioned spinning disk hard drive (HDD). Your higher performance business PC’s come with M.2 SSD’s that are over 40 times faster than an old fashioned HDD.
At Lean On Me I.T., we generally recommend saving money on storage and purchasing a PC with as little as 250GB. This is more than enough for Windows and any programs you need to install, but you should be saving your files elsewhere. Depending on your business, you may want to save your files in the cloud on OneDrive or SharePoint (which are included with Microsoft 365) or on a file sever in your office that is backed up. This practice not only saves you money on PC purchases, but more importantly ensures that if something does happen to your PC that your data is not lost.
What about Mac's?
You may be asking, why is everything about selecting a Windows PC? By no means am I telling you that Mac’s shouldn’t exist in your business. The fact is, some people are used to Mac’s in their personal life and forcing them onto a PC could make them less efficient. However, it’s important that Mac’s are implemented differently and that you know that Mac’s will not integrate as seamlessly with your user management method, file servers, and many applications.
The great things about a Mac
Before I get into telling you the downfalls of a Mac in business, it’s worth highlighting the positive attributes. The first thing that many people will notice about a Mac is the build quality is exceptional. Whether it be a Macbook or one of the Mac desktop options, they are built well and you can count on them lasting for years. Mac OS also has strict guidelines for software developers, which helps to minimize vulnerabilities through installed applications. The operating system is also built to be intuitive, leading to higher efficiency & productivity. All of these things make a Mac a great computer for personal use, but there are some core reasons that it becomes more challenging in business.
Threat protection challenges
Have you ever heard that Mac’s can’t get viruses? Well it’s not true! This mentality came about partially as a joke and partially due to the low percentage of the market that Apple has historically made up. Since so few of the devices out there were Mac, threat actors simply didn’t go after them as often. However with Apple’s market share rising, threats are beginning to target Mac’s more and more. Apple did begin providing some threat protection natively, however in business your out of the box anti-virus solution is never enough. Although all of the industry leaders in the threat protection space now support Mac’s to some degree, it does come with limitations. As an example some threats that can be automatically removed on a PC may require manual human intervention on a Mac. This process means that the threat is going to have access to the machine and potentially your business network longer until someone can take care of it, which puts other systems at risk.
User Management and Device Ownership
In the section above talking about Windows Home vs Pro, I mentioned the ability to manage users at a business level to ensure administrative access to your company devices and prevent the ability for an employee to lock you out of your own computers. Unfortunately, since Mac’s are designed primarily for personal use and Apple and Microsoft don’t like playing together, Mac’s do not support integrating into these services. This means that your employee will need to setup their own user and will have control over the machine, which is a risk for you. There are some best practices that can help mitigate this as well as some add on subscriptions that allow an organization to manage Mac devices more effectively, however this can become overly complex or cost prohibitive for some small businesses.
Although most common software is fully compatible with Mac’s these days, there are still many business applications that are not. If you determine that you’d like to purchase a Mac for your team, it’s important to review the software you use in your business to ensure you’re team won’t run into any challenges. If you’ve got a file server for your office, it’s important to verify that it’s fully up to date and supporting the latest SMB standard (which you should do regardless for performance & security), but also understand that Mac users will interact with your file server differently and it may not be as efficient of a process for them.
Warranty, Repair & Upgrades
Apple’s standard warranty is 1 year, although they do offer Apple Care plans to extend their coverage. This is an important thing to consider since Mac’s will often already cost more then their PC equivalent. If your Mac stops working and needs repair, no matter the issue, it will have to go to an Apple repair location, which may require shipping your device off. Upgrades will be limited or not an option at all. On most Mac models, the RAM and storage are not replaceable or upgradable. Apple markets their devices hoping that you’ll buy new products each year as they release new models.
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