How to choose the right computer for your business

Shopping for a new computer can be like trying to buy a new car in a foreign language. You like the way it looks and feels, but the list of hardware and features makes no sense. How do you know if you’re getting the best product for your hard-earned dollar?

Sales can be alluring, but often computers go on sale because they house older hardware and technology. Something that will be slow, costing you time and money, isn’t worth the sale price. Ideally, you want a computer that will last as long as possible.

What will you need to do with the computer?

The bells and whistles may sound exciting, but will they be useful to you? Before you even consider talking to a salesperson, you first need to figure out what you need in a computer. Otherwise, you could end up paying for more than you need, or something that doesn’t have the functions that you need.

Start by answering these questions:

  • What do I use my computer for? For example, do you use it mostly for email and file storage, or do you also use it for design work, complex spreadsheets, or running various programs related to sales?
  • What’s the bigger priority for you: speed or cost?
  • Do you prefer a specific keyboard setup for your computer? Some people need a keyboard with a number pad on the side for quick calculations.
  • What software do you need to use? Make a list.
  • Is your business computer on a network, and if so, what operating system (Windows, for example) will it need to use in order to be compatible with the network?

These are the basics. There are a few more thing to consider.

Mac or PC?

Some people will tell you that Macs are way more expensive than PCs, but that’s not entirely true. A Macbook will cost about the same as a high-end PC. The reason most people will choose one over the other comes down to three things: personal preference, business requirements, and operating system/syncing features.

When speaking of personal preference, for example, you might choose to stick with a PC because you’ve been using Windows forever and it will take time to learn how to use your Mac. When speaking of business requirements, you’ll need to consider which programs you’re currently using and make sure they’ll still work on the new operating system (OS). In terms of syncing features, you might want to make the switch if your other devices (tablet or phone) share the same OS. For example, if you currently use a PC and recently got an iPhone. You might consider getting a Mac so that you can access iCloud from your computer.

If your business mostly uses simple business applications and email, you may not need everything a Mac offers. A lower cost PC will do the trick.

What about all of those tech specifications?

Getting back to the foreign language analogy: don’t ignore the long list of features. Much of it is very important, and can mean the difference between getting a great deal, and paying too much for old technology.

  • Desktop or Laptop. This is pretty obvious, and while desktops typically last longer and have bigger hard drives, they aren’t portable. If you travel a lot, or like to work from different locations, or bring your computer to meetings, then a laptop is probably right for you.
  • Hard drive. The more space the better, because the hard drive is where everything is stored. The closer your hard drive gets to being full, the slower your computer will run. I recommend buying something with at least 500 gigabytes. Also, newer to the market are solid state drives, which are more reliable, faster, and use less battery power.
  • Memory or RAM. How much RAM (random access memory) your computer needs largely depends on what you’ll use it for. I recommend buying something with at least 8 gigabytes of RAM, or at least the option to upgrade. More RAM will improve your computer’s speed and its ability to run heavier programs like Adobe design software. NOTE: You cannot upgrade RAM on newer Macs, so make certain to buy what you need.
  • Processor. Processors help manage programs on your computer. I recommend something using Intel Core i7 or i5. Both Macs and PCs use Intel processors. 
  • Native Screen Resolution. This really only matters if you produce creative work, like photography or graphic design, or if you watch a lot of videos on your laptop. If it matters to you, look for something that has at least 1920 x 1080 screen resolution.
  • Operating System. It’s best to buy a computer running the latest operating system for that model, or at least inquire about getting a free upgrade. You can check out Windows and Apple to see their most recent versions of their operating systems.

Other important considerations

While the list above outlines the most important tech specifications, there are other important components to consider as they relate to your business.

Will you need to use discs or multiple ports? Many newer laptops don’t have disc drives, which means you’ll have to use an external drive, or retrieve files from USB drives, or retrieve them through email or a cloud software like Dropbox. If you will need to plug into several devices, such as a projector or printer, make sure there are enough USB ports so that you don’t have to play “musical chairs” with them!

Also look at the computer design. Where are the speakers located (speakers on the bottom of the computer don’t make any sense to me — the sound’s muffled!) and how is the mouse pad placed? There’s nothing more embarrassing than fumbling around with a computer that doesn’t fit right when you’re giving a presentation.

The best advice I can give is to arm yourself with information prior to heading into a computer shop. This way you’ll be able to speak the same language as your salesperson, and you won’t be sold the wrong product.

If you want help or need a recommendation, get in touch with me.