Picking up from where we left off last time, there’s a great deal to be said about how manufacturers price, build and sell their hardware. We’ll start by giving you an idea of the differences between a consumer-grade PC and a business-grade computer that’s going to be a reliable staple in your small business.
The computer you see on the shelf for $500 is the cheapest thing that vendor can build. They literally can’t go any lower. It’s designed for the budget home user and, in an ideal world, would never find its way into the offices of a business.
But again, I digress.
Think about the last time you worked with a client for literally as little return as you possibly could. How would you rate that experience? Be completely honest with yourself for a moment. As much as you may have liked the client or done your best, no matter the circumstance, to complete the job, nine times out of ten depositing a check that just breaks you even leaves a lot to be desired. Unless you really are a saint and only in business to give back. In which case, I’ve got a job for you.
Everybody wants to make enough to have a decent living and it’s no different for computer manufacturers. They make very very little on each one of those bargain computers and (once you’ve worked with them enough you start to realize) those vendors don’t give one lick about how they work after they’re paid for. Some people have had great experiences purchasing this way, others not. It’s a grab-bag. They’ve essentially bought up all the left-over hard drives that had a lower-than-standard quality rating from Seagate (looking at you, 7200.11 and 12) or any other manufacturer with the lowers rates at a huge bulk discount and slapped ’em in all those puppies. Maybe they’ll grab some of those AMD processors that were supposed to be quad-cores but never really worked right (I know it’s an old link – we love to hate on AMD – they just make it so easy) so were integrated as dual or triple-cores instead.
It’s the difference between buying a motherboard made by Intel and one made by Hyundai (not the car maker, but still low quality).
Sure, there’s a 3-year warranty, but most people will end up claiming repairs on that warranty more than once in that time period solely because of faulty hardware. Anybody who has gone through the process knows that the service is inevitably poor. What they may not realize is that it’s a different service department and process than what most business customers may be using – because they paid next to nothing for it.
Ok, so what’s the difference?
It’s massive. Computers built for business incorporate higher quality hardware standards across the board. There’s really no way to dispute it. Business machines are built to avoid downtime. When businesses experience downtime, it’s far more expensive than if your grandmother can’t get to her email. For this reason, computers, networking equipment, servers and most business-grade computing hardware is built so that you’ll have to deal with their warranty department or your own IT department for repairs a great deal less.
Many vendors have different levels of business-minded hardware. Dell has the budget-friendly Vostro line which still incorporates higher-grade components, the more reliable and powerful Optiplex line (we’ve seen even the small form factors never have a problem for 6 years) and the ridiculously over-powered workstation line, the Precision models. Each one offers different features, but they all take quality standards into strong consideration when engineering them. High quality manufacturers like Apple will actually work directly with their vendors to ensure a certain level of reliability before signing supply contracts. Dell, HP and Lenovo do the same for their workstation and server hardware.
Manageability, Security, and Upgradeability
Beyond just the facts of life (computers break), business-minded computer hardware is built for ease of manageability. This may not mean much for the mom-and-pop fishing shop with two POS (that’s point-of-sale, not the other one) computers, but it makes a world of difference for a fleet of them out in the field. Intel has started offering professional management tools called vPro ingrained into their chipsets to allow remote management of not only software features and security measures, but also hardware-based access to decrease troubleshooting and support times.
These types of hardware-based measures allow administrators to set global policies for data encryption, remote locking, disable USB storage functions to prevent thieves from copying data and more. Think about it – your sales guys are probably going to save their username and password into the default Windows VPN credentials box so they don’t have to type them in each time they’re on the road. Once that computer is stolen, anybody can open it up, connect to your office and go to town or rip the hard drive out and copy its contents. With data encryption and remote locking, it’s no big thing. It shouldn’t keep you up at night… that’s our job.
Finally, just take a moment to imagine you’re trying to sell your business. Interested parties will want full documentation on all network assets. *It’s always a good idea to let your IT guys talk to their IT guys to maintain security throughout the process* but imagine the value you demonstrate when all your staff is working with reliable hardware with extended availability. Bargain PC’s are often times maxed out already or only allow certain types of upgrades. Business models will usually allow you to upgrade to a level you didn’t realize was possible, keeping hardware alive much, much longer and adding value to your business. Just imagine walking into a company you’re interested in purchasing and finding out every person was using a Pentium III computer with a maximum RAM capacity of 1GB. It means an overhaul as soon as you take ownership.
There’s a lot to think about when purchasing business computing assets and we’re always here to help out. Please don’t walk away thinking we won’t help you if you’re positive a store-bought computer is all you’ll need. We’ll always make sure it’s properly integrated on your network. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into first. Sometimes opting for a bargain PC is doing you more harm than good.