Business Computer Systems Guide – Part 8

I mentioned in my last post, Business Computer Systems Guide – Part 7, that you must play your plan smart so that you will never face the problem of extensive down time related to printing, scanning and faxing. The options available for printing, scanning and faxing are only surpassed by desktop and laptop computers.

Today’s desktop and laptop computers present a particular problem for business people for many reasons. Considerations about them must be made from a business perspective. The range of computers offered to the general public provides a paradox for the average businessperson. Computer advertisements educate buyers about specifications and low price, leaving a businessperson to assume that a popular “on sale” computer fills the business role well or to try to locate additional information about business computers. The additional information remains illusive to this day and creates opportunity for value added resellers or your local computer guy to sell you a high priced computer, as well as the services to go with it.

Business and consumer computers are different. Consumer computers are optimized towards price and are generally sub standard mechanically. Business computers are optimized towards longevity and manageability. Your job as a businessperson requires you to procure high quality business computers and to prevent your computer users from trying to convert your business computers to consumer computers. Deployment of desktop and laptop computers in your business provides the best opportunity to take advantage of the big guys like Dell, Lenovo, HP and Gateway.

Using tier one business computers and pro actively managing your computer fleet will save you substantial money. But, primarily you save soft money, a difficult variable to measure. Think about managed computers in terms of employees working 100% of their time, without break fix down time, without interruptions, without the effect that games and other consumer software have on your operation; every invoice and contract prints correctly, every report works as designed, every shared task list functions as advertised! Wow, sounds like a well-structured business.

Review the Websites of the tier one computer companies carefully. Typically, they draw a strong distinction between consumer and business product. Look for differences like heavier overall desktop weight, a higher wattage power supply, two to four times more memory, longer standard warranty and yes, a higher price. Hardware pricing gets lower every year. The current commercial desktop computer CPU price point of $800 was $1200 a few short years ago. A business laptop dropped from $2200 to $1600. The change affords you substantial opportunity. But without good planning, your opportunity will evaporate and cost you much more than you expect.

When you think about a computer workstation for yourself or an employee, trust me, follow this “Do you need a laptop or a desktop?” rule to the letter and you will save yourself thousands of dollars. Evaluate each specific need for a workstation by considering these three things.

1 – If you don’t absolutely need a laptop, don’t buy one. Buy and use a desktop computer.

2 – If you think you need a laptop, use a desktop as your primary computer.

3 – If you absolutely cannot live without a laptop and only a laptop, do everything perfectly; especially your backup, because you will need it.

Regardless of your choice, desktop or laptop, the big guys like Dell, Lenovo, HP and Gateway offer additional free inventory control, asset management and support, more help than you can imagine. Their respective Web sites are crammed with these free value added services. I have personally used all of them and they all seem to improve daily. Most of the hardware issues are resolved within the Web based trouble ticket systems. When a dispatch becomes necessary, the resulting service calls are usually handled quickly and professionally.

The free stuff system works best when warranty, extended warranty and service contracts are thoughtfully considered during procurement of high quality business computers. Plan a replacement cycle that fits you best. If you choose a four-year cycle, purchase warranty, extended warranty and service contracts to cover the entire four years. After the cycle time expires, sell the computer, trade the computer back, give it away or throw it away.

When a computer leaves your possession, make sure that the internal hard drive is removed and destroyed or at least the data on the drive is formally shredded with special software. Boat anchors with your business data on them are a huge liability.

A discussion about desktop and laptop computers would not be complete without a word about applications and other computer stuff that is not free. The paid for stuff requires the most critical consideration. Pro-active firmware, operating system and applications updates maintain internal stability of functionality and use.

Computer security software subscriptions and computer monitoring prevent loss of stability from external forces and hardware failures. Applications (example QuickBooks, Goldmine and thousands of others) require license and support fees. Computer security software subscriptions and computer monitoring solutions require monthly fees. Running your operation without these paid for services invites sure disaster.

Please don’t become the business that trys to run its operation with single copy software installations on multiple computers or “free” home user licensed security software on your business laptops. You will pay a hefty price for cutting corners. Well designed computing is affordable, adds measurable value to your business, increases productivity and decreases headaches.