UIU Blog

Purchasing Business PCs - 10 things to Consider
When starting a large project, it helps to have all of my thoughts in one place…particularly when making sizable hardware acquisitions. I've in the past made the mistake of focusing so intently on a single goal for new hardware (a Win7 migration, for instance) that I improperly weighted several considerations. I've therefore included below a reasonably complete list of things that I consider when evaluating and purchasing PCs (read including laptops, notepads, etc.) for business use:
1. Cost
Given the general requirements for standard business computing, some PC hardware is simply too expensive. There is a company whose namesake is rather fruity that arguably builds better hardware than its competitors. It's also considerably more expensive. I have found that for its use in general business (graphic design is a notable exception) it is about twice as expensive as relatively comparable IBM hardware models. Let's face it, most of these machines are going to sit there and grind out processes that represent only a small percentage (if we don't count java-based or flash games) of the machine's capacity. 
2. Longevity
You must take into account the business' hardware attrition cycle. Are PCs kept for the standard three year cycle or has that cycle been extended by economic concerns? Perhaps the cycle is shorter due to ever-changing specialized, proprietary software demands. Buy hardware with components in sufficient quantities to ensure that the machines are useful through the end of their cycle, especially those components that are inexpensive. Nobody wants to spend evenings and weekends adding RAM to old machines because an original purchase was unnecessarily chintzy, n'est ce pas?
3. Volume discounts
Depending upon how much hardware you're intending to purchase, buying it piecemeal is always a more expensive proposition over time (duh, right?). When negotiating, be sure to know what the price break points are. It may be less expensive, or at least more economical, to acquire a few extra units at a steeper price reduction.
4. Operating system
Most PCs include an operating system of a specific (typically the most recent) version. You'll want to consider whether or not you can roll-back to a previous version with no additional cost if desired. Or you could try …
5. Volume licensing
Upon the advent of Windows Vista, Microsoft's volume licensing, or more aptly stated, activation model became much more cumbersome. The choice between MAK and KMS is dependent upon many factors, including minimum machine counts (activation thresholds), and the availability of a machine to run the Key Management Service with access to the Internet. Still, volume licensing can save you a ton of headaches if you're using one of the common deployment solutions to deliver ready-to-use PCs to your users. (Here, read all this ©гαϷ: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ff793423.aspx).
6. Unintegrated components
Depending upon your business' computing requirements, some hardware is simply unnecessary. You don't need a high-definition graphics card on a PC that will likely only run a browser and a document production suite.
7. Brand loyalty
Let's face it. It's a factor. It may be one established solely based on anecdotal experiences. It's still manages to find a way to remain a factor…Do with that what you will.
8. Quality and reliability
Overlooked more than you'd guess, make every attempt to avoid first year models when possible. Read the reviews; weed out the zealots at the top and the crazies at the bottom. Go for reasonable. Check the manufacturer's knowledge base and user forums for endemic issues.
9. Driver availability and packaging
Some manufacturers do a better job than others with providing a complete set of drivers for each make/model of PC that they produce. However, in their efforts to add their special features and software, the drivers that they provide are often not the most up-to-date. Hell, in some cases, new hardware has been released without making the associated driver set downloadable for weeks afterwards! Perhaps this adds to the experiences that establish (or ruin) brand loyalty?
10. Usability
If the unit (particularly notepads/laptops) is easy to type on/navigate and the display is adequately sized, offering resolutions that are conducive to the eyesight requirements of the individual user, ergonomic issues can be avoided and the unit is more likely to be regularly used. Difficult to use devices are often circumvented.
11. Aesthetics (Look and feel) – BONUS ITEM!
Last, but certainly not least—and arguably the most subjective of all criteria—we can consider aesthetics. The visual appeal of the hardware can actually affect its performance. Small, visually pleasing devices are far more likely to be placed in visible, and therefore better ventilated, locations with adequate circulation, reducing the long-term effects of heat on the internal components.

While it may be technically infeasible to consider all of the variables simultaneously, at least, given full consideration, an administrator can choose which are most important to her organization and set about selecting specific models to pilot in her environment.

Bonne chance et bon courage!

Matthew Burger
Big Bang LLC

Forced to bid out your purchases?

In the case where you are forced to bid out an order of PCs, be a specific as possible with respect to your ACTUAL requirements. If you're not specific enough, you may get stuck with a lower, sub-standard set of machines! For example, specify USB 3.0 (if desired/required) as opposed to simply USB. Otherwise you may be forced to buy machines with USB 2.0 ports when the competing bid comes in less expensive.

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