What computer should I buy for my business?
Technology with Integrity
By Torian Group, Inc.
How do you decide what to do when it comes time to buy a new computer? Do you go down to Staples or Costco and see what is on sale? Call your Dell sales rep?
Here are some things to consider when deciding how to spend your hard earned money:
Instead of starting with hardware features, start with what needs to get done in your business. What do you want the computer to do for you? The next step is to find the software that will do what you need. Then find the hardware that makes that software work.
Base your decision on well thought out, prioritized values. A purchase that puts cost before reliability is very different than one that puts reliability before cost.
Some things to consider:
Total Cost of ownership – equipment lifetime, warranty, ease of maintenance, cost of repairs. Can it be upgraded? Will the vendor be there next year to support it?
Compatibility – Does it run the software you want to use. Will it run the next version? Does it work with your network?
Reliability – What does it cost you for down time? Is the hardware too close to the “Bleeding Edge”? Does the vendor provide accurate timely information about known problems? Is it easy to get timely service- even in Visalia?
Ease of Use – Can your staff understand and use it? How much training is needed?
Specifications - Are there certain features it must have to run your software (USB ports, enough memory, etc.)?
Speed – Usually inversely related to reliability. How much difference does it make to the business function the computer performs if it is faster?
Obsolescence –There are significant benefits to buying identical hardware for workstations. How long will you be able to get this exact model? Is the technology being used at the beginning or end of its lifetime?
Best practices for workstations:
- Stick with well supported motherboard chipsets. We like Intel, because they provide detailed, current bug reports and timely fixes. Because they have such a large market share, they set standards for compatibility.
- Get adequate power supplies, and use a surge strip or workstation UPS.
- Bigger monitors mean more productivity. If you have the space, go big.
- Buy identical hardware. This allows you to use “Cloning” to manage your workstations. You take an “Image”, or picture of the software on the hard drive, and can copy it to any other workstation, saving hours of setup time. If a hard drive fails, you can put in a new hard drive, copy on your image, and be done in a matter of minutes. Standard hardware means fewer things to troubleshoot when you have a problem. Identical parts make it very convenient to troubleshoot by swapping between working and non-working machines. Your software can be standardized, because you know how it will behave on this hardware.
Best Practices for servers:
- Reliability comes first, and second, when it comes to servers. Calculate the hourly cost of down time for your server. Then spend the money to make it reliable enough for your needs.
- Base capacity on what the server will do – many software vendors offer guidelines for what you will need.
- If you can afford it, buy an integrated server from a well known vendor. HP, Compaq & Dell all make excellent servers. If not, have the server built from Server components. There are motherboards designed for servers, cases designed for servers, etc.
- Use ECC ram. ECC Stands for Error Correcting - It keeps a parity bit for every memory location to make sure that the memory is accurate.
- Get Dual redundant Power supplies. The most likely parts to fail are the hard drive and the power supply.
- Get Mirrored hard drives, or better yet hardware raid. Use SCSI Drives.
- Buy a dedicated, Intelligent (comes with software) UPS, or battery backup. One per server. UPS’s tend to last longer if you get a bigger battery than you need.
- Get Dual processors if possible. This prevents the possibility of one program or function slowing down the whole network.
- Don’t buy more than you think you will need in the next 18 months. Figure on upgrading or replacing it every 2 years or so.
- Plan adequate backups. Get a reliable tape backup drive, and rotate backup tapes on a schedule. Get a big enough tape drive- make sure you won’t have to change tapes to get everything backed up.
- If you have more than one server, get identical hardware if at all possible.
If possible, get help from an expert, preferably someone other than the one trying to sell you their hardware. Things change quickly. Make sure you are properly informed before investing your money and time.
Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networking for the past 30 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE. He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the year for 2008 by the Tulare County EDC. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, web and custom software development. www.toriangroup.com