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Computer hardware

Computer hardware, signified by a collection of toolsThe computer hardware in your business has a huge impact on how you work. Having the right computers, servers, printers, fax machines (and any other physical computer hardware) can help move your company in the direction you desire.

Computer hardware types

Your business will probably use many types of computer hardware. And some items of computer hardware require significant capital expenditure. For instance:

  • A network server. Your server allows you to store, share, control and protect your key business information centrally. This type of computer hardware is expensive to buy, install and run – but will last around five years and can bring enormous benefits.
  • Network equipment. A key part of your IT infrastructure. Individual network components are cheap, but you usually need a lot of them.
  • Business computers. Depending on what you do you might consider desktop, laptop, ultrabook or tablet computers. Mid-range desktop computers will last three years or more and can be had for £300-£400. When buying this type of computer hardware check the specifications and beware of false economies.
  • Computer printers. Of all computer hardware, printers probably have the biggest difference between the initial cost (generally low) and running costs (usually much higher). Check these carefully.
  • Screens and projectors. Flat screen monitors are an essential piece of computer hardware for every desktop computer. Projectors are good for giving presentations.
  • Mobile hardware. Smartphones are useful for staying in touch on the move. Laptops, ultrabooks, tablets and netbooks let you do more while you’re out and about.

Conversely, some computer hardware costs little and can be incorporated into your operating costs:

  • Scanners and cameras. For occasional use you’ll spend under £100. It costs little to run these types of computer hardware.
  • Storage media. Memory cards and sticks are cheap, reusable pieces of computer hardware. Hard disks can vary in price depending on features and capacity.
  • Computer accessories. This catch-all term covers keyboards, mice, headsets, speakers and any other type of computer hardware you’d plug into your PC or Mac.

Evaluating computer hardware

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If you lack technical knowledge, the process of comparing and evaluating computer hardware for your business can be frustrating. Manufacturers express the capabilities of their computer hardware in terms of its features. However, your business needs to understand what those features enable you to do.

Your IT requirements are key when selecting computer hardware. You should aim to transform them into a minimum specification for the hardware you need, before deciding the best way to buy it.

If you lack technical knowledge, seek expert help – perhaps from your IT suppliers or a friendly business which has been through a similar process of selecting computer hardware

Computer hardware brands and prices

Although it’s important to stay focused on what will get the job done, computer hardware typically lasts three years, so it’s important to plan ahead when creating your computer hardware requirements.

The latest, greatest computer hardware always comes with a price premium. It can be tempting to spend more for ‘future proof’ computer hardware, but the extra cost for top of the range computer hardware makes it unattractive for most businesses.

At the other end of the scale, entry-level computer hardware is often a false economy. It will date quickly and require replacing sooner. It’s usually wiser to aim somewhere in between when selecting your computer hardware, striking a balance between cost and features.

Similarly, computer hardware from big name brands sometimes cost more than no-name equivalents. It’s usually worth paying a bit more for these items but not a lot. Most computer hardware is built from similar components, so the benefit is likely to show through better support and service rather than in the performance of the computer hardware itself.

Taking care of computer hardware

Some items of computer hardware, including printers and servers, will require regular maintenance and support to keep them running smoothly.

Settling on a standard specification for common items of computer hardware – like business computers – will help make these management and maintenance tasks easier.

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