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Business computers

Business ComputersOffice computers are key resources in your company. Yet choosing a business computer can be tricky given the overwhelming number of options.

The trick is to focus on what you want to do with it and prepare a clear set of IT requirements before looking at specific business PC models.

Business computer basics

The most common type of business computer is a PC (personal computer). These are made by different companies but use the same underlying technology. They can run a wide range of programs and are the type of computer most people are familiar with.

The main alternative to a business PC is an Apple Mac. Although traditionally used in creative industries, they have gradually become more popular. However, as they’re significantly more expensive than comparable PCs, business take-up has been limited.

Business computer are available as:

  • Desktops, consisting of a base unit, monitor, keyboard and mouse. They are designed to be set up and used in one place.
  • Laptops, single, flat units which fold out to reveal a display, keyboard, and trackpad (instead of a mouse). They are designed to be used on the move.
  • Ultrabooks, very thin, lightweight, powerful laptops. With a long battery life, they’re designed to be very portable but also powerful enough to be your main computer.

Laptops and ultrabook can do everything a desktop can with the added benefit of portability. Because of this, many companies issue them as standard – especially small businesses.

Although ultrabooks tend to be more expensive than standard laptops, they are growing in popularity. Many businesses feel they recoup the extra expense swiftly through increased productivity.

The other significant development in business computers is the emergence of the tablet computer. Although lacking the power of a full business computer, these touch screen devices are often small enough to take anywhere, providing an excellent option for mobile computing.

In fact, tablet touchscreen technology is having an influence on PC and software design too. Many new computers – laptops and desktops – now have touchscreen displays and Microsoft 8 (the latest version of the Windows operating system) has been optimised for touch screen technologies.

Key business PC features

The specification of a business computer can run to several pages, but these features have the biggest influence on performance:

  • Processor. Also called the central processing unit (CPU), this drives everything a business computer does. Two main factors determine a CPU’s performance: the number of cores and the speed it runs at.
    A dual or quad core chip is effectively two or four CPUs in one, which makes your computer more effective at running several programs at once. Speed is measured in gigahertz (GHz).
    For your main business computer, look for at least a dual core processor running at a minimum of 2.5GHz.
  • Memory. Random access memory (RAM) is where a business computer stores data it needs to access frequently. When you run a program, the data relating to it will generally be stored in the RAM.
    RAM is measured in gigabytes (GB). For general business tasks – like word processing and using the internet – 4GB is the absolute minimum. 6GB or 8GB is much better.
  • Hard disk drive. The hard disk (HD or HDD) is used for longer-term storage of files. HD capacity is measured in gigabytes too. Look for 500GB as a minimum – although capacity in excess of 1 terabyte (TB) is increasingly common. That’s enough space for thousands of documents and photos, or hundreds of hours of video.
    Some ultrabooks and other portable computers now use a solid state drive (SSD) in place of a hard drive. This type of storage is much faster than a hard drive, but also much more expensive. A 128GB SSD should be sufficient for business use.
  • Monitor. Most computers come with a flat screen monitor as part of the package. These are typically adequate, but basic. Over the long-term, it can be wise to purchase a more suitable monitor, especially if staff spent long periods using a computer.
    When purchasing a monitor look for a minimum 19” screen (measured diagonally) but go for a larger one if you can afford it. Ideally you want a screen resolution of 1,440 x 900 pixels or higher and look for a model which can be adjusted to improve office ergonomics. If possible, check the image quality and contrast in bright light before you buy. Some screens have a shiny coating which can cause glare. Consider also whether tough-screen capabilities would be useful.
  • Graphics adaptor. Most office computers use basic, integrated graphics hardware to display images on the computer screen. This is fine for general work, but you may need a graphics adaptor with its own dedicated memory to handle multiple monitors and high screen resolutions.

Other computer accessories

Computer accessories - also known as peripherals - add additional functions to your computers. Some accessories come with your computer as standard - such as keyboards and monitors - and others can be added as required. If you have employees who spend long periods of time using computers, it is worth reviewing whether the computer accessories you have are up to the job, comply with relevant health and safety rules and whether there are other accessories that would be beneficial.

Business computer prices

The key features listed above have the largest influence on the price of office computers, but ultimately your IT requirements will determine what you need.

Basic PCs start at £250, but tend to date quickly and need replacing sooner. Mid-range PCs are better for general business tasks like word processing and accessing the internet. They cost £350 – £500 and should last about three years.

High-end PCs with fast processors start at £600. They can handle intensive tasks like video editing and large databases. These office computers may also be better suited to system upgrades.

These prices are for desktop computers. Expect to pay a little more for the same specification as a standard laptop, or significantly more for an ultrabook.

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