Many business owners reading this have probably been in this situation...A PC breaks down in your business (of course at the worst possible time) and you need a new one, stat. You have a couple of options:
1. Call your computer support provider to order and install a business-class PC. If your guy is responsive, this can be rushed and done within 1 to 2 business days.
2. Save a few hundred bucks on the PC by running to a box store yourself, get whatever's on sale and have your computer guy install it (or waste your time and install it yourself).
While option #2 sounds like a bargain and appears to reduce waiting time and save you money, it's worth considering the following:
In most situations, the computers being sold at major retailers such as Best Buy are geared for home use, not business. As such the operating system that is preinstalled is a home version that cannot be properly networked with your business server. What does this mean? Setting up seamless access for the PC user to use internal printers, network drives, databases and e-mail becomes very cumbersome at best, but most often, will not work at all.
To get past this, you need to purchase an operating system upgrade and install it on the PC. Not only does this cause a delay in deployment, but increases the overall cost of the PC by up to $500 (1 - 2 hours of your computer guy's time or your time, plus the cost of the operating system).
Major manufacturers such as HP and Dell produce distinct product lines to service consumer (home) and business. The primary difference between the two is that the business products have components that have been field tested longer, and come with a longer and more comprehensive warranty. They are designed for overall stability, and to take the demands of a business user (think Tonka truck durability).
Is Saving a Few Hundred Bucks Really Worth It?
In the end, all of the costs to get either a consumer or business class PC into production so you or your staff can use it are relatively the same. However if you're looking to get 3 - 5 years out of your PC (as you should expect), the much wiser investment is the business class.
One thing I always tell my clients who are struggling with the initial price difference between consumer and business class equipment is that if you want the investment to serve you well for 3 - 5 years and not dump a bunch of money into it along the way on repairs, then purchase of better quality hardware with better support from the manufacturer will save long term on not only computer support costs, but costly downtime, frustration, and stress from frequent hardware failures.
On a final note, I am a big proponent of always having one or two functional, spare systems available and ready in your office to be used in a moment's notice so that a PC failure doesn't cost you a lot in downtime, is not such a crisis, and panic purchases can be prevented.
Joe Stoll is President and founder of Technical Action Group (TAG) in Toronto, Canada. TAG are productivity specialists who simplify technology and make it a power tool that increases small and medium businesses productivity, profitability and operations instead of a constant problem that costs them time and money.