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HARDWARE

Not All PCs Are Created Equal -- Part II

A new generation of PCs -- and laptops -- designed for business use fits the needs of small businesses better than consumer-grade hardware.
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In the first part of my column, I reviewed how PCs designed for business purposes are different from consumer-oriented products in terms of reliability, via use of multiple hard disk drives, and security, thanks to hardware level protections.

Beyond great reliability and ironclad security, however, businesses should also expect from their new PCs guaranteed levels of computing power and manageability. I explore these issues in greater detail in this second part of my column. In addition, I have some advice for the mobile business person: business-grade laptops are geared toward ensuring security and preventing the exposure of sensitive data -- much more so than consumer-grade laptops.

Sustainable computing power

While most people associate the need for computing power with high-end gaming and multimedia applications, the current generation of computer operating systems offers productivity-increasing and security features that, while useful, run in the background and can be very taxing on the computing power of your PCs. An example is the indexing service in Windows Vista that allows users to quickly search with one query across all types of files on the computer regardless of the format or location -- such as in e-mail attachments or PDF files. This service runs at all times, continuously reading all new files and the changes to old files, intensely using your computer CPU and memory. Other examples are anti-spam and anti-virus software that run in the background scanning your files before you open them. Even those neat rules that you establish in your e-mail client to automatically organize your mail as it arrives can take a toll on what is the total computing power of your PC.

Today’s business computers need to be able to fully and easily run the most recent operating systems and software taking advantage of their features without becoming a drag on your work time.

Multi-core processors, paired with enough RAM -- 4 gigabytes is a good amount both for Macs and Windows machines -- provide the type of performance business computers need, allowing for true multi-tasking.

Cost-effective manageability

One of the parameters that is often underestimated when purchasing new computing hardware is “manageability.” This is mostly due to the fact that it is an element that is difficult to understand and to quantify the value of. Nonetheless, it is very important.

How easy is it to make sure that all PCs in your company carry the most up to date anti-virus? How easy is it to fix a problem one of your remote employees may incur in?

Business grade PCs today can offer technology that allows for remote, unified management at hardware level. This means that computers can be securely accessed by your technicians through the network or the Internet and diagnosed, maintained, and updated -- even if the computer is off or it has crashed and does not boot. If you decide to outsource your IT function, a growing number of IT support companies provide standardized remote management for a fraction of the cost of traditional on-site care.

Your choice of business PCs should definitely account for the need to keep the cost of maintenance as low as possible. With the price point of good PCs well below $1,000, a few hours of a computer technician for an on-site call can easily make the total cost of ownership skyrocket. Think about it when you are deciding to spend a bit more for an easier to manage option.

Efficient mobility

For the mobile professionals, business laptops often incorporate innovative features, beyond RAID, hardware security, or extra power.  Common now in laptops designed for business use are fingerprint readers for ultra-secure login, hardware-level data encryption for total privacy, last generation WiFi (802.11n) or WiMAX  for extra-long range, and ultra-broad bandwidth Internet access on the go. Low-power consumption processors -- such as Intel Centrino powered PCs -- are more common in business laptops, as arehigh brightness screens, extended life batteries, and larger hard disk drives. These features add up to devices that respond much better than consumer options to the needs of a mobile professional.

The bottom line is that you want your PC to work when you need it and how you need it. When choosing your next computer, consider that the true cost of technology is rarely in the upfront investment, but most often in addressing the consequences of bad choices.

With that mantra in mind remember that your new PCs intended for business use should be secure at a hardware level, as reliable as possible, easy to manage, and powerful.

Andrea Peiro is a recognized authority, author, analyst and speaker on high-tech marketing and use of information technology in small and mid-sized businesses. He has been frequently interviewed and featured in such media outlets as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Inc. He can be reached at us.andreap@gmail.com.

Last updated: Mar 1, 2008




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