Desktops and Laptops

Introduction

It doesn’t matter what sort of company you are, almost everyone in the company should have a computer. There are exceptions, of course. For example, if you work in a fast food company flipping burgers, you probably don’t need a computer to instruct you on how to make a burger. If you work on a production line it is very possible you won’t need a computer. But when it comes to almost any form of office job – whether it be an executive, secretarial, administrative, or development position – you should have a computer.

Laptop versus Desktop

Once you have determined who in the company needs a computer you need to decide whether to get them a desktop or a laptop. Desktops are more powerful, but laptops are mobile. One can get powerful laptops but they are more expensive (by far) than a comparable desktop. In general you want to factor in the mobility of the employee against the power they need to operate.

For example, customer service representatives who work 8-5 in an office and don’t work at all outside the office probably need a desktop – and not even a high end one at that. On the other hand, the CEO who spends half his time flying around the country and loves to work on nights and weekends will require a laptop. IT personnel oftentimes do better with laptops because it allows them to operate even when they have to go to a secondary facility or remotely troubleshoot a problem.

Probably the hardest area to determine what type of computer to buy is for development. Development needs workhorses, but they also oftentimes can use mobility. The decision can usually be made on a person-by-person basis after discussing with the individual how often they develop at home and weighing out whether the loss in time from lack of processing power in a laptop is less than the time gained from their external work.

Recommended Desktop/Laptop Manufacturers

  • Dell: For both desktops and laptops.[1]
  • HP: For desktops only.[2]

Recommendations

  • Seek to standardize your hardware. If you buy Dell desktops, stick with Dell desktops. If you buy HP laptops, stick with HP laptops. While you shouldn’t let this rule be immutable, it should be strong. The reason for this is that it is always easier to work with one companies’ tech support and parts than many different ones. It gives you a smaller concentration of knowledge you need to master and helps you see re-occurring problems more quickly.
  • Buy higher-end computers and give them to your most demanding staff, pass their old computers on to less demanding staff. If you purchase lower-end computers for less demanding staff you won’t be able to pass these computers off to anyone, they’ll be too slow.
  • Purchase a non-integrated video card for your developers with at least 512 MB of RAM.
  • When configuring desktops and laptops for your staff remember that CPU and RAM are not the only important factors. Bus speed, cache, hard drive speed, and video card are all also important considerations.
  • Don’t ever put a 5400 RPM drive into a machine, always purchase at least 7200 RPM drives and consider purchasing an SSD as the primary drive with a 7200 RPM as the larger data drive to boost system performance.
  • Any workstation should have at least 2 GB of RAM. Developers, designers etc. should have at least 4 GB of RAM.
  1. [1]Dell’s hardware is not superior to other manufacturers (generally), sometimes it might even be inferior – but I always buy the 3 Year NBD warranty and this makes a huge difference. Dell will send someone NBD to repair issues and replace hardware at no additional cost. This is huge, compared to the support programs offered by most other manufacturers.
  2. [2]I’ve had several extremely bad experiences with HP laptops, mainly with the screens going bad after a year or so.