In today’s world, even the smallest and the most basic tasks cannot be accomplished without some sort of computer hardware.
This means choosing quality hardware products which are aligned with your business’ needs is crucial for your organization’s success. And beyond that, it’s crucial to keep those products up-to-date.
A hardware refresh cycle is the process of upgrading your company’s hardware and software as your needs, and the broader business landscape, change.
But with so many options to choose from, buying computer hardware can be mind-boggling. So, here’s every step you need to follow to make your next hardware refresh cycle a success:
Step One: Assess Your Business’ Hardware Needs
Here are some things to keep in mind while preparing a shopping list for computer hardware:
- Your existing computer hardware needs.
- Your future computer hardware needs, as dictated by your long-term IT strategy.
- The new hardware’s compatibility with your existing computer hardware.
- How long the new hardware will continue to work optimally.
Let’s explore each of these items more in-depth.
1. Your Existing Hardware Needs
Any computer component which you can physically touch or handle classifies as computer hardware; and all hardware requires some sort of software to run.
However, not all software is compatible with all hardware. When you start looking for hardware to buy, consider what software you are already using and which software you intend to use in the future.
2. Your Long-Term IT Strategy
Before you make a decision to buy computer hardware, take into account your future needs. Your IT purchases should be in synergy with your overall business plan. (Also read: 5 Benefits of Hyperconverged Systems for Your IT Strategy.)
Also, keep track of your purchase dates, product warranties and software expiry dates to avoid any disruptions in your operations.
3. Hardware Compatibility
To avoid the cost and hassle of returning and exchanging equipment, make sure any new hardware you buy is compatible with your existing equipment.
In the case that it isn’t, you can also explore the option of upgrading your old hardware to match the new purchase.
4. Hardware Life Expectancy
You should be aware of how long your hardware purchases will work optimally before they fall victim to wear and tear or become outdated and incompatible with latest software updates. You should change your PCs every three to four years.
Now, that’s a lot of information to consider when getting ready to purchase new hardware. So, to keep things simple, you may want to start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What tasks do I want to automate with computers? For example, you may automate pay rollout, invoices and receipts and/or digital marketing. (Also read: Business Intelligence: How BI Can Improve Your Company’s Processes.)
- What my business’ core operational processes?
- What are the industry requirements for my business? An e-commerce business, for instance, may require decent web servers.
Step Two: Dispose of Old Hardware
Before disposing of old hardware, explore the possibility of upgrading it.
If you deem it necessary to purchase new equipment, first contact your old equipment’s manufacturer to check if there is any offer to exchange old products with new ones at a reduced price.
The manufacturer may also arrange for you to safely dispose of your old hardware. But before you do that, make sure that you securely wipe, or physically remove, any data stored on the hard drives. (Also read: Never Really Gone: How to Protect Deleted Data From Hackers.)
Step Three: Evaluate if Your New Hardware Is Worth It
Ask yourself these questions and reach a consensus:
- Will this new hardware help automate manual tasks and cut down operational time?
- Will it improve customer service?
- Will it help improve communication within the company?
- Will it improve efficiency and productivity?
- Will it improve staff morale by reducing workload?
- Will it help you expand your business?
- Will it give you an edge over your competitors?
It’s also important to note that any new hardware purchase will require you to train your staff to use it effectively. The best of equipment, when used improperly, will lose its edge. So, if the training effort outweighs the new hardware’s benefits, it may not be the best equipment for you.
Step Four: Understand the Different Types of Business Hardware
Major categories of business hardware include:
1. Workstations, Personal Computers and Laptops
Computers are an invaluable base over which the rest of the IT infrastructure is built; so choosing the right one is very important.
Three main types of personal computers you might consider are:
- Personal computers (PCs). PCs offer the best performance and the highest computing power; but they are stationary and take more space. However, desktop PCs are also more durable than other kinds of computers and can be easily repaired and upgraded. This means your desktop will last longer and won’t go obsolete anytime soon. If you do choose to opt for a PC, understand it’ll stay with you for a few years and, accordingly, invest in a high-quality one.
- Laptops. Laptops can be useful for businesses requiring their teams to be mobile. You can also use a docking station to connect a laptop with other peripherals and use it as a desktop PC. These days, laptops offer an advantage to organizations working from home or transitioning to a hybrid work model. However, laptops are also easy to steal, which means you will require tougher security protocols, and—due to remote connection—can be prone to data breaches. (Also read: Cybersecurity Concerns Rise for Remote Work.)
- Tablets. Also useful for mobile or remote teams, tablets are subject to many of the same pros and cons as laptops. However, they may require you to purchase mobile-specific peripherals, like styluses and tablet keyboards, and invest in mobile-only software.
2. Central Processing Units
Central Processing Units (CPUs), also called computer processors, are the central part of a computer that receives and executes commands.
In simple words, a CPU is your computer’s brain. It’s the most important component of any PC.
CPUs consist of an arithmetic logic unit (ALU), a control unit and registers. They’re measured by their speed calculated in gigahertz (GHz). The speed is synchronous with performance, which means that, the faster the speed, the better the CPU will perform.
If you require a computer for normal office use, with the intended use of applications such as Microsoft Word and Excel, a 2GHz CPU may be sufficient. For specified use, such as video editing, higher processing speeds are necessary.
3. Random Access Memory (RAM)
A CPU requires memory to function. Therefore, Random Access Memory (RAM) is another essential piece of business hardware.
More RAM means the CPU processor has more space to use and functions better. At least four gigabytes of RAM is necessary to run multiple applications simultaneously. If you intend to use more cumbersome software, such as Photoshop Lightroom, you should settle for a minimum of 8GB RAM.
4. Hard Disks
All the work you do on the computer gets stored in its hard disk. Think of the hard disk as a computer’s memory.
Most lower-range computers come with 500GB of hard disk space.
5. Internal Solid State Hard Drives
Latest computers come with internal Solid State Hard Drives (SSDs).
As their name suggests, SSDs do not have any moveable parts and don’t make noise. SSDs are five to eight times faster than the older magnetic disk drives. However, SSDs are two to three times more expensive.
There are also external SSDs, which you can attach to a computer to increase its storage capacity.
6. Mobile Devices
If your business requires your employees to be frequently on-the-go, such as to deliver products, you might want to consider equipping them with a mobile device. (Also read: What is the difference between a mobile OS and a computer OS?)
If it’s a mobile device you need, you can choose between the following operating systems:
- Android. Android is a Google-owned operating system and powers a wide range of mobile devices.
- iOS. The iOS operating system is owned by Apple Inc. It is reliable and seamlessly integrated with mobile devices. The downside to iOS is that you may have compatibility issues if the rest of your computer equipment is running on Windows. You also have less options to choose from in terms of mobile devices, as only iPhones can support this operating system.
- Microsoft. Microsoft’s operating system powers Windows phones. It is a good idea to buy these phones if you want to integrate the mobile device with your Windows-run PCs.
Input and output devices are known as peripherals. Major types of peripherals include:
Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) are the most frequently used screens.
Screen size is measured diagonally. Some commonly manufactured sizes are 22 inches, 24 inches and 27 inches.
You should consider true color reproduction if you intend to use the screen for design or video production. Alternatively, if you intend to use your screen for video editing or gaming, opt for a high refresh rate.
Aspect ratio is the proportion of width to height. The most common aspect ratio manufactured is 16:9.
7.2. Keyboards and Mice
Here, you’ll want to choose the most comfortable design. When it comes to mice and keyboards, even a little discomfort can lead to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). (Also read: Beat Injuries With These 4 Computer Ergonomics Tips.)
You may purchase wireless keyboards and mice for increased portability.
7.3. Wi-Fi Routers
Wi-Fi routers are another incredibly important PC accessory—almost every business today has some sort of connectivity need or online presence.
Thus, a faster, more reliable internet connection can make a world of a difference in your workforce’s the productivity and efficiency. Wi-Fi and ethernet equipment plays a key role in extending and boosting the signal range so you can make the most out of your internet connection. Depending on your needs, you may also require network switches or cabling.
Hats off to you if your business is truly paperless. For everyone else, though, a printer is necessary.
A good, fast, LaserJet printer that’s able to scan and photocopy documents should be accessible to all employees. Believe me: The few seconds you will save printing each page will make a difference. Add that to the inconvenience and adverse effects a slow computer will have on employees’ tasks and you will realize the true cost of a slow printer.
You can connect your printer with all the computers in the company so all employees (even those working remotely) have access to it.
There are two basic types of printers:
- Laser Printers. Laser printers are able to print both color and grayscale prints. They may be more expensive than other types of printers but they are cheaper per print as they can print a lot more and are significantly faster.
- Inkjet Printers. Inkjet Printers can also print in color and grayscale. They are cheap to buy but cost more per print. Their slow printing speed also makes them less ideal for bigger office setups.
All small businesses need a server for storage purposes and to run applications.
Thanks to the advent of cloud-based servers, it is no longer necessary for a small business to own an in-house server. However, each solution—whether in-house of cloud-based—has its advantages and downsides. Consider them carefully and choose the best one for you based on your needs. (Also read: The Best Practices for Managing Cloud Applications.)
Step Five: Make Your Purchase
There are three ways you might go about purchasing equipment for your hardware refresh cycle:
1. Buying Outright
If you have the resources to buy the hardware you need, or if you choose to use a bank loan or overdraft, you can avail the following benefits:
- Full ownership of the hardware that can be added to your balance sheet.
- Potential to write off or deduct the cost for tax purposes.
- Ability to alter equipment according to your needs, as you are not under any lease contract.
However, the downsides to buying outright are:
- You pay full price for the equipment.
- You may have to take a loan to cover the cost.
- You will have to maintain and repair the equipment yourself.
- The hardware will become obsolete after a few years.
2. Leasing Equipment
You can lease equipment for an agreed amount of time, after which you either:
- Return the equipment.
- Choose to extend the lease period.
- Buy the equipment.
Leasing equipment has the following advantages:
- You can use computer hardware without actually owning it
- It takes a lesser toll on your finances.
- It lowers maintenance costs, which the leaser takes care of.
- You can upgrade equipment more easily.
- It counts as operational cost and can be added to profit.
The downside to leasing equipment is that, if you lease for long enough, you may end up paying more than if you’d purchased the equipment outright.
3. Hire Purchasing
Hire purchasing allows you to pay in instalments. Once all instalments are covered, you become the owner of the equipment. The advantages of hire purchasing include:
- A spread-out cost which does not take a toll on your finances.
- Tax relief via capital allowances.
- Low maintenance costs.
- Easy ways to to upgrade or replace equipment at the end of the contract;
The downsides to hire purchasing are:
- It costs more in total compared to buying hardware outright.
- There’s more paperwork involved.
- The ownership remains with the supplier.
- By the time you own the equipment, it might already be time to buy new one.
Step Six: Find the Best Deal
Once you have figured out your computer hardware needs and have decided your mode of purchase, you can start looking for cheap PC parts. Here are places you might find them:
Brick-and-Mortar Computer Parts Stores
You can check your local stores for your required PC components. Try electronic superstores, dedicated PC parts shops and department stores with an electronics section.
If you find a store that has everything you need for a good price, don’t buy outright. That’s because, chances are, you will be able to find a better deal online. The reason for this is that online resellers of computer components ship directly from the manufacturers or from distributors, which means they don’t have to bear the cost of maintaining a physical store, hiring sales staff and maintaining equipment on the shelves.
Some resellers also have a bigger network which may allow you to source products internationally from places where the price might be cheaper.
Online Computer Parts Stores
Google Shopping is a good place to start your online search. Simply put in the product’s manufacturer ID or SKU and compare the prices.
Don’t just go for the lowest prices—if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. (Also read: 10 Signs You’re Computer Illiterate.)
Instead, look for the best deal and pay attention to the seller. Always buy your hardware from a reputable company. You can verify a company’s reputation by checking reviews from previous customers on Google Reviews or Trustpilot. You can also check online for company information. Companies should be registered with their government; that way, it will be easier to get hold of them if something goes wrong.
You can also save money in other ways during your hardware refresh cycle. These include:
Leveraging Return Policies
Before you make the purchase, carefully read the seller’s return policy. Note the return period. Look for any hidden fees or conditions.
Check what kind of maintenance or free repairs the seller is offering you. Or, if you have to pay for the maintenance or repairs, check if there’s a toll-free 24/7 number through which you can reach the manufacturer.
Check what the warranty covers and how long it will be valid for. See if there is an extra cost for extending the warranty—and if that is worth the extra cost.
Strategic Payment Methods
Pay with your company’s credit card, even if it is slightly costlier. That way, if there is a problem with the product, you can raise it up with the credit card company and you may get your money back if you are scammed.
Step Seven: Receive and Implement Your New Hardware
As soon as you receive your hardware, check the package for any outward signs of damage or wear.
If it looks as if the package was dropped or mishandled and the product inside might be broken, don’t open the package and immediately talk to the seller or delivery person. If the package seems fine and the packaging mentions the same product that you ordered, open the product and check y to ensure everything is working. If there is an issue, raise it up with the seller as soon as possible.
If you paid the seller or distributor to set up your new equipment, don’t let the service personnel leave until you have checked the product to your satisfaction.
Finally, if you damage the product yourself, don’t bother the seller or the manufacturer. You may still check if the damage is covered by the warranty; if not, pay the manufacturer to fix it for you.
Finally, insuring your expensive computers and equipment against fire and theft is a wise decision.
Keeping your organization’s hardware and software up-to-date is crucial to retain a competitive edge in today’s breakneck business landscape. And while it might seem like a daunting task, you can streamline the process with the right background information and a solid plan.
Consider these seven steps your jumping-off point to springboard your next hardware refresh cycle.