Workstations, Desktops & Laptops

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WORKSTATION

Choose the right workstation

You’d be hard-pressed to do your office work without a computer. It’s a tool that your office must use, deal with, purchase, and maintain. Below is the main difference of workstation and desktop.

  1. Performance. A PC has enough power to do most tasks such as email, web surfing, and word processing. But a workstation has more power. It can handle CAD, animation, data analysis, and photorealistic renderings, as well as video and audio creation and editing.
  2. Durability. The internal workings of a workstation are held to a higher standard than those of a desktop or laptop. Each part (motherboard, CPU, RAM, internal drives, video cards, etc.) is built with the understanding that it will be pushed hard all day long. In many cases, workstations are working on projects when all the humans have gone home. They are left to crunch large databases or create animations overnight.

Computers typically classified as a workstation have these five features:

  • ECC RAM. Error-correcting code memory makes your system more reliable. It fixes memory errors before they affect your system, preventing crashes and saving you downtime.
  • Multiple Processor Cores. More processor cores mean more processing abilities. However, it won’t guarantee performance boosts. The software you are using has to be programmed to take advantage of it, but it will provide some benefit.
  • RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks). RAID uses multiple internal hard drives to store and process your data. There are several different types of RAID systems. Depending on the type of system, you can get multiple drives processing your data, or you can get mirrored drives, meaning that if one drive fails the other will still function.
  • SSD. Solid State Drives work differently than conventional hard-disk drives. There are no moving parts, so there is less chance of a physical failure. They are also faster. The downside is that they are more expensive and have a smaller storage capacity than that of “regular” drives.
  • Optimized GPU. All computers need to output to a screen. Having a higher end GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) means that your CPU will have to do less work processing the screen output. In some cases, the GPU can actually take over some of the load from the CPU, making everything faster. The downside is that high-end GPUs are expensive.

BUSINESS DESKTOPS & LAPTOPS

Buying a business laptop or desktop PC involves some of the same considerations as buying a computer for home use. We have excellent advice on determining what you need before you buy a laptop or desktop computer. In addition to his recommendations on processors, memory, video, etc., below are some additional guidelines for buying a business computer.

Desktop or Laptop

Deciding on whether to buy a desktop PC or a laptop depends, of course, on how mobile you intend to be. Telecommuters working full-time from a home office can choose between desktop PCs, which generally cost less than laptops and have more upgradeable parts, and “desktop replacement” laptops, which tend to be the most powerful — but larger and heavier — of the laptop types. Road warriors, however, on the other end of the spectrum, need mobility and therefore will want to have a laptop; which one to select will depend on finding the right balance between portability and computing power.

Processors (CPU)

Although many business tasks, such as word processing, are not processor-intensive, multi-core processors are recommended for professionals because they allow you to run multiple applications at the same time. A multi-core processor will ensure a smoother computing experience; quad-core processors, or better, are recommended for graphics-intensive work, heavy database tasks, and other professionals who will be taxing their PCs.

Memory (RAM)

In general, the more memory the better, especially if you are running resource-hogging operating systems or programs (such as Microsoft Office). We recommend of a minimum of 8 GB of memory. Because memory is relatively inexpensive, though, we think professionals should definitely get the maximum amount of RAM you can buy, as it will give you the most performance bang for your buck.

Hard Drives

Business users may need less disk space than consumers who save photos, music, and videos to disk; the exception, of course, is if you’re a professional working with multimedia or accessing large files like database files. You can still get an external hard drive for extra space, so a drive around 1TB should do for most business purposes. Get a drive that has a 7200rpm spin rate for faster performance. Laptop business users should look into getting a solid state drive for better performance and reliability.

CD or DVD Drives

Optical drives are becoming less common in laptops, especially the smallest and lightest ones. While consumers may not need a DVD drive any longer because most applications and files can be downloaded or shared online, a DVD writer is more important for professionals, who may still need to send files on disk to clients or install proprietary software from a CD. External DVD drives that connect via USB can help, if you end up without one built-in.

Video and Displays

Graphics professionals and those in the gaming industry will want to have a discrete (i.e., dedicated) video card, essential for video and graphics performance. For regular business tasks, however, an integrated video processor (integrated into the motherboard) should be just fine. If you use a laptop as your main working computer, we highly recommend hooking up an external monitor to your laptop, especially if your laptop has a screen size under 16″. The extra desktop real estate can make an enormous difference in productivity.

Networking

Because connectivity is key to remote work, professionals should make sure they have as many network connection options as feasible: fast Ethernet and wireless network cards (get at least an 802.11n Wi-Fi card; 802.11ac is preferred and quite common). If you have Bluetooth headsets or other peripherals such as a PDA that you wish to connect to your system, make sure you get Bluetooth installed as well.

Warranty and Support Plans

While most general consumers can do with a standard 1-year manufacturer’s warranty, professionals should look for a warranty of 3 or more years, since you should expect to use your computer for business for about that long. Also, consumer support plans generally require you take the computer to a depot or mail in a laptop for repair; if you don’t have a fall-back or second computer that you can use for work, as a professional you should get on-site support — either same or next day, depending on whether you can tolerate any downtime if your computer breaks. Accidental damage protection(ADP) would be an added advantage for your business laptop.

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