There is no right time to upgrade company computers. We have clients that upgrade all of their machines every 3 years and others that have no upgrade plans at all. There is no one right way to handle this, but I have listed some things below that may give you a little guidance or things to think about.
- Upgrade only for the right reasons and not just “because”. The project must have a business case driver behind it.
- Reducing the Ghosts – Being a support organization, our Helpdesk continually finds a clear metric that a PC with Windows 7 and Office 2010 have a much lower rate of random problems (ghosts) than a 5 year old PC running 10 year old software (IE: Windows XP and Office 2003). Reducing the ghosts will only increase the user productivity.
- What is your risk comfort – Inherently, the older the computer the more likely it will have a hardware failure. Does it make sense for your company to limit this risk of downtime by investing in new PC’s?
- Upgrading core server applications – If you do a server upgrade it may make sense to look at the PC side for additional benefits. For example, SharePoint 2010 and Office 2010 have a very good integration and work wonderfully together. Using SharePoint 2010 and Office 2003 greatly limits the end user benefits.
- Upgrade by departments or groups of users – A lot of our clients are still using the tried and true XP/Office 2003 combinations. Dropping in a new PC with Windows 7 and Office 2010 is fine, but you need to expect to have usability issues (IE: Word 2010 looks different than Word 2003 so the user cannot go to their neighbor for help with a feature) and incompatibility problems with Word and Excel files. If you upgrade a department at the same time, then much of the change problems go away.
- Get a good deal – Dell and other manufacturers have deals toward the end of the month. These are usually pre-configured machines so if they have what you are looking for, you can pick up a great machine for a great price.
General PC specs to look for
- 3 year warranty – I normally recommend people hang on to a new computer for at least 3 years so get the warranty to match.
- Manufacturer – Dell, IBM, HP, etc. Any major brand should be OK. I recommend sticking with one manufacturer rather than just buying anything at the moment you need a PC.
- Don’t spend a lot of dough – PC’s can be really cheap or really expensive. For general business use I recommend getting an inexpensive computer that fits the specifications you need. Don’t buy cheap, but buy cost effective. $600 seems to be the bang for the buck lately.
- Windows 7 – Get Windows 7 since it has been around for a while and seems to work great compared to Vista. If you are a Mac type then go for it since we have seen more and more people using a Mac for business and there are usually no issues with doing all of the basics. Just make sure your business applications have a Mac version or you will be stuck running a Windows session on the Mac.
- 3 gigs of RAM for a 32 bit OS and 4 gigs for a 64 bit OS. Basically a 32 bit OS will not be able to use more than 3 gigs of RAM. A 64 bit OS can use a lot more than 3 gigs, but make sure your applications will work on a 64 bit machine (for the most part all newer programs will be fine).
- Processor – I tell people to get the best bang for the buck. All of today’s processors will be more than fast enough to do what you need. Generally shy away from the low end ones and look for a dual core, core duo, i3, or i5 processor. AMD or Intel both work fine. 64 bit will give you some performance benefits.
- Hard drive – Pretty much anything will be larger than you need unless you are looking to store audio or video files. If you do get a large hard drive, take advantage of it and use a backup application that takes snapshots of your system. If you get a back spyware or virus infection; you can just revert to an earlier snapshot. Lenovo’s include an application for this as do other manufacturers.
- Form Factor – I try to get machines that are smaller rather than the huge tower models. No one opens up the machine for upgrades any longer so get something that is small, quiet, and does not take up too much space.
- Monitor – LCD is a given nowadays. I will not buy anything less than 19”. No need for digital unless you need it. Shop around since I’ve seen the same monitor at one place be 70% more at another vendor. Dell seems to throw the monitor in for almost “free” often.
- Consider dual monitors – once you go dual you never go back. Buy some like the eVGA USB Video Adaptor (http://www.evga.com/uvplus/) for $50 (more depending on the resolution you need) and plug in a monitor and you are ready to go. You can have up to 4 monitors using these devices.
- Laptops – large screen and heavier? Small screen and lighter? Need a docking station? Extra AC adaptors or batteries? Getting a laptop in general is more expensive and you end up with a less powerful machine compared to a desktop. Stick with a desktop unless you really need a laptop.