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Computers from Big Box Stores Are Not Meant for Business

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The Shortcomings of Consumer-Grade Computers

Brian, our new client and CEO of “Media Dome, Inc,” had recently purchased seven laptops for his employees from the local Best Buy. Because the computers hadn’t been unboxed, we recommended that they be returned and exchanged for the equivalent business-class Lenovo Thinkpad laptops, which are made with higher quality components and come pre-licensed for use in businesses. Well, evidently Brian felt that these business-class laptops were not as stylish as he would have liked, and opted instead for us to take the original computers and “make them work.” So we upgraded the operating systems ($100.00 per computer), cleaned off the extra junk software, and installed the software that they needed to perform their job duties ($300.00 labor per computer).

Lo and behold, these laptops started having performance problems less than a month after being put into action. Two laptops had bad hard drives, which we ended up having to upgrade to SSDs ($200 each). The five remaining laptops all experienced main board failures within a week of each other. These computers were returned to Best Buy and the laptops we had initially suggested were purchased to replace them, leaving five employees without computers for almost two weeks. In all, Brian’s decision to prioritize style over substance cost Media Dome a grand total of $3,200.00, plus the lost productivity of five employees. 

The Right Tool For the Job

In our story, Brian made the common mistake of judging a computer solely based on its specifications and appearance. On paper, the decision to go with the more expensive business-grade laptops wasn’t exactly obvious. But when we look a little deeper, the advantages really start to stack up. 

Less Pre-installed Software

  • The first time you start up a consumer laptop, you’ll probably see tons of demos, games, and trial software that you’ll never use. These programs take up space and can slow down your processing speed. Of course, you can remove these unwanted extras yourself, but it’s a big hassle and wastes time and money. Manufacturers of business laptops know this, so you won’t have to deal with loads of bloatware before getting down to work.

Greater Security

  • Because business laptops are often packed with highly sensitive information, manufacturers will usually incorporate additional security features into their hardware. For example, bio-metric tools like fingerprint scanners can be used to make sure that only authorized personnel can access the computer’s stored information. They can also be configured to use some form of encryption that scrambles the computer’s data as it’s being written to the hard drive, making it nearly impossible to read without the proper decoding keys.
  • Consumer-grade computer manufacturers have also been known to pre-install adware programs onto their computers that can track your activity and send personal information back to third party companies. And because these programs come with their own root information, your computer will be more vulnerable to other forms of malware attack.

Better Performance

  • Just because your personal computer seems to run quickly and without issue doesn’t mean that it’ll perform well in a business context. You may not need much processing power to surf the internet and check email, but consumer-grade equipment will rarely have the powerful hardware needed to run the applications necessary for business purposes. Not only are consumer-grade computers generally inferior out of the box, they’ll also tend to slow down over time.
  • The bottom line is that you’re just not going to get the same quality of components in a consumer-grade computer as you would in one designed for businesses. Sure, you might save a little money up front, but the costs of upgrades and repairs are just not worth it in the long run.

Better Service and Tech Support

  • When a consumer-grade computer stops working for whatever reason, your only option is usually to send it into a diagnostics and repair center. Your computer could be out of commission for anywhere between a couple of days to a couple of weeks. It’s even possible that they won’t have the replacement components in stock, leaving you in the lurch until they can get it. Businesses can’t afford to have their employees sit around waiting, which is why business-grade computers typically come with a next day on-site warranty.

Playing the Long Game

When you compare consumer grade computers to professional grade computers, it’s important to look beyond the sticker price and instead consider the long-term costs that’ll accumulate over the computer’s lifespan. In our story, Media Dome’s CEO may have saved himself $300-$400 per computer up front, but the nightmare of trying to make them fit his business’s needs quickly chewed through this savings, leaving him with two sub par laptops and a massive headache. 

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