Quality vs. Discount Computers

“Can you find us something cheaper?” I hear that a lot from clients when I send them a quote for a  workstation or laptop for one of their employees. Well sure. Of course we can. But is that really the place to focus efforts on cost saving? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

Amortization: We recommend folks replace their workstations and servers every 3 years, and I have never once had a client tell me they like to replace them more often than that. So over the course of this computer’s life, the “extra” $120 for the faster processor and more RAM is going to cost a little over $3/month, call it four bucks if you are paying interest on a lease. Four bucks a month for things to run faster, smoother, more reliable. Four bucks a month to reduce the “I hate this computer, it sucks” emails from your employees.

Perspective: For most folks, their computer is their single most important tool for conducting their business. A decent  desktop computer for a small business costs about $1,250, not including software. That’s about $35/month. If the office cleaning service (hundreds of dollars per month) doesn’t show up one week, your clients will probably never know. If your coffee service’s trucks all broke down and you didn’t get coffee for two weeks, your employees would be a little sleepy but the job would still get done. Heck, some companies could lose multiple employees (thousands of dollars per month in salaries) and they would actually get more work done. But if your computer is slow, or unreliable, or breaks on day 366 to remind you that you chose to save $100 by going with the one-year warranty, nothing else matters, because you can’t work. If you can’t work, you can’t get paid. Why would you want anything other than the very best computer money can buy?

Peace of Mind and Happiness: It’s not a perfect correlation, but for most things in life, if you’re willing to pay extra you generally get better stuff. Better design, better reliability, better performance, all of those things come at a price. Computers are no different. If you’re willing to spend the money for faster processors, more RAM, better graphics cards, and a good warranty, your employees are going to have a better computing experience, which is to say a better working experience. Instead of telling you how much their computer sucks, as an excuse for not getting things done, or snapping at you when you ask if they can take on another task, they’ll be more productive, and with a smile on their face (no guarantee expressed or implied, your mileage may vary, happiness in theoretical scenarios may not match real world happiness, etc.).

Final Thoughts: You know those ads you see for $500 computers that are perfect for your small business? They aren’t. They have processors that are about to be discontinued, as little RAM as possible, small hard drives, an operating system designed for home use, and one year warranties. Even if they work decently out of the box, they will fall down as soon as you start loading software on them, or after a couple of months of software updates. In a year, long before your accountant would like to replace it, you will be looking for a replacement again because it’s so slow, or it’s crashing every 3 hours. Take the time to analyze the options, and spend the money necessary to get good tools. Your business depends on it!

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