Choosing the right hardware for your business
With such a wide range of brands, options and functionality available in the business IT market, it can be difficult to decide on the best hardware for your needs. There are Mac and PC machines, as well as Windows and other operating systems to choose from, it often feels bewildering.
With computers, printers, data storage and cloud-based services to consider, hardware is an important investment and it’s not always clear what the right choices are. But there are some simple steps you can take to narrow down the options and make the decision less daunting and confusing.
1.What do you need your hardware to do Vs what would be a welcome addition?
Make a list of features you can’t do without and a second list of features that would be nice to have but are not essential.
Your ‘must have’ list should be quite short. These are the non-negotiable ‘must-have’ functions that are critical to your business. The ‘nice to have’ list can be much broader and include features that might be useful and make life easier, but which you are prepared to be flexible on. It can also be helpful to your decision making if you arrange your ‘nice to have’ list in order of preference, thinking about what capabilities will be of most importance for your operations. Ask yourself why the hardware is needed, who is going to run and maintain it and whether it will need to integrate with any other devices.
As part of your decision making process, it’s worth remembering the possibilities offered by cloud computing. Rather than owning all your own hardware, cloud computing delivers hosted services over the internet including infrastructure, platforms and software. This could include, for instance, servers for storing files, customer data and emails or cloud-based software services such as accounting and workflow platforms.
2. How will computers, printers and data storage devices be used?
To find the best fit for your business, it’s important to think about exactly how any piece of hardware will be used. This will help you identify the right option for you.
For computers, consider who will be using it and how often, what tasks they will be using it for, whether they will be using it in a single location or need portability, whether you have space for a traditional desktop and whether other options such as notebooks, tablets or all-in-one machines would add value.
Similarly, with printer purchases it’s important to consider what kind of material you need to print and how often. Will a single function printer serve your needs or do you require other functions like scanning or colour printing? What level of output and speed do you really need to complete your printing tasks? If you will be connecting to the printer via Wi-Fi, is your network reliable?
And for data storage you’ll need to think about how much data is involved and whether it needs to be accessed locally or from a remote location. Could storage is often a good option as a backup source if not your primary data storage solution.
3. What does your team need?
As well as clarifying your own needs from a high level view, it’s also vital to consult with your team on what their needs are and what would help them work more productively in their roles day to day. Get feedback on how they find your current hardware, what benefits and drawback they experience. By consulting with your staff, you also involve them in the process and make them more receptive to change.
4. What’s your budget?
It can be tempting to overspend on the latest technology with every feature imaginable which you might simply not need. Set a firm, but realistic budget and remember to account for additional expenses such as software, accessories, training, technical support and extended warranties.
Your budget might also be affected by factors like whether the device is ready to use out of the box or needs to be customised for your needs, whether there are expenses for ongoing maintenance how you might insure your equipment against damage or theft.
5. How can you narrow down your options?
Armed with your ‘must have’ list and a clear budget you can eliminate a lot of products from the search which don’t have critical features or are too expensive. From there, it’s easier to select a handful of products that are a good fit for your business. Now is also the time to look at what customer support is available, whether the brand has a broad base of users and whether it has a solid track record.
From this shortlist, you can more easily evaluate which products deliver the most features from your ‘nice to have’ list, or whether having one or two features you’ve ranked as most important is preferable to having a greater number of features you ranked lower down. With these features, it is also worth considering whether there are add-ons you can purchase later if and when you need them.
6. What do you need to know from the salesperson?
If possible visit your local store or supplier and ask to see the products in question or, failing that, make sure you get the information you need via phone or email. You can discuss your needs and your shortlist of products with them to ensure you’re getting what you need. It’s important to check whether there are any ongoing costs involved, such as subscriptions, what kind of warranty is offered and what is covered and what happens if you find a better deal elsewhere on the same products.
Is your team on your back about their outdated system and software? Let MSP Blueshift put together a cost-effective solution for you!