A Reader Speaks: Desktop PCs In Small Businesses - InformationWeek

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Commentary
7/9/2009
05:31 PM
Fredric Paul
Fredric Paul
Commentary
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A Reader Speaks: Desktop PCs In Small Businesses

A straight-from-the-trenches viewpoint on why desktop PCs continue to find homes in small businesses.

A straight-from-the-trenches viewpoint on why desktop PCs continue to find homes in small businesses.bMighty.com gets a lot of feedback from our readers. But we don't often get feedback as well-considered, well-presented, and comprehensive as the message I recently received from reader Ellen Sorstokke regarding a recent post on Will Small Businesses Be The Last Bastion Of Desktop PCs?.

Working in the import/export/distribution of musical instruments since 1990, Sorstokke talks about the different kinds of people who work at small and large companies, and how their needs may differ from folks at larger companies. Her points will be relevant to many small businesses, i think, so I'm passing along and edited version of them here:

Don't Miss: Will Small Businesses Be The Last Bastion Of Desktop PCs?

Small businesses usually don't have as many "top flight" employees as larger businesses do because they generally don't pay as well nor do they offer the same level of benefits. People who are chasing those things won't give small businesses a second thought. They like being able to say they work for X company because, in their minds, this is a big deal. On the other hand, people who work at small businesses have more freedom and, usually, less-stressful work environments. As long as you're getting the job done, there's often more latitude about the details of how and when. There also may be less politics in a small place than in a large one.

People who want to own their own businesses often spend a few years working in someone else's small business to learn what they need to know to succeed.

I think it's safe to say most small businesses have very few people who really need a laptop. In small businesses, unless the smaller size or portability of laptops are necessary, the interface drawbacks outweigh the small size and portability.

Most people will find desktop computers easier and more comfortable to use. That they cost less than laptops -- and are not subject to the tyranny of batteries -- is a bonus. Many younger people, however, have been using laptops in school and have gotten used to the form factor and to having everything with them all the time. That has started to make inroads into how those people - and their bosses - work. Until a few years ago, only my company's owner used a laptop. There are now six other people whose duties and/or travel schedules warrant laptops, but very few actually have them: they leave "work" at "work." Clericals, including low-level accounting people, should use desktop computers. If their workspace is so small that a modern desktop computer is "too big," the space is too darn small! Cramped work space interferes with productivity far beyond computer choice: fix the space problem! The kinds of computers appropriate to each situation depends on the specific kind of company, what they are using them for and in what environment. If you're doing a lot of creative and/or analytical work, large monitors, the most comfortable possible keyboards and mice, significant amounts of desk space, etc., are all key issues.

Every time I have to replace a computer, I go through the same thought process: what is going to be the most practical for this particular situation/use/need. I use the same thought process when it comes to recommending specs for computers -- Mac & PC. The owner is always most concerned about price. I'm most concerned about efficiency, minimizing anything that tires, distracts or causes physical problems or stress for the users and how long the item will be useful. I'd rather have something leading edge, fast, and optimized that can be used for a longer period of time before becoming obsolete. Most importantly, if you're growing a company, your computing demands will increase fast -- and often in spurts. Buying better hardware and software from the beginning can help keep you from hitting the wall just because you're not prepared to go to the next level. Planning ahead, putting infrastructure in place that can handle increasing demand, prevents these problems. Growth needs are almost always predictable. The software publishers make their programs more hardware-demanding with virtually every upgrade. If you keep up with software changes, your hardware and networks can get bogged down pretty fast. Get hardware that is as far above the minimum as you can afford: it's cheaper in the long run. Don't wait to upgrade when more advanced hardware becomes available: waiting will cost you in the long run.

Don't Miss: How Long Should Your Business Keep Its Computers?

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