Cii - How to choose the best small business PC blog article

What is the Best Small Business PC?

July 16, 2015

First off, let me say that this information changes very quickly. It is accurate as of the above publication date.

 

When choosing a PC for a use in a small business, cost is often a factor, but don’t sacrifice quality. It’s hard to decide on the optimal small business PC, especially when there are so many out there. You can visit the Dell online store, for example, and get an idea of the countless options available. If/when you make a wise purchase, a PC should last your business for 5 years or longer. One of the things I often recommend is PC rotation. Let’s say you have power users who need a fancy graphics workstation. They might need to be upgraded every 2-3 years. Often you can hand the system down to another user who doesn’t have the same level of demands, and they will wind up with a better system, and you will get more life out of the machines you purchase.

My goal here is to give you practical and pragmatic advice on picking a PC for your business, not strict rules. Understanding your needs, the buying experience, and what some numbers mean should be more valuable than naming a specific PC; since one size doesn’t fit all, and any PC available now could be discontinued and replaced with a newer model at any time. Regardless of your needs, I suggest you check the software that you need to run and get a system that meets the recommended system requirements for all of the applications you need to run, and any you may be thinking about.

Small Business PC Ranking Factors

The Good, Better, Best ratings are based on the following:

Good – A baseline Business class PC.  This is what I would get for someone doing reception, or light office work, word processing and basic internet access. It is also the bare minimum I would recommend for any PC today.

Better – This is a PC for a heavy multitasker or someone running QuickBooks or other more intense workloads. If you always have 30 windows open, this is for you.

Best – This is for the Power User. This is what I would recommend for a programmer, graphic designer, or architect. The requirements for these users are fairly specific, so I would recommend reviewing the system requirements for whatever software he or she needs to run.

Processor

This is the workhorse of the PC, and the hardest part to change, so I recommend buying the best you can afford:

Good: Dual core processor (Intel Core i3/i5)

Better: Quad core processor (Intel Core i5/i7)

Best: Server class processor (Intel Xeon)

Memory (RAM)

The RAM is the space that your computer uses to do its thinking, but it easy to upgrade and much less of a bottle neck than it used to be.

Good:  4GB

Better:  8GB

Best:  16+GB

Storage (Hard Drive)

Bigger is better, but faster is better than bigger.

Hard drives today come in two main varieties. Traditional hard drives with spinning disks (HDD), and solid state drives (SSD). There is a third type, the solid state hybrid drive (SSHD) which combines some small solid state space with a slower hard drive to give a boost in performance. These can cause issues with drive encryption and disk imaging, so if these uses are important, I would avoid the hybrid drives.

If a SSD is in your budget, get it. PERIOD. Drive speed is the biggest limiting factor in PC design right now, and this is the way to get the best performance. If you need a lot of storage space, buy an SSD and then get a second HDD for storing large files and programs.

Good:  7200RPM SATA HDD

Better:  SATA SSD

Best:  PCIe SSD

Graphics Card

Graphics cards are like websites, everyone has one, but some are prettier than others. The GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) options span a huge range from built-in to the CPU to rack mount monsters. I’m not going to make any real strong statements here other than to say that these have gotten a lot better over the last couple of years and you can spend about what you want to. I definitely suggest checking the system requirements for your software before you put your money down on one of these. They will typically make specific recommendations you can follow.

Good:  On-board GPU

Better:  Discrete PCIe GPU

Best:  The sky is the limit for workstation or gaming class cards. If you need one, you probably have a good idea what you need/want. Again, check specific software requirements if you aren’t sure.

Operating System

I always encourage you to get the latest version of the OS you can live with and will run your applications. This will ensure you get the longest life from your investment. Right now Windows 10 is where you want to be. It combines the best features of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 into a great OS.

Warranty

Warranty is an often overlooked item when purchasing a business PC, but it can mean the difference between having someone standing around the water cooler or doing the work they are paid for.  We always recommend a 3 year next-business-day warranty. Something else to be mindful of is that not all warranties cover all parts of the PC. Some exclude the hard drive or other parts, so make sure you read what you are buying so you don’t have any surprises.

Form Factor

Form factor is the size and shape of the PC. Right now there are three main types often seen, that we typically sell.

Minitower:

This is the traditional size CPU box that has been around for a couple of decades now. It typically sits on the floor and is taller than it is wide.

Small Form Factor:

This can sit up or lie down as a desktop (with a monitor on top of it)  As the name suggests are smaller than traditional PCs, but can be almost as powerful for most users.

All-In-One:

This is a great option for a reception area or front desk, or for a business that wants a clean look and feel to their work areas. This combines a monitor with the computer components, so there are less cables and parts lying around. The downside is they typically are about 50% more expensive than an equivalent monitor and PC would cost.

 

Interested in our guidelines for choosing the best business laptop? Check out our post!

 


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I am a .NET and web programmer and systems administrator who is fascinated by all things tech.  My primary goal is to create software and implement technology that empowers people to work smarter.  I believe that technology should enhance our lives, not control them. I like hiking, cycling, gardening, and in general doing things to connect with nature.

Gray Anthony, Software Engineer