Choosing The Right Hardware and Software For Your Business
Some kind of computer hardware is necessary for nearly every business in existence. Knowing you need computing hardware is a pretty easy conclusion at which most arrive quickly. Knowing what hardware to choose for your business is a completely different problem. There are thousands of options and each business has their needs and budget.
To achieve your business goals, you must navigate the endless lists of hardware options and choose options that support and simplify business processes while staying within a practical budget.
1. Write a 'must have' and 'nice to have' list
For any hardware, software, or subscription purchase (such as Adobe Creative Cloud or a cloud based accounting package) that you're looking to make, create a list of the features you’d like it to have. Then separate your list into two categories – ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’, and make a note of these in your business/hardware and software plan. Your ‘must have’ list should be short and outline the features that are absolutely necessary for your business. What we mean by this, is that you should list your primary business lines of effort. List those tasks that must get done to keep the company in business and then list the equipment that is absolutely necessary to complete those tasks.
Here are some general questions to ask yourself:
What primary business task is this hardware dedicated to?
Who is going to run and maintain it?
Will the hardware need to integrate with any other devices?
Considering The Cloud?
Business technology changes all the time. While it's not always good advice to get the 'next best thing', the well-established trend to 'cloud computing' is something you could consider when making your list.
Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet such as infrastructure, platforms, data storage, and software, and normally includes:
infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), this includes servers for storing data/files and customer data and emails.
platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), for example GoogleApps.
software-as-a-Service (SaaS), for example accounting platforms or logistics platforms such as Acumatica, which is an enterprise resource planning software.
2. Computers, printers and data storage devices
When choosing what hardware to buy for your business, it is important to consider the right factors. Here are a few to consider:
Who will be using the computer?
What will they be using it for?
How often will it be used?
Where will the computer be used?
Do you have enough space for a traditional desktop?
Could you consider other options like notebooks, tablets or all-in-ones?
Do you need a single function printer or multi-function printer/copier with color?
How will you connect to the printer – do you have access to a Wi-Fi network?
What level of output and speed do you need, and how often do you print?
How much data needs to be stored?
Where will data be accessed, for example locally or remotely?
Will your data be accessible during a disaster?
Have you considered cloud storage instead or as another backup source?
3. Clarify your budget
To make sure you don’t overspend, set a firm budget and allow for other expenses such as:
whether you'll be able to use the device out-of-the-box or if it requires customization
any recurring maintenance expenses
how you'll insure your hardware purchase against damage or theft
4. Cut Down Your List
Now that you have your ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ lists – and a clear budget – it’s time to reduce your options. Go through your product list and eliminate items that lack features, aren’t the best solutions for your business, or are too expensive.
Come up with three or four products that are a good fit by looking for:
high quality customer support
a brand that has a broad base of users
a brand with a solid track record.
5. Evaluate the options and choose your finalists
From the remaining options, determine which products deliver the most features from your ‘nice to have’ list. Are there add-ons that you can purchase at a later date as you need them? Here are some general questions to ask the salesperson:
Are there any ongoing costs related to running this product, such as annual subscriptions?
What kind of warranty does this product come with, and what does it cover?
What if I find a better deal than yours for this specific item?
By the end of this process, you should have reduced your list down to only the products you need.
6. Get feedback from your team
If you have staff who'll use the hardware, now is a great time to get their feedback. Getting staff feedback will also help when it comes to implementing the new hardware – if you've asked for their feedback early on, they'll be more receptive to the change. Ask for their thoughts and feelings regarding:
your current hardware – its limitations and benefits
the types of features they would like the piece of hardware to have.
7. Consider Managed Services
This entire process is simplified by hiring a managed services provider. Managed service providers (like us at ABN!) will give you a detailed evaluation of all of the considerations in this post. Your provider will then make recommendations and a hardware/software plan to directly support your business needs.