Many business owners have looked at the prices of the technology they need, especially costly computers, and thought: “Why can’t I just run down to Costco or Best Buy and pick up a few off-the-shelf consumer units for half the price of the business-grade equipment?”
IT experts uniformly recommend against taking that route, and not because they are trying to pad their bills. In fact, falling into the false economy trap of purchasing lower quality equipment almost always ends up costing you more money in the long run.
Avoiding Hidden Costs
Some of the issues that businesses built with consumer-grade hardware deal with include:
- More frequent repairs
- Faster replacement cycles
- Lack of customization
- Obstacles for IT to manage your systems and networks
- Scalability limitations
- Incompatibilities with existing systems
- Shorter warranties
Each of these problems ends up costing businesses time and money to solve — often more than it would have cost to purchase a long-lasting, full-featured business computer in the first place. With that in mind, here are 10 reasons why IT professionals caution against buying consumer-grade computers for business users:
On the outside, business-class computers might look a lot like their consumer-grade cousins, but the similarities are only skin-deep. Business machines are built with higher grade materials and components. Among other things, that means a reinforced, metal chassis that won’t shatter like cheap plastic after a minor fall; higher quality connectors that can withstand more abuse; and screens with protective layers. Some even feature channels to direct liquid away from internal chips in the case of a spill.
These factors taken together explain why the typical lifespan for a business-grade laptop is more than twice that of consumer-grade machines — even though business users demand more from their equipment. The average consumer laptop only lasts around 2-3 years, compared to business laptops, which can run for 5-6 years.
Critically, business-grade computers also contain more dependable components, such as thermal management elements that won’t die on you at critical moments. The expensive and sensitive CPU in your workstation can be rendered inoperable if the manufacturer opted for a $5 no frills cooling fan that is prone to failure instead of a high quality $50 fan with published reliability figures. A minor savings for them ends up costing you big in repairs and downtime.
The latest trend in consumer hardware is shockingly disposable. Devices are built to be thin and light but also fragile and not easily opened, fixed, or customized. Many consumer laptops even solder RAM modules directly onto the motherboard, which is cheaper for them than including upgradeable RAM slots. So, if your business decides it needs a new piece of software that is very memory-intensive, that cheap machine you bought can’t be upgraded to handle it, leaving you with the unhappy option of purchasing an entirely new computer.
Consumer PC’s save money in other ways that negatively affect business computer buyers. Manufacturers sell space on the harddrive to software makers and preinstall applications that you either have no need for, or worse, that will actively cause problems and security risks. IT then has to go through every system and manually remove this junk.
More than just higher quality machines, business users also need equipment that is simply more capable than the average consumer computer. For a home user that typically just browses the web or does some light word processing, not much horsepower is required. Outfitting them with an 8-core CPU and a monster video card loaded with memory would be a waste of money. Plenty of business software, however, is designed to take advantage of those resources and some simply won’t work without them.
From a purchasing perspective, going the consumer route also drastically reduces your options. Computers for the consumer market are mass produced to appeal to a mass audience. Major manufacturers like Dell and Lenovo, however, give their business buyers a lot more choice. Everything from screen size, internal specs, and battery type, to smaller features like keyboard backlighting, can be preselected to fit your company’s unique requirements.
Another drawback of consumer-grade computers is the included operating system. Generally, they come with Windows 10 Home preinstalled. Business machines commonly include Windows 10 Pro, which has features critical to IT operations. For example, a PC running Windows 10 Home cannot be joined to an Active Directory Domain, which is a Microsoft service that lets administrators securely manage all your systems efficiently.
The basic firewall and antivirus solutions built into Windows 10 Home are good enough for the average home user. But, the security needs of a business are far more complex, and the harm that can result from a breach is more extensive.
Windows 10 Home lacks many features necessary for running a secure and efficient network, including:
- BitLocker Device Encryption
- Windows Information Protection
- Assigned Access
- Mobile Device Management
- Dynamic Provisioning
Taken together, these features drastically improve the defensive posture of an overall network.
9. Remote Work
Windows 10 Pro also includes Remote Desktop, which was always helpful but now downright necessary given the huge spike in remote workers at most businesses. The Pro version of Microsoft’s OS also gives admins greater access to Windows Update management to ensure all systems are routinely patched for new security vulnerabilities, and it includes built in encryption tools to safeguard sensitive business data.
Most computers come with a warranty of some sort, but for consumers, they don’t often get much. One year is fairly standard, and don’t expect to get the highest level service if something does go wrong. Business users are more likely to see three year or longer warranties, as well as faster access to help, on-site support, overnight mailing of parts, and direct lines to the help center.
So, the answer to the original question — why shouldn’t you buy a laptop for your business from Costco? — is that you’ll end up with equipment that isn’t built to last, is difficult to repair, may not be upgradeable at all, lacks sufficient power for business applications, can’t join your network or be effectively managed by IT, is bogged down with unwanted bloatware, and exposes your company to easily avoidable security risks.
Fixing these issues will end up costing you more in new parts and service requests than simply opting for the right business-grade equipment from the start. Save time, save money in the long run, and save yourself the headaches that come with cheap computers. Make the smart decision to power your growth with proven, reliable, and capable business-ready machines.