In Part 1 of this blog series, we introduced core IT terminology and the value of strategic investment in IT. In Part 2, we considered the importance of finding the right software solution for your business. By starting with software, you gain a better understanding of your hardware requirements. So, once you’ve considered the core applications your business requires, and the common tasks it needs to complete, you can buy the right hardware to carry out those business functions.
Our readers who recall the classic scene from the movie Office Space (1999), and have had similar experiences throughout their career, will have an appreciation of why hardware investment is so important in business. For those who haven’t watched the movie – we highly recommend it!
For the purpose of this blog, we’ll categorise hardware in two forms. The first form is the IT infrastructure or the back-end systems. The hardware which is designed to manage and run the IT system and which is often managed by IT specialists or technicians. The other form is end-user hardware, the devices which people use to carry out the tasks required for everyday business operation. We’ll be focusing on what you need to know when it comes to end-user hardware in business.
Businesses can be more or less flexible with the choice of end-user hardware they choose to deploy. Common end-user hardware a business can invest in may include fixed or mobile devices, such as:
Great if you carry out business in a single location. You can often pick up a high spec desktop with a small footprint (taking up little space), for a good price. Desktops are durable and can be easy to upgrade, reducing on-going running costs.
Laptops, tablets and mobile phones
Almost everyone has a mobile phone for personal use, but they are also invaluable if you carry out business in different locations. Take a look at our blog on how to create a secure and mobile workforce.
The laptop and tablet markets are virtually limitless, and with the latest trend of hybrid devices, purchasing the right hardware can often seem daunting. Services such as Which? and PCMag offer great, up to date guides and independent reviews on all the latest hardware, and is a great place to learn more about what’s currently on offer.
Fixed desk / VoIP phones
Again, if you’re based primarily in a single working location and spend a lot of time making and receiving calls, then a telephone or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system can be a great business solution. They can offer discounted calling rates, integration with your mobile phone, and a wealth of other functions which can help streamline business functions. Otherwise, if you want to move away from the more traditional setups, consider some of the other internet based telephone solutions such as Skype for Business.
Network equipment, servers and routers
You would usually consider these as back-end infrastructure systems. Because these aspects of IT infrastructure are more technical, we will touch on these briefly as we come to consider IT services and the cloud in Part 4 of this blog series.
Printers, copiers and scanners
Inevitably, you will be required to print something during the course of business. Further, it is good practice to scan and store electronically any paper copies of documents you receive for easy access and safekeeping. As time passes and technology progresses, we are becoming less reliant on printed documents. Running a paper-efficient business can provide significant cost savings, and we’ll cover how to create a paper-efficient office in future content.
TVs, projectors and meeting room systems
Many businesses host meetings and presentations, or attend those hosted by others. Having hardware in place to allow such meetings and events can provide an excellent internal and external business presence. Such systems are not always essential, but can be nice to have. It all depends on the nature of the business, its internal organisational structure and the way in which it manages its customer relationships.
Finally, don’t forget to factor in the miscellaneous items that collectively can form a large portion of your IT budget. Items such as keyboards and mice, monitors, webcams, speakers and microphones, and cables. All these miscellaneous items are essential to allow your users to make the most of their hardware.
Compatibility and interoperability
One area that businesses often see wasted investment is by purchasing hardware which is incompatible with their existing infrastructure. When it comes to hardware, a good approach to take is – if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. If your existing hardware works well, ensure that any new items you purchase are both backwards and forwards compatible, so they work with your existing equipment and any new hardware you may later invest in.
It is also worth checking that your software works well with hardware. Common applications often work on most devices (or more importantly, their operating system). When considering hardware options, make informed decisions. Do not just purchase an item because it looks good, but consider the actual benefits and the purpose for which you are investing in it.
IT hardware forms a core part of your business’s assets. Assets need to be maintained and protected, and the best way to ensure this is by keeping up to date information on the hardware you buy, sell and update. This register will be invaluable when you consider budgeting, complete accountancy tasks, and for insurance purposes. Such deadlines can be daunting, and maintaining your asset register on a regular basis will ensure you don’t waste time evaluating your current asset lists as deadlines loom, spreading the burden through the year.
Typically, businesses replace or refresh their hardware around every 4 years. This can be a costly exercise, and not always worth the investment. Only refresh your hardware when you actually need to, and when your budget affords. Update the essentials first, and ensure you keep an eye on the latest generation of products so you make the most of the product lifespan. Finally, recycle or sell your old IT equipment. Someone will be able to put it to good use, and you should get a little cash back in return.
Purchasing or leasing
There are also different methods of investing in IT hardware, depending on the type of hardware you intend on purchasing. You can buy devices outright, or alternatively, lease them.
The summary below should help you understand the advantages and disadvantages with leasing hardware. Note that the below is for general guidance only, as there are different leasing models and terms that vendors impose.
Advantages of leasing
Equipment can be kept up to date and refreshed after lease expires (or earlier).
Predictable fixed monthly costs help with budgeting.
Reduce or remove upfront or capital costs.
Service and support contracts allow devices to be repaired or replaced with relative ease.
Disadvantages of leasing
Higher costs in the long run.
Must continue with payments or face early termination even if you stop using the hardware.
Often, you are not the legal owner of the hardware.
For most businesses, a combination of both purchasing and leasing hardware works best to help maximise your return on investment. Buying inexpensive items such as computer peripherals outright, and leasing more expensive items such as multi-function printers, where you can receive the additional benefit of replacement parts, toners and servicing as part of the lease contract.
Getting a head start on hardware
We hope the above provided you with an insight into how to maximise your IT investment. There are plenty more considerations that will help with your IT spend, many are specific to the types of hardware you are thinking of buying (or leasing). When leasing, it is important to understand the terms on which you are provided with the equipment to avoid any surprises later down the line. When purchasing on a budget, ensure you are basing your choices on well-informed decisions and the items which are essential to the functioning of your business. This will ensure you can make the most of your new hardware with minimal worry and on-going running costs.
marketpreneurs can help you make the most of your IT budget and investment. If you have a technology based project, why not take a look at some of our IT services, or request a quote for an adhoc IT project.