A computer is so affordable that it should be included as a key tool in your business. Computers can be purchased for a wide range of prices. For basic word processing, email, accounting, and spreadsheet work, you will not need a top-of-the-line computer. Computers come in a variety of configurations, sometimes called a “form factor.” Below we discuss the most common configurations: desktop, laptop, notebook, and tablet.
Desktops are the most common computer configuration. They are not portable but can be customized to meet the needs of your business. A desktop computer system should include:
- A basic processing unit: either a PC (Personal Computer) or a Mac (Apple). PC’s are more common in usage and are lower in cost. Most businesses work in a PC format. However, for many users and applications utilizing graphic arts and design work, the Mac enjoys very steadfast supporters. Considering how you plan to use your computer will help you determine whether to choose a PC or Mac platform. You could also research the programs or applications you will need to ensure they are available on the platform you choose.
- A flat-panel monitor.
- Internet connectivity, USB ports, and web camera.
- Speakers or a sound bar if you plan to do video conferencing or recording.
A laptop computer offers portability with many of the features offered by a desktop, which make it ideal for meetings or if you travel frequently. Drawbacks for laptops include: they are higher in price than desktops, have smaller keyboards and monitors, have limited battery life, and are subject to theft. Most laptops provide the option of connecting to your keyboard, mouse and printer wirelessly or through a USB cable. If you travel and need computing capability, it is worth the extra expense. Popular laptop examples include the Chromebook, Surface Pro, and MacBook Pro.
Notebooks are a rapidly evolving category of small, light, and inexpensive portable computers suited for general computing and accessing web-based applications. They are very popular with with students, bloggers, and businesses owners alike.
While generally less expensive than laptops, manufacturers are starting to beef up notebooks, which is increasing their cost. A caution: their compact size makes them attractive for traveling but if you are considering one to save on the cost of a laptop, you probably will be getting less memory, and many do not have full applications or compatibility with your other business applications.
Things to keep in mind if getting a desktop, laptop or netbook:
- Get as much capability as you can afford. Laptops are not typically as easy to upgrade as desktop computers because of the nature of their construction.
- Be sure you get all the features you need when you purchase.
- Make sure your computer, laptop, or notebook has a webcam built in for video or web-based meetings. If it doesn’t you can buy an external one relatively inexpensively.
- If you do not normally have access to an electrical outlet, get a laptop or netbook with extended battery life.
- Keep all documentation, software, and accessories that come with your device.
A tablet is equipped with a touchscreen or stylus rather than a keyboard to operate the computer. The advantages include flexibility to use without a mouse or keyboard, recording diagrams and symbols, and easier navigation than a keyboard and mouse or touchpad. Disadvantages include higher cost, slower input speed, and risk of damage to the tablet screen. You can purchase a keyboard and mouse for a tablet, but that would also increase the cost. Be wary of the total cost because the cost may be similar to a laptop that has more capacity and capability. Examples of tablet computers include the iPad, Galaxy Tab, Surface Go, and Amazon Kindle.
The software you purchase is key to making your computer productive. The operating system (OS), whether it is a PC or a Mac, should be preloaded onto the system. The operating system is what allows you to interact with your computer. Many software packages are often bundled with the system at the time of purchase and some in the form of trial software. At the bare minimum, you should have the capability to do word processing/create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.
To protect your information, an antivirus program is essential. You can purchase one or use a free program; however, the free programs will not afford you as much security as the paid versions.
Additionally, you should consider financial and accounting software that is appropriate for your business. Keep in mind that many accounting/bookkeeping software packages are not double-entry systems and care must be taken in making the entries correctly. Keep in mind that home and professional versions of accounting software may not be compatible or may not be appropriate for your operating system. Be sure to read the software specifications before you purchase to ensure that your hardware and software are compatible.
Many products can be used with your computer to enhance the functionality and image of your business. Auxiliary products often require special software.
- Printer: Printers are available at many price points. The connectivity, either wireless or hard wired, will depend on the type of computer you have. Be sure to research the compatibility of your computer and printer before making a purchase. Laser printers cost more up front than inkjet printers but are less expensive over the long run when taking printing costs into account. You can choose either a color or black and white printer. A color printer may allow you to print marketing materials for your business. If you have a small space to work with, consider an all-in-one printer which can fax, scan, copy, and print. Some printers have USB ports or slots for memory cards, allowing you to print directly from these media storage devices.
- Digital Camera: Many people have a digital camera on their smartphones. For specialty photos or to produce very high quality photos, a dedicated digital camera may be more appropriate for your business. A picture taken with a digital camera can be directly loaded onto your computer for a variety of uses. Many digital cameras also offer wifi connectivity so you can upload images directly to the web or a social network platform. Usage ideas include pictures of properties, product catalogs, pictures accompanying résumés, and many more. Digital cameras come in various shapes and sizes, but what really sets them apart in price is image quality. Smartphone camera quality is good and improving all the time. So you may have all the digital imaging capabilities you need in your smartphone already.
- Scanner: Scanners provide the ability to convert a paper document into a digital document that you can send, store, or copy. Fax machines used to be a popular way to collect signatures on documents from people in a different location. Now a scanner is more frequently used because the digital document can be sent by email. There are also applications that allow you to scan a document with your phone. In many cases, a photograph can also be taken of a document, and that image sent or stored as needed.
- Hard Drives and External Storage: Don’t overlook the importance of making regular external backups of the content, images, and individual programs used in your business. A backup is simply saving your information to a second source so you have a second copy in case your system crashes or is lost. Backups are commonly stored on USB flash drives, external hard drives, and/or a cloud-based system. External storage is relatively inexpensive. There are also services provided on the web to facilitate this process.
Egbara Emmanuel is an indigene of Ebo Ipuole in Yala Local Government Area of Cross River State, Nigeria.
He is a lecturer at Udemy a fast growing life changing organization committed to “raising role models”. Egbara is also a seasonal lecturer at the open University, Australia (MOOC), the founder of the Assurance Team of Nigeria and an administrator of over twenty social media learning platform includings.
He is a dynamic life coach, a motivational speaker, a teacher and a creative writer. He is passionate about teaching leadership and technological successes and creative principles.