IT Equipment: Consumer vs. Business Grade

With a vast amount of manufacturers out in the technology landscape, making your next IT equipment purchase can sometimes feel daunting. Even if you have a preferred manufacturer the vast options available can be double digits. For most purchasers the subtle differences between models can quickly be lost until one of them rears its ugly head for a downed or disabled computer.

Companies still offer traditional lines aimed at the consumer and others aimed at a business. Understanding the differences and why companies like Chess offer business lines can be very important to the bottom line. Port options, maintainability, warranty and ease of repair are only some of the minute differences that can separate a consumer model from a business model.

Which warranty would you prefer: 1 year return to depot or 3 year onsite? Two models being equal can typically have a few dollar price difference and this option is one of the main culprits. Be careful about trying to find the absolute lowest price because two years of additional warranty on a business machine can be critical for an office with no IT budget. Consumer grade machines are built with parts and designs to minimize footprint and highlight look and feel but this is often at the expense of key component reliability.

Hex screws or phillip’s screws? Another interesting side effect of the model differences is that by building to minimize weight and maximize look and feel, manufacturers need to forgo maintenance and onsite repair concerns. If you expect your IT department or IT provider to perform hardware repairs of equipment, consumer grade equipment can take longer to repair and require special tools because of the design characteristics of the packaging. You might save 10 dollars on a machine now but if one year or 2 from now the repair takes twice as long, your gamble on total cost of ownership has lost out.

Consider two user stories that track very nicely along the consumer verse business grade topic. I worked with a customer some time ago that was looking to replace their small fleet of computers (around 25 workstations). After discussing options and working with the customer, we narrowed in on a model that would fit perfectly in their environment. However, the customer found they could purchase an “identical model” from the manufacturer directly for ten dollars less per machine. An initial savings of two hundred and fifty dollars. Four of the units were dead on arrival which had to be processed by the customer (and not by us) costing time and money. Several of the units had hardware issues about 14 months in.

The key here is that the units had hardware issues 14 months into a 12 month warranty period. Their ten dollars savings per machine was in part because the warranty difference was 1 year instead of 3. Many of hundreds of dollars later the customer’s units were back operating but any cost savings had long since vanished.

We had a second customer who felt a Sam’s Club purchase was a much better deal (50 dollars or so) than a model we suggested. However, the unit the customer purchased did not have Windows professional edition, ergo no domain joining. Instead of paying 75 dollars to have it upgraded, the customer promptly returned the workstation and purchased a different one…with still the home version of windows. This machine the customer choose to pay the upgrade fee to Windows. Their initial 50 dollar savings probably cost around 600 dollars.

The value of these two stories is in understanding that there are important key differences in equipment models that your IT department or your IT provider may understand and if allowed will help you navigate.

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