Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Helpful Hints: Buying a Computer

There is always some fear of buying something you are not familiar with. For many buying a computer is task that they do not look forward to because they are not familiar with the latest technology and are afraid they are going to buy something that is outdated. Today I am going to offer some helpful hints when looking to purchase a computer. We will look at some of the things you should have on a computer and some things that not be that important to you.

1. Should I buy a name brand or from a local person?

Now here is a question that can open a can of worms. Let me say to start off with that I at one time worked for Gateway but that was many years ago. At that time we had a local computer store in Salt Lake called Totally Awesome Computers. The owner was very obnoxious and had some questionable ads on the radio. At that time I would have said to go seek out one of big companies as they will give you the best for your money.

However, these days you can find many local companies providing a good product. No matter which of the major manufacturers you look at, you will find people that have had problems with them. I have been lucky (knock on wood) that my Gateway and HP/Compaq computers have worked well.

I would recommend checking out Computer Shopper magazine. This magazine has advertisements from many smaller companies and provides good products for the dollar. Before purchasing from any company especially one of the smaller national or local companies, I would check with the Better Business Bureau website. While some of the smaller companies do a great job there is also some out there that will take advantage of their customers.

2. Trends in the computer industry.

One thing to be aware of when looking at computers is that these days the gaming world is driving computer technology not business needs. You do not see the big changes in the computers that you saw just five or more years ago. While a few years ago you needed the latest and greatest to keep up, these days for a good business computer, you do not have to buy all the latest gadgets to get you a good computer.

3. Figure out what your needs are.

Many times people want all the latest and greatest for their computers. This is the equivalent of buying a Ferrari as a commuter car. Figure out what your needs are today and for the next couple of years. Are you going to be playing extreme games? Are you going to be doing extremely high end graphics? The answer to that question is probably no. You are probably going to use your computer to keep customers files, print up invoices, do some word processing, and edit some pictures.

Once you have figured out what you are going to use your computer for, then it’s time to figure out what you want on your computer.

4. The Processor

The Processor is the brain of the computer. Since you will probably doing multi-tasking with your computer (as business owners we are always multi-tasking right?), I would recommend a dual core processor. The two big manufacturers of processors are Intel and AMD. For the last few years AMD had the lead in computer processors but in the last couple, Intel caught up and surpassed AMD.

Quad core processors are starting to come out which will make the Dual Cores less expensive but if the price is right the Quad cores will allow even more multi-tasking, but probably exceed your needs.

The manufacturers have entry level processors, with Intel it’s called Celeron and with AMD it’s the Sempron. I would only recommend these processors if you are doing the very basics. The problem with buying the entry level is that they are not designed to handle the changes your computing may do over the next couple of years.

5. Memory

I consider memory to be even more important than the processor. The memory is what makes a computer slow or fast. Today with the advent of Windows Vista, you need to have a minimum of 1Gig of memory just to make most of Vista work. I would highly recommend either 2 or 4 Gig to have all the functionality you need and to give some extra memory for all the projects you are going to be working on.

6. Hard Drive

Are you going to be storing lots of pictures, music, or movies on your computer? Then you want to have the largest amount of hard disk space you can buy. However, if you’re mainly going to be doing basic business files and stuff, most of today’s hard drives will do the job just find. A 250 Gig hard drive would be more than adequate for most business needs. If you think you might be storing a ton of pictures in the future then look to move up to a 500 Gig model.

7. Graphics Cards

Once again, what are you going to be using your computer for? For the average business a good 256 to 512K graphics card will be more than adequate for your needs. Many computers will come with graphics integrated into the motherboard and many computer geeks will tell you to get a separate card, but for the average business user, integrated graphics will suite your needs just fine.

8. Optical Drives

Back when I worked at Gateway, we were told that everyone needs a DVD drive because in a year or two all the software would be coming out on DVD. Well here we are some 8 years later and most of your software is still coming out on CD. However with the cost of DVD drives so low and the fact that DVD disks will hold 4 times the amount of information of CD, I do recommend getting a DVD +- Read and Write Drive.

These days you are hearing a lot about Blu-Ray and HD-DVD which hold substantially more than a DVD, however these drives are still expensive and unless you will be watching a ton of movies on your business computer, I recommend sticking with the DVD drive. Make sure the drive is multi-format sine it will play either of the two formats (+-).

9. Monitor

Only a couple of years ago it would cost you almost $500 to buy a good flat panel monitor of 19”. Today even the larger 20 and 22” inch models are starting to get under $300 and the 19” are going for under $200.00. With all the space a flat panel saves I highly recommend these plus they have better quality. One of the things to look for is a response time of under 8ms.

10. Operating System

There is several operating systems available but the most common of course is Windows. You may be able to find computers that come with XP but a majority of today’s models will only have Vista available. Once again for business uses Vista works find but if XP Pro would be a better choice if you can find it.

There are also alternative programs available such as Linux, but for those looking for just a good computer for your business without much difficulty I would stick with Windows since it is the standard bearer and many people know it.

11. Other Software

You will also need a program to do word processing and spreadsheets. The most common program is Microsoft Office but there are also free programs out there such as Open Office that provides most people find do everything they need. If you are not going to be sharing a lot of documents and are just using them yourself I would look into these Office Alternatives.

Well this will give you a start to having a good business computer. I would also check out some of the computer magazines such as PC, PC World, and Computer Shopper. Good luck in buying that computer and remember the old saying Keep It Simple.

Also remember the old saying that if you line up 10 economist you would get 10 different answers, well the same goes for computer geeks. They will all have their opinion on what is best for you but remember, you are not an extreme gamer, you just need a computer to do business and keep that in mind when taking mine or any one else's suggestions.

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Saturday, September 01, 2007

To Do or Not To Do Political Signs...

With election time coming for many areas the decision comes whether to put of signs of political support or not.

This comes down to what kind of market you are in and who are your customers. If you live in an area that supports primarily one party and you support that party then you may be OK. However you could also be putting off potential customers by your choices. You need to decide if its worth the risk to alienate a portion of your customer base by supporting certain persons, parties, or positions.

If you do want to be involved there is plenty of ways to get involved without making your business a home to political signs. Look to others way to show support than what might cost you your best customer.