Topic overview

Computer hardware

Computer hardware

The computer hardware in your business has a huge impact on how you work. Having the right devices can help move your company in the direction you desire.

Computer hardware types

Your business will probably use many types of computer hardware. And some items of computer hardware require significant capital expenditure. For instance:

  • A network server. Although far less commonplace these days, network servers allow you to store, share, control and protect your key business information centrally. However, most businesses have moved to cloud services, thus replacing the need for network servers.
  • Network equipment. A key part of your IT infrastructure. These days, this typically provides your broadband connectivity, which is essential for cloud computing services.
  • Business computers. Depending on what you do you might consider desktop, laptop or tablet computers. Mid-range desktop computers will last three years or more and can be had for £300-£400. When buying this type of computer hardware check the specifications and beware of false economies; weigh up the benefits of opting for either Mac or PC hardware.
  • Computer printers. Of all computer hardware, printers probably have the biggest difference between the initial cost (generally low) and running costs (usually much higher). Check these carefully.
  • Screens and projectors. Flat screen monitors are an essential piece of computer hardware for every desktop computer and can be great companions for laptops. Projectors are good for giving presentations.
  • Mobile hardware. Smartphones are vital tools for businesspeople and join laptops and tablets in mobilising the workforce.

Conversely, some computer hardware costs little and can be incorporated into your operating costs:

  • Storage media. Memory cards and USB sticks are cheap, reusable pieces of computer hardware. Hard disks can vary in price depending on features and capacity.
  • Computer accessories. This catch-all term covers keyboards, mice, headsets, speakers and any other type of computer hardware you'd plug into your PC or Mac.

Evaluating computer hardware

If you lack technical knowledge, the process of comparing and evaluating computer hardware for your business can be daunting. Manufacturers express the capabilities of their computer hardware in terms of its features. However, your business needs to understand what those features enable you to do.

Your IT requirements are key when selecting computer hardware. You should aim to transform them into a minimum specification for the hardware you need, before deciding the best way to buy it.

If you lack technical knowledge, seek expert help - perhaps from your IT suppliers or a friendly business which has been through a similar process of selecting computer hardware

Computer hardware brands and prices

Although it's important to stay focused on what will get the job done, computer hardware typically lasts three years, so it's important to plan ahead when creating your computer hardware requirements.

The latest, greatest computer hardware always comes with a price premium. It can be tempting to spend more for 'future proof' computer hardware, but the extra cost for top of the range gear makes it unattractive for most businesses.

At the other end of the scale, entry-level computer hardware is often a false economy. It will date quickly and require replacing sooner. It's usually wiser to aim somewhere in between when selecting your computer hardware, striking a balance between cost and features.

Similarly, computer hardware from big name brands sometimes costs more than lesser-known equivalents. It's usually worth paying a bit more for these items but not a lot. Most computer hardware is built from similar components, so the benefit is likely to show through better support and service rather than in the performance of the computer hardware itself.

Taking care of computer hardware

Some items of computer hardware, including printers and servers, will require regular maintenance and support to keep them running smoothly.

Settling on a standard specification for common items of computer hardware - like business computers - will help make these management and maintenance tasks easier.

What does the * mean?

If a link has a * this means it is an affiliate link. To find out more, see our FAQs.