With so many options available, choosing computer hardware for your business can be difficult. You will have to keep in mind:
- your current and future hardware needs
- potential compatibility issues
- security concerns
- your long-term IT strategy
How to assess computer hardware needs
To assess your needs, look at how you intend to use computers in your business. Think about, for example:
- the tasks you plan to computerise, eg record-keeping, payroll, invoicing, advertising
- your basic requirements, eg networking equipment, operating systems or software
- your business-specific requirements, eg web servers for e-commerce businesses
Different types of businesses will generally have different computer hardware needs. A personal computer may be enough for a small start-up, but a growing business may need more advanced equipment to meet its changing needs.
Your staff may also require training if you purchase new equipment that you expect them to use. You can carry out an IT training and learning needs analysis to determine what type of training, if any, your staff might need.
When choosing hardware, make sure that any new or replacement components are compatible with your existing computer equipment. Consider the overall costs, including if it might be cheaper to install a new system rather than upgrade the existing components.
Hardware theft or loss is a potential businesses risk. Whether by accident or malicious intent, loss of a laptop, a mobile device or storage devices (such hard drives) can jeopardise your business’ data security. You should take steps to protect both hardware and data against a potential breach. Read about the different types of IT risk and the importance of managing IT risk in business.
Long-term IT strategy
Your IT strategy should take into account any future changes in your market, your employees and your products or services. If possible, integrate hardware refresh and software rollout strategies in your business. See also computer software for business.
When choosing new hardware for your business, it's good practice to keep a list of purchase dates and cost of hardware for accountancy, tax, warranty and insurance purposes.
Hardware life expectancy
Life expectancy for some computer hardware parts is three to four years. At some point, your hardware may fail or it may become too old to perform adequately for your needs. Many businesses work on a hardware replacement cycle of about three to four years for desktop PCs and five years for servers.
Disposal of old hardware
Before you dispose of old computer hardware, it is important to delete any confidential or sensitive data. You can do this by either:
- securely wiping the data
- removing and physically destroying the storage drives that hold this data
You should dispose of old hardware in an environmentally friendly way. In some cases, the manufacturer can arrange free collection from you. Retailers or suppliers may charge you to dispose of the equipment.