Computer hardware for business

Computer hardware components and specifications

Guide

PC hardware, such as a desktop computer, is the most common type of IT hardware purchased by a small business. The cost of hardware depends on its specification, which in turn is determined by some key components.

When you buy PC hardware, you need to decide what the specification of these key components should be.

Central processing unit

The processor is the driver of the computer. Processors are usually differentiated by speed, measured in gigahertz (GHz). The higher the GHz, the faster the computer will run. You should buy the fastest processor you can afford, but dual or quad-core processors running at speeds of 2 GHz or above will normally be enough for most business functions, eg word processing, spreadsheets and some multimedia. More CPU cores and higher speeds improve processing throughput and therefore the perceived speed of the computer.

Random access memory (RAM)

The processor uses memory to run programs. Generally, the more RAM you have, the better your computer will run when using several programs at once. Your computer should have enough memory to make the most of the processor speed. To use multiple modern software applications effectively, you should have at least 4 gigabytes (GB) of RAM and preferably 8 GB or above for more memory intense software applications, such as design, photography or video editing.

Hard disk

The hard disk stores the data you create in your business, as well as the programs you use. A typical office computer will have at least 500GB of hard disk space. Some new laptops and specialist performance computers come with solid state drives (SSD). These drives are silent because they have no moving parts and are five to eight times faster than the standard magnetic hard disk drives used in most desktop computers. Although SSD can offer significant performance advantages, the cost per GB of storage can be two or three times more expensive for the same storage capacity. Even with a price premium for a SSD, given the performance advantage vs the overall cost of a typical desktop or laptop, in most cases including a SSD is the best approach.

You can also use external plug-ins, such as USB memory sticks and portable external hard drives, to supplement your computer's storage requirements.

Peripherals

The monitor is the computer's display screen. Most modern monitors use some form of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology. Monitors are normally measured diagonally in inches - typically 22, 24 or 27 inches. Larger or ultra wide-screen monitors allow you to compare two documents on-screen. Which LCD technology you should use will depend on the cost of it, and whether you require true colour reproduction or high screen refresh rates.

The aspect ratio of a monitor is the proportion of image width to height. A common aspect ratio for monitors is 16:9 but other aspect ratios may be required for specialist purposes such as CCTV monitoring or movie editing.

The keyboard and mouse usually come as part of a bundle, but you may be able to select wireless devices that make desktops neater.

There are alternative computers to conventional desktop PCs available, such as Apple Macs. These have historically been used to support desktop publishing software but now also offer a comparable system for general office use.