What Parts Matter The Most For Office Computers?
Picking out the perfect computer for your business can be tough. If you’re tired of sitting through flashy video ads, listening to sales reps tell you about storage space, or if you have no idea what matters, you could end up with a lot of information that says nothing at all.
Both general use and specialized performance systems have certain parts that matter more than others. Knowing which components matter–and how much they should cost over a more basic machine–means understanding how they fit in the computer design puzzle.
Here are a few details to help you pick out the right system while pushing the less essential features aside for a moment.
Understanding System Requirements
Every operating system, software package, and even some hardware will have a list of system requirements. These requirements will spell out how much of any given resource is needed, and you need to focus on the speeds and capacities for a few different components and features.
First, your operating system (OS) requirements need to be met. The popular operating systems are Windows and Apple for desktop and laptop environments, then Android and Apple for mobile environments.
Other platforms such as servers will have their requirements but focus on the business workstation first. Your system needs to meet or exceed the recommended system requirements for the operating system to start and successfully load other programs and applications.
After that, you need to meet the requirements of your programs and applications. That is where it can get tricky, as some people think they need to add all of the elements together.
With modern computing, that’s not necessary–and for most computer owners, not even possible.
When a computer is running, specific tasks have the primary focus of the performance. There are a lot of feats of programming and engineering that allow your system to multitask while having your main, current program using most of the resources without completely turning off everything else.
Because of this, you need to meet or exceed the recommended specifications of your most demanding program. The most popular OS types on the market are designed to use as little resources as possible to run everything else, so your main program’s demands are more important and usually higher.
Should you exceed those demands? If you’re running more than one intensive program at once, then maybe you should. That isn’t usually an issue for the modern business office computer, as most office productivity programs aren’t resource intensive.
Exceeding performance demand is usually an issue for specialized computers, such as graphic design computers or scientific model analysis computers–or for entertainment and hobbyists, media production and gaming computers.
The more important point is to avoid the minimum requirements, designed for people with existing systems who can’t buy a new system or upgrade as soon as a new program or update is released. Many computer users instead prefer to test their current performance against the new changes. In a perfect world, the system will just run somewhat slower and struggle to keep up; in many situations, the older computers will merely be incompatible, requiring a new purchase.
If you purchase systems designed for the minimum requirements, you’re increasing the amount of money spent in the long run. Buying a single system that will be relevant for multiple years is better than buying a system that is already updated, then having to buy another computer when it fails to perform well shortly after.
Computer costs are not a consistent scale. In many cases, the price of a single, modern computer is lower than buying an older system and working through an upgrade. Remember: time is money, and troubleshooting upgrade problems can be more expensive than the new box cost.
Processor Power Before All
The processor is considered the brains of the computer because it performs the complex calculations needed to do anything–and everything–on the system. From typing and mouse clicks to running sophisticated computers, or getting the system to start at all, the processor is core. A faster processor is better, but you need to know what you need to avoid overspending.
As mentioned in the system requirements section, aim for the recommended specifications. Processors are listed in gigahertz (GHz), which is a clock rate or cycle speed that counts how many times per second they can make a calculation.
GHz listings will usually look like this:
To see how these speeds become relevant when looking at software and hardware, consider the system requirements for Windows 10 from the official Microsoft Windows 10 specifications page:
Processor: 1GHz or faster.
RAM: 1GB for 32-bit, 2GB for 64-bit.
Storage space: 16GB for 32-bit, 20GB for 64-bit.
Graphics/Video card: DirectX 9 or later and WDDM 1.0 driver.
It shows that Windows 10 only needs 1GHz of memory, 1GB of RAM, and 16GB or 20GB of storage space. Now, look at Microsoft Office, which is used by many office systems to write documents and save spreadsheets.
Still 1GHz of memory. That’s great because a lot of modern computers exceed those requirements for under $300 in many situations. If you’re using laptops, even less.
Processor demand isn’t unusually high for office computers. The real demand happens when you need to run programs such as Adobe Photoshop, which recommends a 2GHz processor.
Is your business focused on game streaming? First of all, make sure your office system and gaming (production) system are separate systems, and then check the requirements for your favorite games or modern games.
If your gaming computer breaks down because of performance issues caused by high-temperature components or system-breaking updates, you don’t want your office support and financial documents to disappear.
Just the same, having background programs related to office tasks can slow down your gaming or streaming system, leading to lower quality and potentially lower response time.
Memory, The Snack Of The Computing Industry
“Get more memory!” is a standard response to any system that is running slow and doesn’t have a virus. That is because memory does a lot of work that affects how fast your system delivers information.
The processor calculates information, but where does that information come from? Your hard drive, solid state drive, or other storage area keeps the data, and it has to get to the processor somehow.
Unfortunately, the distance between the processor and the information can be daunting. The computer may not seem that big, but keep in mind that standard processors perform billions of processes per second–trillions in the fastest systems in the world–and that this can mean a lot of traffic jams in the system.
Random access memory (RAM) alleviates the traffic problem–with the help of other features such as bus speed and buffering–by acting as temporary storage. It keeps the most commonly accessed files on hand for quick access so that the system doesn’t have to search the hard drive.
That matters because it takes time to search a drive, even a solid-state drive (SSD). Those billions of calculations can add up, and if your system is continually searching the same drive for information, the traffic jam will build up quickly.
Why not add another SSD? You can do that, but it’s just cheaper to use memory (at this point in computing). The RAM bays are also physically located closer to the processor and have specific electrical traces that go to the processor and other components that need dedicated outlets.
RAM has a VIP pass for specific jobs, or (to keep up with the traffic analogy) a route for semi-trucks and tractor trailers on business only.
How does “more memory” or “more RAM” manifest? How does it show itself in the average computer user’s experience? Well, if you’re a person who needs a lot of browser windows or tabs open, you can have more tabs before the system starts slowing down.
Those tabs take up memory space. The processor usage is minimal, and in most situations, you’ll run out of memory before running out of processor resource. The only exception is when a specific tab does some work that demands a lot of processor power, which isn’t common.
When working with office processing programs such as Microsoft Word or Open Office, having more memory allows you to have more documents up at the same time without having to close them because the system slows down.
In the modern office worker environment, the need for RAM shows up in one significant way with a few small differences. You’ll have a document program open, an internet browser with tabs open for research, and folders open to save or retrieve documents.
Having more open windows allows you to grab files without waiting. Some people only want one window at a time, but you may not want to wait for the data to load up, and it’s often better to minimize and maximize as needed.
Two of the most important specifications to look for are the processor and memory modules. Processors are the most important only because they’re harder to upgrade on your own and cost more per unit, while you can snap memory modules in place with relative ease and at a lower cost per useful unit.
If you need any help with figuring out how much you need for your exact situation, speak with an office technology consultant to get tailored information for your office processes.