First Things First
If you're ready to buy your business's first computer, you know the possibilities are endless. Here's what to ask yourself before you set foot in a store:
1. How do I plan to use my computer? To work more efficiently? To produce a higher-quality product? To cut costs?
2. What software applications will I need? Once you know how you'll use your PC, you'll be able to choose the right software applications.
3. What operating platform will I use? The operating system (either DOS, Windows or Macintosh) is a software program that tells the computer hardware how to operate. While most popular programs work on all platforms, some don't, so choose your applications first, then select a platform to match.
4. What are my hardware needs? First, check all your software applications and see what each requires. A program may need a minimum speed, a certain amount of memory or a CD-ROM drive. Second, choose peripherals. What type of printer is best for you? Do you need a large monitor? Do you want a tape backup system? Do you need to get online?
5. What can I afford? Set a budget. At the store, get a price quote for the basic hardware and software. Once you know that cost, add extras if your budget allows.
6. Where should I buy? Superstores, such as CompUSA and Best Buy, generally have a good selection in stock. Smaller stores probably won't have as many options available but may be more willing to work with you to design the machine you need. You can also buy computers online or by telephone. (Look in computer publications for contact information.) Although you won't get hands-on technical support this way, you'll have the ease of shopping from your office and delivery to your door.
Donna Chambers (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance business writer and small-business owner.
Lease Is More
It's a fact of life: Your computer will be obsolete within a few months of purchase. That means you'll eventually be stuck with an outdated PC. How do you get out of this trap?
Try leasing a computer. You not only get state-of-the-art equipment, but when the lease is up, you can trade in your old computer for a new one. Other benefits of leasing:
- Capital conservation. Leasing requires less capital than conventional financing, since you don't have to pay for the PC upfront.
- Improved cash-flow planning. Since payments are fixed for the lease term, they won't change with interest rates--allowing you to plan your budget.
- Better financing options. With a lease, you may be able to finance installation expenses and maintenance plans.
Make sure you know from the outset the equipment you'll need. Once you sign the leasing contract, you won't be able to upgrade for a specified time--and you usually can't get out of the lease until it's paid off.
What would happen if your computer were stolen? Even if it's insured, the downtime you'll experience until you get a replacement could cost you plenty in lost business. Worse, unless you've been vigilant about backing up data, precious information could vanish with your PC.
One solution is the bluVenom Computer Anti-Theft Device. It easily locks into the floppy drive or parallel port of any desktop or laptop computer, then sounds a warning "snake hiss" if the equipment is bumped. If movement continues, a 120-decibel siren goes off.
The device ($70 for the one that locks into the floppy drive, $75 for the one that locks into the parallel port) is operated by a 9-volt battery and has a 30-day guarantee. For more information, call bluVenom Anti-Theft Devices Inc. at (888) 326-3388 or visit http://www.bluVenom.com