Everybody likes to save a buck now and again. However, buying inexpensive, consumer-grade technology for your business can result in significant hidden costs.
In a recent survey of nearly 3,000 working adults in the U.S., the software company Samanage found that one in four believe their productivity is being impeded by inadequate technology. Respondents also admit that these performance issues often lead them to download and use unauthorized applications, despite the potential IT management headaches and security threats that can result.
When assessing company technology and developing an upgrade schedule, some businesses are tempted to consumer-grade hardware and software. In the long run, however, consumer-grade technology can cost you dearly in terms of lost productivity, increased maintenance and diminished security. It is just isn’t designed to deliver the performance, reliability, features and support required for serious business purposes.
One of the surest ways to frustrate your users is to make them work on PCs and laptops that lack the computing power of a business-grade machine. Limitations in memory and processor speed make it impossible to run multiple business applications simultaneously without performance issues.
You’ll almost certainly have to upgrade the operating system of any machine designed for home use. Windows 10 Home Edition is fine for lightweight applications, but most businesses will require the security, virtualization and policy management features of the Pro and Enterprise editions.
Consumer-grade machines are cheaper because they have lower-quality components such as an all-plastic chassis, a cheaper hard drive and less RAM. These machines don’t get subjected to rigorous testing to ensure high durability and reliability. They are generally designed to operate efficiently for three years under typical home-use conditions, but likely won’t last that long under daily business usage. Business-grade machines typically come with extended support contracts, creasing significant financial incentives for making durable machines that don’t require much service.
Another way manufacturers keep the price down on consumer PCs is by subsidizing their costs with third-party payments for preinstalled software — the free trials, demos and adware derisively known as bloatware or junkware. This junk can significantly degrade the performance of a machine right out of the box. Even worse, it can create huge security and privacy issues. For example, some preinstalled adware will track web searches and browsing activity in order to place additional ads on the sites you visit. Worse yet, some adware installs its own root information, making your machine more vulnerable to malware and other attacks.
Consumer-grade routers, storage and backup devices also have shortcomings. Off-the-shelf wireless routers are designed for easily setting up a home network, but they won’t provide any of the load-balancing, traffic-shaping or security features of a business-class device. Low-end storage may provide plug-and-play simplicity, but with none of the scalability, capacity or optimization features of a business-grade solution. Consumer-grade and cloud-based backup solutions may provide a level of data protection, but file recovery at business scale is sure to be slow and messy.
The bottom line is that you need reliable technology to drive business efficiency. Any investment that falls short of that goal is wasted money. Business-grade technology may have higher up-front costs, but it will deliver greater value in the long run through improved performance, reliability, management and security.