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Small businesses: should you be buying a laptop or desktop?

by team Holly & Co, with Dell Technologies

If your initial thought was, “Um…what?! I’ve just been working with what I’ve got!!”, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. When we set up small businesses, and are working fast and the money’s tight, buying a new computer isn’t likely to be top of our lists. But the differences between laptops and desktops are larger than we might think. 

It can be bewildering to marry together your business and the perfect technology as there will be pros and cons for each. But spending a few minutes thinking about it now could help you make sure you’ve got a kit that can evolve with your business as it grows.

Yes, laptops are clearly great for being able to turn anywhere with a strong enough WiFi signal into a workspace. Especially if the house is filled with dogs/kids/general chaos. But will it give you the speed you need when you’ve got a database full of orders or want to launch a whizzy new creative programme on there? Transportability is only one consideration when comparing desktops to laptops. With help from our friends at Dell Technologies, we’re highlighting the two key questions you should ask yourself…

1. Think about what you’ll be using your computer for

Like a super intelligent filing cabinet, computers carry the load of your business’s essentials: the spreadsheets, emails, folders etc. Yet some of us will need to ask for more extraordinary things from our machines. If 3D modelling, powerful graphics, and a swift processor for running creative software with speed are topping your wish-list, you’ll need something with a lot of might. 

Like a decent Hollywood trailer, you should be able to feel like you’ve seen the film, just in a fraction of the time! Although laptops are competitive in their processing speeds and graphics, the desktop may be more suited to ensuring that you have the space and power to expand as you take in more data and information. Durability and endurance are key here. 

However, aesthetics may also play a part in this. Admittedly, the slimline gunmetal exterior of the laptop is sleek and seductive, but don’t be made to feel like you’re shallow judging by a visual. A bulky computer tower under the desk might not work in your surroundings, whereas the laptop packs its power into a far smaller space. As a generation of mobile phone users who can type a text blindfolded, there is the temptation to choose something which functions as a tablet. There’s a familiarity with the touch-screen interface, and beneficial shortcuts using your fingers give you the swift ability to skate around the screen. A touch-screen laptop, or the “2-in-1” kind would be the perfect bridge between the screen size of a laptop and the typing efficiency of your mobile phone. The best of both worlds! 

If you intend to use your computer in a shop premises as a point of sale maybe, a desktop would better support a retail environment. We’ve all watched in wonder when standing at the counter as the screen swivels towards us (“Was this the style you were searching for, Sir?”, “Is this your correct email address, Madam?”). Oh, how convenient! The ergonomic stand will give you the option to use the technology to help with customer interactions. A desktop can also support an EPOS system and offer you the ability to plug in your card machine — so what would you do without it? Plus that’s not all we need to think about of course…

It can be bewildering to marry together your business and the perfect technology as there will be pros and cons for each. But spending a few minutes thinking about it now could help you make sure you’ve got a kit that can evolve with your business as it grows.

2. Consider where you’re going to be working

A desk in a noisy office? The shed at the end of your garden? Flitting between supplier’s workshops like a hopped up bumble bee? Rather than waiting until you are browsing the shelves or surfing the web to start weighing up these things, it’s time to look around you and think about where you will be logging on. If you’re often out and about, a laptop will be a practical companion. Yet, the portability will mean that, quite literally, you will be taking your work wherever you go, which isn’t always good for your mental health or your back.

Of course lots of small businesses work from home anyway. But as many others learnt through lockdown, creating a separation in your psyche between work-time and home-time is challenging for many — unless you’re already living the “good life” of course, where all elements of your existence are blissfully integrated, which is the dream.

Generally though, the ability to psychologically distance yourself from a working frame-of-mind is infinitely more difficult with a portable laptop always within reach.

In October 2020, the Institute of Directors (IoD) reported that 74% of the businesses asked, plan on maintaining the increase in home working. It stands to reason then, that many of us have chosen to carve out a more permanent working environment into our home space.

The desktop, therefore, might be your best friend, remaining static so you can resist the temptation to bring your emails and orders to the dinner table. If you are not working from home, but your business is based in a studio, or you’re whizzing around showing suppliers new products 24/7, a static desktop clearly won’t give you the freedom you need to work around your space. Similarly, the rise in businesses turning away from renting/buying traditional office spaces and instead embracing the flexibility of shared workspaces may mean that the “permanence” of a desktop is counterintuitive. Whichever you choose, it’s worth giving it some thought before you next get a computer.

In October 2020, the Institute of Directors (IoD) reported that 74% of the businesses asked, plan on maintaining the increase in home working. It stands to reason then, that many of us have chosen to carve out a more permanent working environment into our home space.

Key takeaways:

1. Assess the needs of your business and prioritise your computer “must-haves”: ie. a fast processor, touch-screen, portability etc, to help you decide between the two.

2. Look at your working environment: weigh up how flexible you need your computer to be.

Final thoughts

As small businesses, technology is the enabler of nearly everything we do. From how we find our customers, communicate with them, sell to them and support all our administration in the background. The decision as to which type of computer will be the technological backbone of our enterprises is therefore fundamental. Returning to these two core questions: “Where is it going?” and “What am I using it for?” should help you decide which will be the champion of your business for the future. 

And remember, you can always contact a Dell Small Business Tech Advisor with any questions you might have on 0800 085 4878 (it’s free!) or use their online chat service, and they’ll point you in the right direction.

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