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used with permission from HP Tech@Work

How can SMB owners determine if workstations are right for them and, if so, how to select the best machines for their particular needs?

Workstations have been around long enough now that it’s safe to start talking about how modern versions of these machines are nothing like the pricey behemoths grandpa used back in the ‘90s.

Today’s workstations are vastly improved with processing, graphics and storage capabilities being enhanced on a continual basis. At the same time, they have become much more compact, mobile, stylish and affordable over the years, with prices on some models starting at less than $1,000.

Considering all these benefits, it should come as little surprise that small- to mid-sized businesses are starting to consider workstations as an alternative to the consumer PCs they’ve traditionally favored.

But how can SMB owners determine if workstations are right for them and, if so, how to select the best machines for their particular needs?

Here are a few questions SMBs should ask when evaluating workstations:

How important are power and performance to my business?

Whether you realize it or not, every single business on the planet needs excellent computing power and performance because lacking those capabilities can seriously impede operational efficiency.

These days, there is really no reason to provide employees with machines that bog down, freeze or experience the “blue screen of death” when running mission critical operations. SMBs can easily find budget-friendly workstations that are faster, more secure and much more reliable than consumer devices. In fact, many of these entry level machines even approximate the functionality of enterprise-class devices.

So, hunt around. Options exist for nearly any price point and business need. And you would be doing your business a disservice by not comparing the various workstation and consumer device alternatives.

What types of software are my employees using?

Ultimately, the decision about whether a workstation is needed comes down to the type of software your employees are running.

If, for example, they use very basic office productivity software, such as Microsoft Word or Excel, they might be able to get away with a consumer PC or Mac. But if they work with anything more graphically intense, say photographs or architectural diagrams, they will need better performance and reliability.

Engineers, animators, photographers, traders, programmers and other professionals typically prefer to use the highest-quality machines in their trades. These machines allow them to express themselves, their vision, and their skills to the greatest effect. As a result, organizations should consider workstations for inspiring worker creativity, enhancing productivity and delivering products to market more quickly.

Are my employees mobile?

Most SMB owners think of workstations as stationary devices tethered to office desks. But some vendors recognize that with more than 75 percent of the U.S. workforce expected to be mobile by 2020, according to IDC, workstations must be able to hit the road.

HP, for example, recently released the fifth generation of its acclaimed ZBook Mobile Workstation for creative and technical professionals, executives and students who demand high-performance computing and premium experiences. The updated lineup features cutting-edge design, innovative collaboration tools and superb security features to help elevate and protect the creative process.

If you or your employees are using computers outside the office to run power-hungry applications, then consider the performance and security advantages of mobile workstations.

Do I care how much space my computers occupy at the office?

With more people working remotely, there’s been less need for office space. As a result, observers say personal workspaces and individual desk sizes have been shrinking.

If your SMB operates from a very small business or home office, then you probably do not want computers clogging what little space you have available. Fortunately, vendors such as HP have released a series of workstations so small you might not even know they’re in the office.

For instance, the HP Z2 Mini is being touted as the world’s first mini workstation for CAD users. Sleek and stylish in design, it packs all the power and performance of a traditional business-class tower in a form factor that’s about 90 percent smaller (just 2.3 inches high).

When considering whether to purchase a workstation, do not automatically assume they will be those big and boxy machines of yesteryear. They’ve evolved quite a bit since then.

Does cyber-security matter?

If your answer to this question was “no,” then one would hope your business is completely disconnected from the Internet, has its computers buried six-feet under and has no plans to dig them out.

Since the percentage of companies fitting into this category is likely miniscule, then cyber-security should be a top consideration – not a checklist item – before you purchase a computer of any kind.

Why? Well, consider these two startling statistics: the number of cyber incidents targeting businesses nearly doubled in one year alone, from 82,000 in 2016 to 159,700 in 2017. And 60 percent of SMBs who were victimized by cyber-attacks did not recover and shut down within six months.

The simple fact is that most consumer computers do not have much in the way of built-in security. Workstations, meantime, tend to have all the same fortifications one might find in an enterprise-class device. In many cases, SMBs can purchase those workstations for about the same price as a consumer laptop or notebook. So why wouldn’t they opt for the safety of a security optimized workstation?

Today, the lines are blurring between consumer PCs and workstations for SMBs. Ultimately, the choice comes down to which options best serve the needs of the business. When deciding, do not fall into the trap of ignoring workstations because you think they have more computing power than you really need.

These aren’t your grandpa’s workstations anymore.