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Notebook PCs: How to Get What’s Right for You

On this episode of Tech Tuesday, Dave Hodgdon from PCG talks with John Maher about how to choose the right notebook PC. He compares consumer and commercial-grade PCs, and he explains typical PC lifespan and why managers need to think about the return on investment when buying their employees new PCs.

John Maher: Welcome to Tech Tuesday brought to you by PCG a managed IT services company in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I’m John Maher and with me today from PCG is Dave Hodgdon. Welcome Dave.

Dave Hodgdon: Good morning, John and Tech Tuesday, love it.

How to Find the Best Notebook PC for Your Needs

John: Yes. Okay today we’re talking about notebook PCs and how to get what’s right for you. What are some of the questions that I should be asking to get the right type of system for me?

Wired or Wireless Solutions

Dave: I think it first starts with determining whether or not they need a physical PC, which will be at their desk and wired in, or do they need a mobile device notebook that’s going to be going back between work and a client location? So the first thing is, is it a PC or a notebook that they need.

Day-to-Day Functions

Dave: Then the second part of it is determining what are they actually doing on a day to day function so much like when you’re trying to buy a car, you’re getting a four cylinder or a V6 or a V8, and they all get you to the same place, but there’s a big difference in performance. So once we understand what they need from applications, how many programs are open, how many windows they keep open, are they a CAD user or a marketing user that needs some better graphical video card? That really helps us start prepping out what that system should be.

But the three big things within every system of course, would be the processor, how much feed you really need. If you’re just doing email, occasional data entry, you don’t need the bigger processor. The majority of users, John, fall into, as we call it, the B6 cards. It’s going to be the I5 chip and they might be having four or five applications open, their email, their Teams. They do some video conferencing, they’re in their QuickBooks. But then you have those power users that just need to ramp it up some.

Data Storage Needs

Dave: Next thing we determine is how many programs they’re going to have and how much data they might be saving locally. We started talking about the hard drive. In today’s world you never want a normal spinning hard drive.

You want a solid state drive, something that’s fast. You get quick responses on opening, turning on your system to getting to the file. And then the last thing we look at is if it is going to be a portable notebook, is it a weight issue, the size of the screen? And we start asking question, John about what notebook might be right for them.

Managing the Notebook Selection Process for Companies

John: Okay. And what is it that you do to help manage that process for me as a company?

Dave: Well, we have what are known as custom forms. We have part of our differentiators. We have a blueprint for these setups. So we’ve created a sheet both for PC and for notebooks and allows our client success manager or sales rep to walk through to ask them these questions, John. And as you get through the end of the process, it’s like you’re designing your own home. You ask all of the relevant questions.

A lot of people just, you get a PC, but you forget to add a webcam. I need a carrying bag. I need a numeric keypad on my notebook. Sometimes people order a notebook, it shows up it doesn’t have a numeric keypad. I’m an accounting person, I need a numeric keypad. I need to have a docking station. So there could be 15, 20 things you need to ask to get that set up right. So, over time we’ve been doing this for 25 plus years, we’ve optimized our blueprints. And then we have the ability to engage with the user, ask all the right questions and that way get exactly what they need.

Blueprint for Setting up Notebooks

John: What about setting up the notebook or PC? And talk to us a little bit about your blueprint for doing setups.

Dave: Well, with any setup you need to understand the client environment, John. So from our standpoint, there’s an internal setup and an external setup. Once we understand the client, we now know that first of all, you do the Windows updates. Do they need a VPN connection? What applications do they need? Setting up their 365 account. Do they need to have BitLocker security turned on? Are there security ad-ons that this particular person’s doing?

Once the machine’s ready and housed and you go onsite, there’s the data migration. They have some stuff from their old machine. You want to confirm all their printers are working. You want to make sure they’re accessing all the resources they need. And once the onsite engineer gets that we have them test it out and then we have our client success managers do a follow up after a couple of days and make sure everything’s running well. And we also help them at the end of that process, the old machine, we will help recycle that PC and destroy the hard drive for any compliance reasons.

Consumer Versus Commercial Notebooks

John: If I’m looking for a notebook for myself or maybe one of my employees, I think maybe I’ll just run down to Best Buy or Walmart or something like that and buy one of the notebooks that they have available there. What’s the difference between what I might get at one of those big box stores versus a commercial notebook that you might be able to help me buy?

Dave: The three big things, John, there’s a reason there’s a consumer based notebook. It’s less money. The quality of the products of the components going in there is nowhere near of a commercial. It’s like anything you buy, there’s always the consumer version of something specific for your task in mind. But the quality of the components, the consumer notebook will include Windows Home, not Pro, so Windows Home costs less money.

It’s not connected to the network. It’s not as secure. And the other big one would be the warranty. So most consumer notebooks are going to have a one year, a commercial app a three-year warranty. It’s better components. It has Windows Pro to connect to the network. It has a better warranty. And they also have components that allow you to manage that device remotely, John, which is a big part of what we do.

Are Laptop Warranties Important?

John: When I buy stuff for home, I often just don’t even worry about the warranty. How important is that? And why would I want a warranty on my laptop?

Dave: Well, you’re running a business, John. So for these users, changing a machine is a pain. So it’s nice to know that should something go wrong and I know that I have coverage on that, the hard drive fails, the screen fails, it’s nice to know that I’ve got a warranty behind you at HP or Lenovo, Dell. I’ve got a warranty behind me to cover that.

And I think that is an important thing. I think most people, when they buy a car now John, they are getting the warranty. It’s nice to know I’m going to drive my new car. They’re getting things that they just don’t want to worry about it. They know they’re covered. They have peace of mind. And I think from a business standpoint, the difference of adding that extended warranty for three years is like a hundred dollars. It becomes a no-brainer when you break it down per day to use that machine.

How Long Does a PC Notebook Last?

John: Okay. And how long should a typical PC or notebook system last me so that I can sort of plan for the future and figure out, well, how often am I going to have to be purchasing new computers for my employees?

Dave: I think depending on the industry and job, we have some people that push machines 7, 8, 9 years, but those old machines are running Windows 7 that don’t have support. But I think a good norm to think for users around three to five years. Things change. There’s more that we expect that machine to do, especially if it’s a portable device, that thing is just moving all the time. It kind of takes a beating.

But if you maintain your machine, you are considerate to your machine, you have a managed service provider like us keeping an eye on it, you might get a long life for that, but maybe six years in the top end. But it depends on the industry, John, a lot of power users they just go every three years because sometimes they’re leasing the machine like you do with a car and you just move to the next machine. But I think five years is a great number to work for.

How Does PCG Help With PC Notebook Management?

John: And how does a company like PCG help in terms of planning for that and figuring out how old are my machines? And when are they going to need to be replaced? And planning for the future.

Dave: That’s a great question. With our auditing tool that’s on the machine, it’s called an RMM, a remote monitoring and management tool allows us to see when the machine was deployed, the age of the machine, the specs on the machine, the performance on the machine.

And during our yearly meetings that we call our IT strategic meetings we have the ability to bring this up to the clients. A lot easier if you’ve got 50 machines to know that each year I’m going to roll out 10 John versus 50. So we look not only at the machine, it could be five years old, but it’s sitting at a shipping machine that doesn’t really need that much. We’re going to definitely eke another year or two out of that.

But if it’s a power machine, that’s the chip is no longer supported. The user’s been complaining about performance. We’re able to bring all the information to the leadership team and get on track because your users are on this all day long. And to me give that user a machine that they can use, they enjoy, they’re not waiting for that icon or that mouse. When you click on John, you’re waiting four or five seconds for something to happen. Imagine all day long doing that. That’s 20 minutes. You do it during the week. It’s a little over an hour. You explained to management what are you paying this person? Your return on investment is a no brainer.

Contact PCG for Managed IT Services Today

John: Absolutely. All right. Well, that’s really great information about notebooks and PCs, Dave, thanks again for speaking with me today.

Dave: My pleasure. Have a great day.

John: And for more information, you can visit the PCG website @pcgit.com or call (603) 431-4121.