Any new computers will generally be able to cope with the demands of CLC users unless the user has specific needs like desktop publishing, music/video creation, or want to play video games at work.
Having said that its probably best to lay the responsibility of the specifications with the vendor. Provide them with a list of the things you'll need the computer for. ie what software will you be using on it. Typically it will be "office" software, CLSIS, email and internet browsing.
Buying second hand computers can complicate this issue. ie you have to be a lot more savvy about what the specifications of the computer are and whether it can cope with software that may have been created years after the hardware was built.
Macintosh V Windows computers
Typically small offices gravitate towards Macintosh or Windows computers for the WRONG reasons. Usually a member of staff or the board will drive a change from one system to other because that's what system they are familiar with.
The decision to change will be based on dissatisfaction with your current system, while the source of the dissatisfaction often has little to do whether you are using Macs or Windows computer. Usually problems occur because computers or the network is old or has not been maintained very well, or the relationship with IT support is unsatisfactory. These things can occur with any brand of computer.
Its expensive to change from one system to the other and a lot of staff knowledge will be lost in the process. So think twice before making such a change.
Having said that the different systems have different attributes.
- Macs are typically more expensive to buy but generally require less maintenance.
- Windows peripherals are often cheaper than the Mac equivalent as well.
- Windows computers need vigilant and ongoing surveillance around viruses and other malicious software.
- Software: there's a belief that in buying a Mac you may not have certain software available to you. This is a an over-exaggerated claim. Serious software vendors make software for both Mac and Windows. The highly specialised software that might be an exception to this rule is unlikely to be required by any CLC.
- There are sometimes however slightly different ways of doing things and its typically easier to source help from friends for example, for for Windows issues than with the Mac.
Laptops v desktop computers
- Laptops offer mobility and the ability to work from outside of the office. This may be further enhanced if your service has remote access to your server/shared files.
- Laptops are typically more expensive than desktops. This often translates into, if the laptop and the desktop are the same price, the laptop will be a slightly less speedy etc.
- Laptops can be more expensive to service or upgrade.
- If you purchase laptops you should consider that for longer term use a monitor and keyboard and mouse should be purchase for OH&S reasons. This will significantly add to the cost.
- The extra cost of purchasing laptops and monitors is sometimes amortized by the service no longer needing a separate laptop for conferences and travel etc. ie each staff can take their own.
Buying computers and your IT support contractors
Many services purchase computers through their IT support contractors. This is neither weird or wrong but it isn't essential. Using IT contractors to purchase probably adds to the cost while providing a sense of comfort. They will add, a sometimes small profit, but are essentially vouching for the product that they will provide.
Its a good idea to expect that your IT support contractor to provide a quote for computers they may on-sell to you. Its not a good idea to just purchase them without considering your options. You may want to compare their quote to other suppliers and see if the extra cost is worth the sense of security.