How to buy a small business PC

Question: Which computer should I buy for my small business?

Answer: My rule of thumb is to ask the sales person what the fastest computer on the market is and then buy 75% of the processing power.

At the time of writing, the fastest machine on the market was an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.2 GHz. Given that, I’d aim for a 1.8 or 2 GHz clockspeed (speed of each processor). This will give you plenty of processing power, a decent buffer against early obsolescence, and a price that excludes the premium you pay for cutting-edge technology.

If you have an extremely limited budget, aim for a Intel Celeron D processor. Look at the GHz rating of the chip on the computer—the bigger the number, the faster the chip. Buy as much RAM (random access memory) as you can afford, since you’ll need it to keep up with newer software as the computer ages.

If you need to do graphics editing for presentations or Web pages, you will need a lot of processing power, so aim for the fastest machine you can afford—but again, budget for RAM first. Aim for a minimum of 1 GB (gigabyte) but go for 2 GB of RAM if you can, then budget how much you have left to spend on a processor.

You’ll also want a sizable hard drive for graphic work, since graphics and multimedia files take up a lot of storage space. Aim for a 160GB (gigabyte) drive or better. Hard drive technology is cheap in relation to other components, so it won’t be expensive to buy a larger capacity drive.

If you plan to get a cable modem or DSL high-speed Internet service to connect to the Internet, you will also need a 10/100-megabit-per-second network interface card. These can be bought afterward and installed separately for about $30. These cards can often be obtained through your high-speed Internet service with a start-up kit.

You’ll also want a 17-inch flat panel LCD monitor. Choose a graphics accelerator with 128 MB or more of video memory (to accommodate Windows Vista).

For external storage, USB hard drives are common. For removable storage, DVD drivers are the norm. They have replaced the traditional 3.5 inch floppy drive.

Here are a couple of online stores you might consider buying your computer from: