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This guide highlights what to look for when choosing PCs and laptops for small businesses. From total cost of ownership and leasing options to running costs and PC life-cycles, here's what you need to know.

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How to buy PCs and laptops for small businesses: Leasing

Business leasing, like leasing a car, is pretty straightforward. The business pays a monthly fee for use of equipment with the option to purchase the equipment or upgrade to newer machines, continuing the contract.

Many small businesses with limited budgets may opt for leasing as it rarely requires upfront payments, just regular monthly payments. This makes budget planning easier and provides employees with top of the range equipment that won't cost the earth in the short term.

Leasing will also ensure that hardware is kept up to date and businesses can upgrade to newer and faster models with ease whenever they want.

For most, leased PCs payments are tax deductible and businesses are able to claim part of the monthly outgoing as a business expense.

There are some drawbacks, however. On the other hand, it's well-known that leasing will lead to the overall cost of running being higher than PCs or laptops bought outright, as leasing requires businesses to sign a contract or agreement that they could be tied to for years. And, if you stop using leased computing devices, you might still be obliged to pay until the contract is over or pay a fee to terminate the contract.

So, while leasing has clear benefits for small businesses with limited cash flow, its lengthy contracts and constant monthly outgoings may deter some businesses from taking the plunge.

How to buy PCs laptops for small businesses: Buying

Buying office PCs outright requires a large budget initially depending on your employee count, but should save you money in the long run compared with leasing which, as we know, eventually cost more.

Buying outright is simple. There is no need to negotiate contracts, terms of lease or provide hefty amounts of paperwork to back up your financial situation.

Unlike leasing, buying PCs outright puts you in charge of equipment maintenance and upkeep. While for some this may be seen as a negative, as extra capital is required to keep PCs in ship shape, it actually means that these businesses don't have to maintain their PCs according to the leasing company's specifications (which if not matched, could become rather costly).

Put simply, the contract between your business and the leasing company could claim that businesses must keep the leased PCs in the same condition as they received them (apart from the obvious degradation over time). Meaning, businesses can't hand PCs back broken, damaged or full of viruses.

In addition, when buying office PCs outright, these machines are applicable for capital allowance, meaning UK business can deduct money on these assets from the overall corporate or income tax on its profits.

Most businesses would probably prefer to buy office PCs outright if the cash flow was available to them. However, if you buy your office PCs you lose out on upgrading to newer models as and when you like, for a relatively small fee.

Once you've bought a PC, you're stuck with it and some businesses would prefer to have the newest PC on the market at their fingertips.

How to buy PCs and laptops for small businesses: Managed offices

Managed offices, business centres and serviced offices can provide a working space offering a shared reception, business machines and other office resources such as administrative support and basic IT infrastructure. 

There are many benefits to a managed office, namely the low (if any) set up costs, flexible leasing and clear monthly payment schedules. A lot of managed offices do not include computers, however depending on your location, there is still quite a few that do, and for a small business looking to save money, this could be a great option.

Obviously, when opting for a managed office with business PCs included, you'll never actually own any of the PCs, which may at first seem like a drawback. However, it does mean that all maintenance and repairs are - in most cases - down to the supplier of the managed office. Keeping the PCs in the same condition you received them is a must unless you want to pay a potentially large penalty fee.

Depending on location, desk hire can range from £50 per desk to £1,000 (in expensive parts of London), so for businesses with a large number of in-office staff, the costs can grow relatively quickly.

How to buy PCs and laptops for small businesses: BYOD

Bring your own devices or BYOD in general terms refers to the business practice in which employees bring in their personal tablets and laptops which are granted permission to connect to their office network. This is an excellent choice for small businesses with a limited budget as you essentially cut out all device costs.

There are a couple of ways businesses can adopt BYOD in their workplace, such as allowing employees to choose their own device, that the company will pay for. Alternatively, businesses could ask employees to bring in their personal devices, only paying for OS, document suites and other relevant software.

While more suitable for organisations with less than 10 employees, BYOD is a great way of handing over device maintenance and to your employees and cutting cost on rentals or buying hardware outright. So, clearly the biggest advantage of BYOD is the cost or lack of it. No bulk PC purchases or lengthy contracts are needed.

On the other hand, organisations circulating sensitive information and private data could see BYOD as a security risk. Employees won't have the same level of protection that a company device will have, so making sure all devices are regulated and equipped with tough corporate-level security should be priority when opting for BYOD. 

What's more, employees will take their devices away from the office, leaving them susceptible to theft, data leaks and other malicious campaigns from other networks such as public Wi-Fi.

How to buy PCs and laptops for small businesses: Virtual Offices

This might be pretty low on your list, but virtual offices could be a viable option for micro-businesses with operations in different parts of the country.

Virtual offices offer a business location that exists only in 'cyberspace', meaning employees can work from any location but share an office environment, conduct video meetings and share documents.

Clearly, virtual offices will save a considerable amount of money when compared to managed offices that provide business PCs and laptops. However, the lack of physical space could impact productivity and result in a disjointed workforce.

For businesses trying to reduce their carbon footprint, this could be a great way for businesses to reduce their utility bills and PC costs while also creating a 'green approach' to business.

Whether you buy the hardware for employees or they use their own is entirely up to you and your budget. If employees use their own and work within a virtual network similar problems such as security will arise. Likewise, if business PCs are supplied this will obviously add to the monthly outgoings or upfront costs.

A virtual office isn't going to be for everyone, actually it's probably not going to be for most, but for small businesses not fixed to one location it should definitely be one to consider.

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