PC and laptop buying guide for small businesses

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Here's what to consider before buying computers for your business

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This guide explores what to look for when choosing PCs and laptops for small businesses. Covering all ownership and leasing options, here's what you need to know.

Read next: How to find the right printer for your business

Firstly, you'll need to consider what your business computing needs are. Think about what you'll need computers for: Is it advertising, payroll, databases? Also it's important to consider which operating systems and software you’ll be using.

Compatibility is another issue - whether staff will be able to successfully sync across formats. And an inevitable decision for any business owner is of course, to go PC or Mac.

In addition to your current computing needs, you should also consider your long-term IT strategy. How will your computing demands grow as your business does?

Option number one: Leasing computers

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.

It can also be risky, because if your business trajectory changes, you may be stuck in a contract that is no longer appropriate to your business needs or financial situation.

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.

But if you do decide to lease your hardware, how do you go about doing it? For Mac lovers, Apple Financing can help small businesses lease Apple hardware with a monthly payment scheme over a fixed amount of time. Perks include hardware updates ensuring all machines are the same generation and the option to receive AppleCare coverage.  

For those opting for PCs, Currys PC World offers a business leasing, SmartPlan. This enables you to spread the cost of computer equipment over 3-4 years. During the final 6 months of the plan, you are able to upgrade the equipment for free.

Dell also offers a PC as a Service (PCaaS) plan, which allows businesses to pay monthly for a deal including hardware and software. Flexible financing and the opportunity for upgrades are offered through the service. 

Option number two: Buying computers

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, will 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, can become 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.

However, you have to keep in mind that the value of the computer hardware depreciates quickly over time, and may even become obsolete sooner than you think. Buying outright means there may be requirements for replacements every few years, which could get expensive.  

Even so, 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.

Option three: Co-working spaces

Co-working spaces or managed 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 of utilising co-working spaces, namely the low set up costs, flexible leasing and clear monthly payment schedules. A lot of co-working spaces 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 co-working space 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. 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.

Some co-working spaces in London include The Dock, which offers co-working spaces including meeting rooms and desk space, with prices starting at £250 per person, per month. Another is TOG, located in King’s Cross Station, which has similar offerings, and starts at £300 per month.

Option four: 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.