Cheap hardware? That’s expensive!

About every two months one of the computer magazines – be it ComputerShopper, PC Magazine, PC Wworld or any other publication – comes out with this flashy and attractive idea of “cheap computer”. Whether it’s a cheap laptop or cheap desktop – it’s always a good thing, you should save a bunch of money and feel good. Right? Right?

Not so fast. The cost of your computer is not only that number on the receipt or a credit card statement. At least – not for a small business owner. While it is widely perceived that small businesses should live on a shoestring budget and (widely used example) reuse old home computer for their businesses, the idea isn’t quite perfect.

The reason in a so-called “cost of ownership” that most starting up business people have no idea of. If you know what that is – skip to the next paragraph. In layman terms the “cost of ownership” is how much you spend (or loose) by owning that specific tool or service. For example, if you have an old car that you use to deliver widgets to your customers, the cost of ownership would be all the money spent on repairs and parts to make sure your car will be running tomorrow.

But what’s the cost of ownership for an old PC? There aren’t that many parts to replace and no oil or gas to refill. However, what that old PC would probably hit the most is your time – because it’s old and slow. Sure you can upgrade it – add memory and new hard drive, but the old thing would still be a bit sluggish. So instead of booting up in less then 45 seconds it will boot up in three minutes. Add another minute to start your inventory app – be it something proprietory or plain old Excel. Add some more time on number crunching and some more to process your accounting sheets. A minute here, a minute there, just a little slower saving or loading – and you’re looking at an extra hour or two for a day. That’s about 6 working hours wasted for a week – if you have Sunday off. Bad news – now you have to work on that Sunday, since you are loosing 6 hours of productive time from Monday to Saturday.

So what now, does every small business enrepreneur should rush off and buy a shiny new laptop or speedy new desktop? Perhaps, but only if you feel like your system could be more responsive. It’s hard to give any kind of specific advice here. My guess is that even if you bought your PC (desktop or laptop) only two years ago – you didn’t purchase the latest and greatest piece that was out there. Most likely even then it was a low or medium level PC with only enough RAM and hard drive space to make it worth purchasing. Upgrading it won’t really improve your situation – so maybe a little research on the internet and extra couple of hundred dollars will buy you a much better rig that will save you more then just money – your precious time.