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- Work out your 'must have' and 'nice to have' features
- Look at your computer, printer and storage device requirements
- Choose the right solutions for your computer
Business hardware such as computers, data storage devices, software and cloud service packages are meant to make running your business easier – but this isn’t always the case.
To achieve your business goals, use the lists and questions below to help you choose between the huge range of technologies and configurations.
1. Write a 'must have' and 'nice to have' list
For any hardware, software or subscription purchase (such as Adobe Creative Cloud or a cloud based accounting package) that you're looking to make, create a list of the features you’d like it to have. Then separate your list into two categories – ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’, and make a note of these in your marketing plan.
Your ‘must have’ list should be short and outline the features that are absolutely necessary for your business. This 'must have' list will align with your digital strategy.
The ‘nice to have’ list can be much broader. List the features in order of importance, encompassing all the capabilities that will make running your business easier.
Here are some general questions to ask yourself:
- What are your reasons for buying it?
- Who is going to run and maintain it?
- Will the hardware need to integrate with any other devices?
Consider The Cloud
Business technology changes all the time. While it's not always good advice to get the 'next best thing', the well-established trend to 'cloud computing' is something you could consider when making your list.
Cloud computing is a general term for anything that involves delivering hosted services over the internet such as infrastructure, platforms and software, and normally includes:
- infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS), for example servers for storing files, customer data and emails
- platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), for example GoogleApps
- software-as-a-Service (SaaS), for example accounting platforms Xero and Sassu
2. Computers, printers and data storage devices
When trying to find the best fit for your business, it's important you ask yourself the right questions. Here are a few for you to consider:
- Who will be using the computer?
- What will they be using it for?
- How often will it be used?
- Where will the computer be used?
- Do you have enough space for a traditional desktop?
- Could you consider other options like notebooks, tablets or all-in-ones?
- Do you need a single function printer or multi-function printer with colour?
- How will you connect to the printer – do you have access to a Wi-Fi network?
- What level of output and speed do you need, and how often do you print?
- How much data needs to be stored?
- Where will data be accessed, for example locally or remotely?
- Will your data be accessible during a disaster?
- Have you considered cloud storage instead or as another backup source?
3. Clarify your budget
To make sure you don’t overspend, set a firm budget and allow for other expenses such as:
- additional software
- extended warranties.
- whether you'll be able to use the device out-of-the-box or if it requires customisation
- if there are any recurring maintenance expenses
- how you'll insure your hardware purchase against damage or theft.
4. Reduce your options
Now that you have your ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ lists – and a clear budget – it’s time to reduce your options. Go through your product list and eliminate items that lack features or are too expensive.
Come up with three or four products that are a good fit by looking for:
- high quality customer support
- a brand that has a broad base of users
- a brand with a solid track record.
5. Evaluate the options and choose your finalists
From the remaining options, determine which products deliver the most features from your ‘nice to have’ list. Are there add-ons that you can purchase at a later date as you need them?
Now that you have just a handful of products left to evaluate, it’s time to see them in action. If possible, visit your local store or supplier and ask to see the products in question.
Here are some general questions to ask the salesperson:
- Are there any ongoing costs related to running this product, such as annual subscriptions?
- What kind of warranty does this product come with, and what does it cover?
- What if I find a better deal than yours for this specific item?
By the end of this process, you should have reduced your list down to two or three products.
6. Get feedback from your team
If you have staff who'll use the hardware, now is a great time to get their feedback.
Getting staff feedback will also help when it comes to implementing the new hardware – if you've asked for their feedback early on, they'll be more receptive to the change.
Ask for their thoughts and feelings regarding:
- your current hardware – its limitations and benefits
- the types of features they would like the piece of hardware to have.
7. Make your final selection
You should now be in a solid position to make a final decision.
Case Study: Finding the right accounting software for your business
'Having really good information means your business can react the way you want it to, rather than how you hoped it would.'Carolyn Creswell, Carman's Fine Foods
Read more about Finding the right accounting software for your business