As owner of a computer repair service center it is quite common to see customers who are contemplating simply buying a new computer as opposed to repairing their existing computer. Many of these customers tend to believe that a $300-400 computer that they’ve seen in an advertisement from one of the big box stores may be the answer to their problem and eliminate their need for service. While it is true that there are some models of new computers that are sold in the $300-400 range the initial purchase price is only one factor to consider when buying a computer. More important than the purchase price is what’s know as the Total Cost of Ownership, or TCO. Determining the TCO of a computer involves adding together the purchase price as well as all of the incremental costs associated with owning it to determine the true cost of the computer to its owner over the life of the machine. Determining the TCO of a computer involves adding together the following:
- The initial purchase price of the computer
- The cost of service, maintenance and repair work over the life of the computer
- The cost of lost productivity during any times that the computer was out of service
- How many years the computer can be expected to last for
As you might expect, it is common for computers with very low initial purchase prices to have among the highest Total Cost of Ownership. Accounting people at big firms have understood this for many years which is why you will never see a Fortune 500 company using any of the models of discount computers that you will see on the shelf at Best Buy, Circuit City or any of the other big box stores. Almost every manufacturer (Dell, HP, etc.) offers two separate lines of computers. One line is referred to as their “Business” class computers and the other is the “Home” line of computers. The primary difference between the two is that the business line of computers are built for people who understand TCO. The initial cost of a business computer will always be higher than the “home” line even though the CPU speed, memory and hard drive size may be the same, but you will be getting a computer that is built with better parts: not necessarily faster, but less likely to break down and more economical to service if it does break.
The home lines of computers are built based on an entirely different measurement– mainly that having a broken computer isn’t going to cost you anything. This unfortunately for an uninformed consumer is often not the case; especially once the computer is out of warranty which on new computers is generally only one year. For the do-it-yourself type of computer user who has a good backup system, doesn’t rely on the computer for important business functions and is able to perform their own repairs, the home model computers sold at the big box stores are often a worthwhile option. For everyone else you may benefit from buying a business class machine. You can find purchasing prices and options for business class computers on the websites of any of the major manufacturers, or by contacting your local computer repair service center. Many computer service centers will also have off-lease or refurbished business model computers to choose from as well.