Top Tips You Should Consider, Choosing a Laptop for Your Small Business

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batteryfast.co.uk
December 23, 2011
Top Tips You Should Consider, Choosing a
Laptop for Your Small Business
If you're shopping for a business laptop for your If you're simply looking to replace a PC that sits on
small-to-medium-size operation at your local big-
your desk all the time, then a 17-inch unit is probably
box store, you're barking up the wrong tree. The
best suited for such replacement duty, and you can
average consumer laptop found there simply doesn't
also skip most of the subsequent discussion other
provide the customization and service that you'll
than the section on security.
need, whether you're looking for one unit or for a
whole fleet. Instead, you should shop online at a
Durability
large vendor's site, or at an authorized local reseller.
You don't want your hefty investment breaking
Rolling out even a small fleet of laptops requires
down or falling apart on you after only limited use.
a reliable stream of parts and replacement units,
A solidly constructed laptop will save you money
otherwise known as a stable platform. While it's
in the long run.
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corporations that demand those features, they
are certainly of benefit to SMBs. The less time you
Case: How rugged your laptop needs to be depends
spend in maintainance, the more time you can spend
upon its size and how you use it. Plastic is fine for
concentrating on growing your business. Read on
a laptop that doesn't travel much; however, plastic
for the features and specs you should be looking for.
tends to flex too much-especially on Ultrabooks and
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(You may also want to take a look at the laptop results
thin-and-lights. Most vendors will hype the use of
for our 2011 Reliability and Satisfaction survey.)
aluminum and magnesium, which are indeed more
rugged and stiffer to prevent internal component
If you have questions about laptop basics, such as
flexing. Metals also shed chip-killing heat far better
which category, CPU, or display you need, please
than plastic.
head to our consumer laptop buying guide first.
Hard Drive: The component most prone to damage
Form/Laptop Type
is the hard drive-a delicate mechanism, and espe-
cially vulnerable when spinning. Any business lap-
Laptops come in various sizes, from netbook to des-
top using a traditional hard drive should provide
ktop replacement. Which type you need obviously
shock insulation, as well as a sensor that can detect
depends on how you will use it. If you travel a lot,
a fall and park the heads on the hard drive before
you should be looking at an ultraportable with a 12-
impact. In some cases, such as with Seagate's Mo-
inch screen size, or perhaps a 13.3-inch or 14-inch
mentus FDE drives, this sensing takes place within
mainstream laptop. Super-lightweight Ultrabooks-
the drive itself.
a term Intel has trademarked-are a new category
of models that are extremely easy to tote around
Alternatively, a solid-state drive (SSD) with no mo-
(think Macbook Air), but slightly compromised in
ving parts is a good option, especially if you know
their connectivity and integrated peripherals; they'll
you'll be working in hazardous (for the laptop)
likely lack an internal optical drive, for example.
conditions. SSDs are relatively expensive, but far
.
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cheaper than a data recovery service. Also, while
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batteryfast.co.uk
December 23, 2011
Top Tips You Should Consider, Choosing a Laptop for Your Small Business
more capacious 500GB and 750GB hard drives look
took full advantage of the human condition with
good on a spec sheet, for a purely business laptop
the naming convention.
that won't be used for entertainment, such high
capacities are usually overkill.
Security
Using both a smaller, more affordable SSD internally
Security is important, but don't overbuy if you don't
and an external 2.5-inch external hard drive for
have anything to protect. If you do have sensitive
multimedia purposes is a good compromise.
data on your laptop, which most business users will,
consider one or a combination of the following fea-
Keyboard and Touchpad: The modern trend towards
tures.
breathable keyboards is a bit of an issue-as anyone
who's ever spilled coffee on a laptop can attest. Brea-
TPM: The Trusted Platform Module. This discrete
thable, ventilated keyboards allow heat to escape,
chip (it's also a specification) provides hardware
but anywhere air can go, liquid can too. Although it
encryption keys, passwords, and other features that
can take a while for liquid to seep down, you should
are employed to lock down your laptop and help
always immediately remove the battery when a spill
secure encryption. In conjunction with the BIOS, it
occurs. You may then proceed to let things dry out.
basically locks the hardware configuration in your
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laptop.
Other than survivability, never underestimate the
long-term effect that the feel of the keyboard and
BitLocker: With this standard, data is encrypted at
the response of the touchpad and buttons will have
the volume level (such as the C: drive). It's available
on your satisfaction with your laptop purchase. If
with Windows 7 Ultimate and Enterprise, and works
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you do a lot of typing, as many business users will,
on its own or in conjunction with a TPM.
a keyboard with crisp tactile feedback is a must.
Self-Encrypting Drive (SED): These drives perform
Operating System
their own hardware encryption but rely on the TPM,
BIOS, or a software component for a password.
Though it's tempting for a small business to buy
the cheaper Home versions of Microsoft Windows,
Fingerprint scanner: Biometric fingerprint scanners
that's usually a mistake. The Home versions lack
are more secure than passwords because your prints
encryption, don't play well on network domains,
can't be stolen or hacked, at least not via any non-
won't back up across a network without third-party
morbid scenario. They're also easier in that you
software, and aren't multilingual.
don't have to remember to bring your fingers.
It's the domain issue that affects larger businesses
Smart card: A Smart card is basically the same thing
If you use nothing but peer-to-peer networking and
as an entry card for an office building, only in this
employ your own backup program, the Home ver-
case it's for your laptop. It's about the most secure
sions are doable, if not optimal.
way of locking down your notebook, but you must
remember to remove that card and carry it around
There is also a very real snob factor in play. If you're
with you for it to be effective.
trying to impress a business prospect, don't let them
see you with a home version of Windows 7. Microsoft
All business laptop vendors include utilities on their
.
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machines for setting up various security features.
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batteryfast.co.uk
December 23, 2011
Top Tips You Should Consider, Choosing a Laptop for Your Small Business
Graphics, Ports, and Connectivity
your laptop and what you see on the display, but
the convenience can be addicting.
Data Ports: An eSATA or USB 3.0 port will drasti-
cally speed up backups to an external hard drive,
or loading or offloading large amounts of data. If
you deal with large files or data sets, look for such
ports. Otherwise, USB 2.0 is fine, if not optimal, es-
pecially with the plethora of online backup solutions
available.
Wi-Fi: These days, no laptop ships without at least
801.11b/g/n Wi-Fi. However, you should check your
office environment to see if it uses 5GHz 802.11a,
which has long been a mainstay of business Wi-Fi
GPU: In most cases, a discrete graphics chip isn't
networks. The 5GHz band is now also being used
necessary; the graphics integrated into the latest
on many consumer routers to separate traffic onto
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CPUs offered by Intel and AMD are more than ade-
two discrete networks. 802.11a is a plus for business
quate for business tasks. The exceptions are some
laptops, though not always necessary.
of the weaker Atom processors found in netbooks,
which aren't up to rendering 1080p video smoothly.
Ethernet: 10/100 ethernet is still found on laptops,
and in most cases is perfectly viable, but it is ra-
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Video Output: If you're looking to perform presen-
pidly disappearing. Gigabit is faster, and can help
tations with your notebook, both the graphics and
streaming HD video on busy networks as well as
external monitor ports must match up with any
making network backups faster-look for it.
projectors or displays you'll be using.
Bluetooth: Bluetooth is handy for wirelessly connec-
VGA and HDMI outputs are the norm-VGA for
ting your phone to your laptop to sync addresses. It
backwards compatibility, and HDMI for the best
also lets you leverage a favorite Bluetooth headset
picture with modern displays. DisplayPort is also
for Skype and the like. In some (increasingly rare)
fine, as long as you see the DP++ logo, which means
cases, it even allows you to tether your phone to
you can output HDMI, DVI, and normal VGA using
your laptop and use the phone's data connection.
adapters.
Broadband: If you're regularly out of reach of Wi-Fi,
WiDi, Intel's Wireless display interface can also be
a broadband connection like the one on your phone
handy for presentations as it obviates the need for
is a good thing to have. Some laptops have integra-
running cables, something that can be awkward in
ted broadband antennas so you can use an internal
many circumstances. It also frees you from having
adapter. Otherwise, you'll need a USB dongle for
to wait in the queue for a particular meeting room.
the service you use.
An external WiDi adapter for the TV is required,
PC Card, Express slots: While PC Card and Express
and there is a small lag between what you'll see on
slots have largely vanished from mainstream lap-
.
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tops, they are still widely available in business mo-
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batteryfast.co.uk
December 23, 2011
Top Tips You Should Consider, Choosing a Laptop for Your Small Business
dels. If you have legacy card devices such as a smart
streaming media services and broadband connec-
card reader, or a Firewire card, make sure the laptop
tions proliferating, you can probably meet your
you buy has the slot you need.
entertainment and software installation needs wi-
thout one.
SDHC/MMC: This slot allows for superportable re-
movable storage as well as making it easy to load
Unless you regularly burn disks for clients, you're
photos and video from digital cameras. If you rely
probably better off with an external USB optical
heavily on photos or video in your business, a SDHC/
drive that you can leave at home when you don't
MMC slot is a must-have feature. A MemoryStick
need it.
or MS might also be useful if you're a Sony user, as
Sony uses proprietary memory formats.
Parts Availability, Platform Stability
Port Adapters: All of the above ports are certainly
Mainstream consumer laptops are produced, then
more convenient when integrated; however, Wi-
set adrift whenever the next best thing shows up,
Fi, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and SDHC/MMC (as well
even when styling or technology take only a minor
as other cards) can also be implemented easily via
step forward. It can be very hard to find a replace-
appropriate USB adapters.
ment laptop or parts for a consumer machine just
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a short time after you buy one.
Peripherals
Vendors take special care with business laptops to
Travel mice and headphones, as well as flash and op-
make sure that parts are readily available for an ex-
tical drives, are items you should consider carrying
tended period of time and that models don't change
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around with you on your travels. Most laptop ven-
drastically. Typically, basic designs won't alter all
dors will be happy to sell them, but they're readily
that significantly over three to five years, and specific
available online at vendors such as Newegg, Ama-
models can remain available in production for as
zon, and elsewhere in more variety.
long as two years.
Travel Mouse: If you spend a considerable amount
The long shelf life means that you can be sure that
of time using your laptop, a mouse goes a long way
replacement units and parts are readily available
towards achieving that desktop feel and speeding
and that your company won't have to worry about
up your workflow.
compatibility with upgraded versions. A homoge-
nous laptop fleet is far easier and cheaper to support
Headphones: Headphones or ear buds are essential
than an ad-hoc array of machines.
to being able to hear what's happening on your lap-
top when you're on a plane or other noisy vehicle.
Dell's Latitudes and Lenovo's ThinkPads are good
examples of corporate laptop lines. If you desire this
Flash Drives: Flash drives are the preferred medium
kind of stability, you'll pay quite a bit more, but the
for backing up or storing data securely. You can
peace of mind can be worth it.
find a host of thumb drives that meet the FIPS-140
standard for data encryption and security.
Warranty
Optical Drive: Some laptops still offer internal op-
Most business laptops offer warranties that go far
.
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tical drives, and they're a must for installing some
beyond the usual one year offered on consumer
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software or watching movies on DVD or Blu-ray
units-usually, three years standard with options
discs. That said, the technology is fading, and with
up to five years. Three years is about the average
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batteryfast.co.uk
December 23, 2011
Top Tips You Should Consider, Choosing a Laptop for Your Small Business
lifespan for a small business notebook, as SMB users
are more apt to retire them in lieu of something
more modern.
However, five years is not beyond the service life
of corporate units, especially these days, with per-
formance having long ago exceeded "fast enough"
for everyday business tasks.
Service
Corporations generally rely on their own IT de-
partments for service, but smaller businesses need
vendor-provided 24/7 telephone support, as well as
depot and on-site service. These kinds of service are
especially important for users who travel frequently,
and are not available with a consumer laptop, except
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as provided by the reseller, few of whom have any
international scope.
The key to buying the correct level of service is mat-
ching it to your worst-case scenario. If it's possible
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you could be stuck in a strange city where you don't
speak the language or know your way around, on-
site service is invaluable. Alternatively, overnight
shipping of a replacement or of parts would be ade-
quate if you have decent technical chops. If you
never leave town and there's a repair center nearby,
then buying such service levels would be massive
overkill.
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