Being employed can be taxing. Hard work, long hours, and sleep-deprived nights are practically guaranteed day in and day out. The last thing employees need is something that will make their time out in the field, or in the office, even more strenuous than it already is. Since many companies now require workers to be reliant upon laptops for all their productivity, choosing the right one requires quite a bit of contemplation and reflection on what kind of machine will be suited to the working environment in consideration.
Both business and consumer machines continue to be crammed with an ever-extensive, and surprisingly similar set of features. When shopping for a business laptop, specs such as RAM, CPU, graphical power, high-quality audio, and the like, will hold different weight than when shopping for consumer devices. So what should the most crucial qualities in a business laptop be? We’ve put together a quick and handy list of the features that should be of utmost importance when it comes to finding the ideal business laptop.
Purchasing a business laptop is kind of like a shotgun wedding — this thing is going to be a constant companion for a long while, whether employees like it or not. In order to ensure a forever lasting relationship between employees and their laptop, it’s important to find a machine that is ready to withstand all the inevitable rigors and abuse of an employee’s time with the company.
Unfortunately morbid analogies aside, most business machines are primarily composed of metal, carbon fiber, and other such durable materials to help it survive short drops, coffee spills, and the general hustle and bustle of day-to-day operations. Keeping that trend in mind is important, so find a machine with a better build quality and structure than most plastic-based consumer laptops.
This may result in lugging around something that’s a little heavy and not exactly sexy, but the reliability from a well-built machine will make the probable ugliness well worth it. Ultrabooks need not apply here, so opt for size and brawn over beauty.
Those reading this and researching for a business notebook more than likely conduct most of their work on the internet. As such, something that can stay online whenever employees need it to is going to be essential. Just about every laptop out there has Wi-Fi functionality, so it might be a good idea to go that extra mile and find a machine that sports mobile broadband, or a built-in 3G/4G modem. This will allow employees to gain access to the internet in all the same places your smartphone can, although there’ll be a relatively reasonable fee for the service through a network provider like Verizon or AT&T. For road warriors who need to send out that crucial email this very second, though, that extra cost may not seem so bad.
A business laptop is essentially a mobile workstation, so why not find something that can hold all the hardware bells and whistles necessary to facilitate a more productive environment? For workers who find themselves in frequent videoconferences, a dependable webcam could never hurt. Laptops, like those in Dell’s Latitude series, have added USB ports and even docking station compatibility, which can save a fair amount of headache for those who wish to hook up a desktop-quality mouse, keyboard, or monitor. And while finding a laptop with great battery life is typically high up on any prospective laptop buyer’s wish list, business users should look for a battery slice that can be attached to the bottom of compatible notebooks for added endurance. There are plenty other upgrades of this nature to make, but generally speaking, the easier it is to upgrade the laptop, the better.
Again, a safe laptop is something for which both consumer and business-level users will always be on the lookout. But we’re going to go out on a limb and say most people would rather lose their iTunes collection than a year’s worth of research and reports, so premium security features should be held at a higher importance for a business ‘book.
Having software that can encrypt a hard drive or securely manage passwords and documents — like HP’s Protect Tools — is a must if workers handle particularly sensitive data. Those paranoid about theft will want to pick up a laptop lock to make their hardware extra secure. Sony, Dell, and many other laptop manufacturers even add tools like fingerprint readers to ensure data security for businesses, so it’s worth seeing how compatible a prospective machine will be with these kinds of enhancements.
The core storage-related question for business laptop buyers is the same as it is for any other consumer: Is it better to opt for a solid state drive (SSD) or a hard disk drive (HDD)? It’s a debate that many in the laptop market know quite well at this point, but business users have more options than consumers, and thus have to take more into consideration when pulling the trigger on a storage style of choice.
HDDs allow for hundreds upon hundreds of gigabytes storage at an ever-decreasing low price. However, the way HDDs are structured fundamentally puts them at risk of being damaged much more easily than their SSD counterparts. SSDs, as some may know, have no moving parts and are thus much more capable of taking a beating day in and day out. They are lightning fast when compared to the longstanding HDDs too, but they will not allow for nearly as much storage space, and they still cost far more than their chief rival.
So it will be a question of balance. If the nature of the work being done on the laptop will put an added emphasis on durability, speed — and if the employee doesn’t mind paying a premium — SSD is the best option. But for those who need all the space they can handle for cheap, but don’t mind waiting around a little longer to get things done, it would be best to go with something like a 500-750 GB, 7200 RPM HDD.
Warranty and Support
Anyone who has spent any time browsing tech-related forums has more than likely read a horror story or two about dealing with disastrous customer support. Avoiding such an experience is in business is especially important if the work at hand is time-sensitive. Thankfully, the general consensus is that business laptops usually receive preferential treatment over the unwashed, consumer-based masses — a stereotype that most should have no problem perpetuating.
Part of ensuring top notch customer service will include finding a device with a nice, long warranty that will cover the laptop if anything goes awry while at work. As a rule, it’s smart to never accept anything less than a full year, but business lines like the HP EliteBook offer warranties up to three years, essentially covering an employee until it’s time for another purchase. Ensuring that the laptop brand of choice has a multitude of available support options — from phone lines, to emails, to live chats — can only help protect laptops and an employee’s time.
The Little Things
Most consumers will ooh and ahh at the obvious — memory, storage, processor, battery, etc. — but anyone who’s ever truly enjoyed a good laptop will say that it’s those often overlooked aspects that make time with a machine worthwhile. A comfortable wrist rest and keyboard, a crisp and pleasant screen that won’t punish a worker’s eyes after staring at it for forty hours a week, a noticeable lack of bloatware that lets users actually utilize the space paid for, and a pointing stick — the small navigation tool often found in the lower center of the keyboard — are just a few of the things that will help employees build a better working relationship with their work laptop.
We can lend our expertise all day, sure, but that’s no substitute for personal experience. So get out there, try out the devices that seem appealing, and try to narrow down the most important specs for the business in consideration.