Custom PC Build or Off-The-Shelf? Which is right for your Business?

by Admin on April 5, 2011

in Business Guides,News Articles

A common question we encounter while providing COMPUTER SUPPORT IN Logan and Cache Valley Utah, is whether to custom-build systems from parts, or buy a new system from the big box vendors such as Dell, HP, etc.  The basic idea is that if you start from the level of parts, you can design a system which is better suited to the exact things you’re doing, and it’s worth the extra time and effort because you can often get good deals on the parts.

On the other hand, you have to wonder just what all that time and effort is worth. And on some level, you have to think that when you walk into just about any electronics store, they have all these pre-configured and pre-assembled computers that could be up and running in a matter of minutes… instead of waiting several weeks for parts to be delivered, and spending hours putting them all together.

As you might guess, when you’re providing IT SUPPORT in Logan and Cache Valley Utah, you get to see both sides of this question. You see the people who are doing everything custom-built, and the people who are buying everything off the rack, and all the points in between. You also get to support both kinds of configurations, and see exactly what the real cost is for both options.

What shouldn’t surprise you, is the reality that you simply can’t get the same deals on parts that the big companies get. If you’re not buying thousands at once, you just can’t demand the lowest possible price on your components. Even when you add in a profit margin for the machine, the end cost is significantly lower than a custom job.

So the next question is, when someone providing COMPUTER SUPPORT in Logan and Cache Valley Utah needs to work on the machine – whether to upgrade it or to fix something that’s broken or failed – which one really comes in with a lower total cost of ownership (TCO)?

You might think that the custom machine comes in with a better review on this front, but in truth… the pre-configured system wins again. The machines you get off the shelf have usually been constructed with careful attention to things like system airflow, cable ties, and appropriate driver installation. Drivers are the installable software pieces that let the OS (in most cases Windows) talk to the hardware.  For custom machines, drivers must be found individually for each piece of hardware, for big box vendors, drivers can be found much easily from one vendor and one location.  This translates again into low TCO as your IT Support specialist will have to spend less time tracking down drivers to make your computers work.  In many cases, the custom system simply doesn’t have the same level of detailing, and the internals of the machine look almost like a bowl of spaghetti.

Another option which shouldn’t be overlooked is the warranty that comes with most off-the-shelf systems. When something goes wrong on a custom box, it’s often hard to know which component has caused it (is it the motherboard or the hard drive for example), which company provided it, and who is responsible to provide a replacement – if there’s even a warranty involved. Sometimes, the system doesn’t even have any warranty protection… and that’s why the components appeared to be such a good deal.

As they’ve been saying for decades, when something looks too good to be true… it probably is. It may look like a good deal to build your own machines from parts, but it’s a short-term savings, and you end up paying for it in the long run. Whether it’s finicky drivers, lack of warranty coverage, or just plain inconsistent performance, custom machines are almost always a liability in the end… not an asset.

David Lawrence is a provider of professional COMPUTER SUPPORT IN Logan and Cache Valley Utah. If you need IT SUPPORT for your small business, please Contact Us.

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