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Author Topic: Best Computer for a Small Office  (Read 438 times)

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Offline WhimsicalTopic starter

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Best Computer for a Small Office
« on: January 19, 2015, 10:59:56 AM »
So... after consulting with an Oracle as to where to post this, I was directed here.

I work for an attorney; there are three of us in the office, including the attorney... she has a laptop with Windows 8.. I have an HP that's using Windows 7; and the other girl also has an HP but is using Windows XP for business.

So... we're going to be moving in July and branching out on our own... and because the boss wants all three of us to have the same computer with the same OP, I'd thought I'd put the question out there to those that know more than I do.

Since we are a small law firm, we do mostly documents. The attorney I work for specializes in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy as well as criminal law on a Circuit and Federal level. We receive TONS of discovery on the federal defendants that she represents.

With that in mind, what I'm looking for is advice as to which computer brand would best facilitate our needs, since its mostly documents that we generate. Most of the filings we do with the Courts are all done via "E-Filing" -- we have the PDF function through Word.

Any and all help will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks in advance!!!!

Offline Vekseid

Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2015, 12:42:13 PM »
You'll notice far more benefit from getting everyone a machine with a smallish (~180-300 gb) ssd than any other factor. Most of what you are going to be waiting on is boot times and for Word/Abiword/LibreOffice Writer or whatever you decide to use to load.

- You're all used to Windows, so sticking with that would be a good idea.
- Choose whether you prefer Windows 8 or 7. If the latter, only Professional has continued support (and the only one most companies can still sell, so). Professional however is not able to apply Applocker policies, so having an automated backup solution in the event of e.g. Cryptolocker is even more important.

Those three points considered, the next most important thing is how easy physically working with it is. I prefer a laptop with a full numpad, you might prefer something lighter. I like having a full resolution (1920 pixels wide at least), you might find that excessive.

CPU and RAM don't matter too much, I'd try to look for a quad core (8 core if AMD - theirs are 'fake') and at least 8 gigabytes of ram, particularly if during your work you have dozens of browser tabs open or otherwise have more than one program using a lot of resources.

The price range on this will depend on whether or not you're getting refurbished or on-sale models. I see a lot of 'sold out' prices in the $500-$800 range for refurbished Windows 7 devices.

Offline Lrrr

Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2015, 02:11:34 PM »
Vekseid got the biggies and I couldn't agree more with a smallish SSD and 8 GB or more of RAM since they've become relatively inexpensive now.

Just a couple of other points.  First - check out first hand any high-resolution (1920 x 1080 or higher) laptop monitors before committing.  If any of you have vision issues (like me) you may find you simply can't see what's on the screen clearly at that high a resolution - especially on laptop screens which are usually less than 18-19".

One option is an external monitor.  Given that you deal with a lot of documents, having a second, external monitor available might be great for increasing the amount of screen real estate.  You can always run the laptop without the external monitor for on-the-go work.  I actually have two external 23" units hooked to my system and even with my poor eyesight I can simultaneously work with a half-dozen documents without any problems.  External monitors are relatively cheap ($100 to $150) even in the 20-23" range and they're a lot easier on the eyes.  Since you're not doing photo editing or graphics you don't need anything with superb color rendition - just basic external monitors.

Second, if you hate the touchpad style of pointing device (like I do) make sure to check out various external mice.  They come in virtually any style you might want and again, are relatively cheap.  Whenever I leave the touchpad activated I find my thumbs tapping it unintentionally and sending the cursor all over the screen.  But then, I'm a really big guy with huge hands.   :-)

Offline WhimsicalTopic starter

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Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2015, 03:23:36 PM »
Oy... I should have been more clear in my original post and I apologize for that....

My boss uses the laptop. Me and the other girl are using PC's --- the PC I have is what's considered to be the "main" computer --- not sure if I'm even saying that right or not --- since she specializes in bankruptcies, we all have the same bankruptcy program on our computers. However, when an update is required, it is MY computer that does the updating of any new releases/versions of the program.

Gee... I wish I weren't so... illiterate when it came to computers.. I know how to use them, but not how they work.

Offline WhimsicalTopic starter

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Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2015, 03:38:44 PM »
Vekseid got the biggies and I couldn't agree more with a smallish SSD and 8 GB or more of RAM since they've become relatively inexpensive now.

Just a couple of other points.  First - check out first hand any high-resolution (1920 x 1080 or higher) laptop monitors before committing.  If any of you have vision issues (like me) you may find you simply can't see what's on the screen clearly at that high a resolution - especially on laptop screens which are usually less than 18-19".

One option is an external monitor.  Given that you deal with a lot of documents, having a second, external monitor available might be great for increasing the amount of screen real estate.  You can always run the laptop without the external monitor for on-the-go work.  I actually have two external 23" units hooked to my system and even with my poor eyesight I can simultaneously work with a half-dozen documents without any problems.  External monitors are relatively cheap ($100 to $150) even in the 20-23" range and they're a lot easier on the eyes.  Since you're not doing photo editing or graphics you don't need anything with superb color rendition - just basic external monitors.

Second, if you hate the touchpad style of pointing device (like I do) make sure to check out various external mice.  They come in virtually any style you might want and again, are relatively cheap.  Whenever I leave the touchpad activated I find my thumbs tapping it unintentionally and sending the cursor all over the screen.  But then, I'm a really big guy with huge hands.   :-)


And an SSD is.... ?

I believe the monitors we have are at 1080 resolution or smaller, I'm not sure. I'll check in the morning when I go back to work, Lrrr.

When you say external monitor though, would that be an additional one? Or is that moot with the mention of needing PC's?

I'm on the computer more than the other two --- Petitions; motions; deeds; Wills; POA's; Proposed Orders'.... plus the calendar and email and checking the Circuit court site for information on clients and potential clients....

Once I gather the information I'll make a presentation to her and then go from there.

Thanks for the input... now I'm wondering if maybe laptops might not be better?

Offline Lrrr

Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2015, 03:41:20 PM »
Veks, no wish to step on your toes as you're an expert on this sort of question.  I'm a retired IT guy so I have some understanding too.  I'd appreciate your advice as to my suggestions below.

Whim, this is the sort of thing I've found is best handled through a more immediate communication channel like chatting or, better yet, a phone call.  I have no problems contacting your business by phone to explain your options if you're cool with that.  I do it all the time for friends/family as I'm sure Veks does.  Otherwise we can try doing it through a chat session on YIM, Skype, etc.

As I mentioned Veks, your opinion on those options would be appreciated.
« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 04:18:10 PM by Lrrr »

Offline Vekseid

Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2015, 04:15:17 PM »
Oy... I should have been more clear in my original post and I apologize for that....

My boss uses the laptop. Me and the other girl are using PC's --- the PC I have is what's considered to be the "main" computer --- not sure if I'm even saying that right or not --- since she specializes in bankruptcies, we all have the same bankruptcy program on our computers. However, when an update is required, it is MY computer that does the updating of any new releases/versions of the program.

Gee... I wish I weren't so... illiterate when it came to computers.. I know how to use them, but not how they work.

Oh

Offline Vekseid

Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2015, 04:19:57 PM »
Oy... I should have been more clear in my original post and I apologize for that....

My boss uses the laptop. Me and the other girl are using PC's --- the PC I have is what's considered to be the "main" computer --- not sure if I'm even saying that right or not --- since she specializes in bankruptcies, we all have the same bankruptcy program on our computers. However, when an update is required, it is MY computer that does the updating of any new releases/versions of the program.

Gee... I wish I weren't so... illiterate when it came to computers.. I know how to use them, but not how they work.

Oh, sorry, thought you were looking for a laptop.

For PC workstations, the brand isn't terribly important - you're just looking for someone to build the machine for you and provide a warranty. I often recommend finding a local computer store that's been in business awhile, and going with them, as you can meet with them in person and they are more personally invested in your experience. They'll usually let you customize their deals a bit and go from there.

Offline Psi

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Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2015, 03:38:24 AM »
First off, this is based on the experience of having a lot of computers to manage, and sticking with a single supplier if possible.    Also most corporate users tend to go to the big names as it can provide an expectation of quality and long lifetime support (HP / Dell / Lenovo / ASUS etc) rather than local computer stores.    This isn't to say that the product is bad - often a custom build can be more tailored to your needs, but you might find support turn around times can be less than desired (sometimes with the biggies too) or warranty terms etc.   Sometimes "image" is something that needs to be considered when you are forward facing with customers.

Visit several manufacturers websites and look at their corporate models rather than their consumer models, often you will find what you need there these days.

For any office - these days I would be recommending an All in One device (AIO) as the form factor gives you more space on the desk for your files and other requirements, with less cabling / tech support required for setup and these can often be mounted on a VESA mount and look much more professional.

I personally use a Dell AIO at work in a dual screen configuration (Additional external monitor so 2+ screens), its got an i3, 1 TB HD and 4-8 GB of ram.  It is several years old, but we got it on a 4 year lease with ProSupport.    This means, any hardware issues - a tech is sent onsite next business day (from the date of warranty claim acceptance - parts depending)  If I had to upgrade anything I would be doing an SSD (replace a 1TB or 500GB with a smaller but much faster drive)

I am doing this on another config (again Dell, but a much newer AIO model) I am supporting, but its an aftermarket not manufacture mod.  I am looking at a desk mounted Brettford VESA mount to support this long term.   Thats purely an aesthetics choice, as there are much cheaper VESA mounts.

As Vek's said - if you can look at Enterprise class OS rather than Consumer you will find you have the ability to protect yourself more.   I have pushed out a modified applocker policy at work that even restricts local users who are administrators.    Unless they log in as "administrator" their account may run into restrictions.   We did add exclusions for all the big software manufactures to make life easier, but even a bare bones applocker policy will save your ass and prevent computer reloads due to malware.   I used it in my own Windows VM's for several weeks before deploying it to all staff.

Offline WhimsicalTopic starter

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Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2015, 07:38:09 AM »
With my faux pas in stating that we would be using laptops, this has generated another thought and question:

First --- thank you to Vekseid; Lrrr; and, Psi for responding ---

Another person has sent me information via PM, so thank you to him, too.

Would using laptops be more efficient than having three separate PC's built? Additionally, if utilizing laptops for this, would it also be feasible to have a general "server" that would hold all the client/user files in which the three of us would be able to access at any given time?

I have also been doing research on off-site back-up of our files --- the "cloud" and all that. To be honest with you, I wish that I was more "literate" on computers as far as RAM/GB etc etc etc.

Again, thank you all for responding, I appreciate it!


Offline Psi

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Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2015, 05:51:55 AM »
With my faux pas in stating that we would be using laptops, this has generated another thought and question:

First --- thank you to Vekseid; Lrrr; and, Psi for responding ---

Another person has sent me information via PM, so thank you to him, too.

Would using laptops be more efficient than having three separate PC's built? Additionally, if utilizing laptops for this, would it also be feasible to have a general "server" that would hold all the client/user files in which the three of us would be able to access at any given time?

I have also been doing research on off-site back-up of our files --- the "cloud" and all that. To be honest with you, I wish that I was more "literate" on computers as far as RAM/GB etc etc etc.

Again, thank you all for responding, I appreciate it!

First off.    Are you planning to be doing work at anything other than your desk?   yes - than laptops are beneficial.   no - than laptops are not.

Second - having a general server which can be used to host common files depends.   2 or 3 users - if you share files from one desktop the others can access it the same as a server.   It works for onsite, but there is no backup if you have a server vs a desktop acting as a server while someone uses it.

Third - with backup.    You can get third party NAS that use a cloud based sync - I use a synology and for 2-3 uses I think all there models support a private cloud (as opposed to Dropbox / Google Drive-Docs).   Personally I always use multiple backups.    My own equipment has either a Time Machine or Windows Backup depending upon the platform, with a CrashPlan (Third Party that offers free/paid options) backup to a server I own as well as into the "cloud".   Every device also then has an independent backup onto an external hard drive via either that HD's own utility - Seagate Backup Plus)

In regards to the backup - unless its a private cloud - I would avoid any and all cloud based backups due to the nature of your work - being a legal firm.    This isn't a technical constraint, more a considered view to the privacy of your data, regardless of the encryption of the data.

To give you a profile about me and where laptop vs desktop or laptop vs dual screen matters.

I am an IT Professional, I manage several network enviroments as a Sysadmin.    While each has their own Servers and Workstations I personally utilise a personally owned laptop as my main method of managing the network  (It runs Mac OS X and also both Windows 7 & Windows 8.1 via a Virtual Environment).   One or two of the sites provide me with a workstation.    That workstation could be either a desktop or laptop.   I use a laptop because I move about, and I need access to my work from any location within any of these sites, or from home.   

Where I need to do more "Power User" tasks I often use either my Desktop at work - or my Setup at home that allows a dual screen configuration.
This is often when I am working on comparisons between documents, dealing with powerpoints that have multiple sources of data, or more than one task at once.

Offline WhimsicalTopic starter

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Re: Best Computer for a Small Office
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2015, 08:51:16 AM »
So much information provided!

Thank you, Psi, I appreciate the input from you as well as Veks and Lrr, too!

I think I have enough for a starting point.

Again, thank you to all of you!