Software Considerations When Buying Agency Computers
If youve read our first two articles in this series (see NU, Aug. 11 and Sept. 15) and done some serious thinking, youre just about ready to order your new computers, but there are a few additional considerations that can be important.
Youve already done your agency technology inventory and some thinking about CPU speed, RAM and your hard drive needs, but some other basics bear mentioning.
If youre buying personal computers, and not just workstations, you need to decide between two platforms: Windows or Macintosh.
While Macintosh computers comprise a relatively small share of the market, they do have their ardent proponents, especially in the graphic arts and education fields. A quick look around at the software available for Macs vs. Windows PCs, however, will tell you that most of the business world has bought into Microsoft Windows lock, stock and barrel. A look at the offerings of the major agency management software vendors will tell you the same thing. So, for purposes of this article, well assume youre choosing a Windows machine.
Now theres the matter of the operating system version. Just about any computer you buy today will come equipped with Windows XP, although you may still find a few Windows 2000 machines floating around. Both systems are workable with most modern software, but be aware that Windows 2000 is the older version and may therefore not be supported by Microsoft for as long as XP. (Windows 95, for example, was a dominant operating system for more than three years, but it is no longer supported by Microsoft.)
Its also important to be aware that software that works with older Windows versions may not be supported by XP. When I migrated from my Windows 98 home PC to a Windows XP machine last year, I was surprised and disappointed to learn that some of my most useful software programs would not function in the XP environment.
The solution is to upgrade your software, if needed, along with your operating system. Make sure you find out what programs will work in XP and include the software upgrades in your cost estimates for new systems.
Within Windows XP youll have a choice of purchasing XP Home Edition or XP Professional Edition for about $100 more. On the surface, the two appear to function much the same, but Windows XP Professional provides more in the way of business functions and security than XP Home Edition.
Microsoft, on its Web site, recommends that potential purchasers note the following differences in the two editions:
Remote Desktop, found only in XP Professional, lets you set up your PC for connection from any other Windows-based computer, which might be useful for accessing your computer from virtually anywhere.
Windows XP Professional lends itself better to connection to a large network.
Windows XP Professional has an Encrypting File System for increased data security, a feature not found in XP Home. It also allows you to restrict access to selected files and applications.
According to Microsoft, Windows XP Professional offers “more robust options for backing up and restoring data than Home Edition,” a feature that could be critical in dealing with critical data in the agency office.