Compared with laptops, desktop PCs boast lower prices, fewer incidents of loss and theft, and more power. Still, corporations are buying laptops in droves-often as desktop replacements-as the portability of these systems has allowed employees to be productive on the road and at home, providing the kind of flexibility and convenience that standard desktop PCs simply cannot.
With no slowdown in sight, it has never been more important for IT managers to develop a sound strategy for purchasing laptop computers. That strategy must determine solid base-line requirements that will stretch hardware investments over the next few years, identify special needs within organizations and allow you to get the best buys from vendors. Important considerations include security, durability and usability.
Plan for the future
Most companies need their laptops to last for three to five years, so care must be taken to ensure that not only the laptop itself but also the components within will have a shelf life that long.
When configuring your company laptops, don't go below 2GB of RAM. This is especially important for companies that have standardized, or plan to standardize, on Microsoft's Windows Vista, which requires 2GB of RAM to run effectively.
You should also look for machines that can be scaled to as much as 4GB of RAM with memory slots, further ensuring the laptops' useful life span.
In terms of storage, buy machines with a dual-core processor and at least a 120GB hard drive that spins at 5,400 rpm. However, a 200GB hard drive that spins at 7,200 rpm is often a better fit for the enterprise, where the power of workstation applications needs to translate into a mobile platform.
Shoot for laptop PCs that can promise at least 4 hours of battery power per charge, so road warriors can squeeze more power out of their units for those long flights and hectic conferences, where finding plug-in power can be next to impossible.
Laptops also should be selected with long-term durability in mind. For example, a common sight that undoubtedly makes IT managers grimace is employees trotting down the hall carrying laptops by their corners with the lids wide open. What these users don't realize is how much stress they are putting on the notebooks' frames, chassis and electrical components.
Unless you can ensure that your users will never mishandle their laptops in this way and in so many other ways (and you know how unlikely that is) consider laptops that are equipped with case frames to prevent distortion and other complications. Lenovo's T61 ThinkPads, for example, are now built with a roll cage frame that allows them to be held by any corner and still be as rigid as if your hand were placed directly beneath the laptop's body.
Of course, the major drawbacks of having a device that's so portable are theft and loss, putting your company at risk of having sensitive information fall into the wrong hands and creating the potential for a public relations nightmare.