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If a pre-assembled desktop or server workstation is not within your budget, assembling one in-house can be a lower cost alternative. For underperforming desktop computers, upgrading individual computer parts may be more cost-effective than replacing the entire system.

Processors

The processor directly affects overall computer performance, more than other components such as the sound card or power supply.

When selecting a processor, some important considerations include the number of cores, the clock speed of those cores, and the amount of cache memory.

Motherboards

The motherboard is the component that unifies the internal hardware. You will need to ensure that the processor, memory, and other computer parts are compatible with the motherboard.

Though the motherboard can affect system performance, it can be difficult to quantify how much of an impact it has. Several important considerations include, the maximum amount of memory supported, compatible processors, data interface standards, and expansion card slots.

Random Access Memory (RAM)

Both the amount and speed of memory are quantifiable factors that directly affect computer performance. Generally, the more memory a computer has, the better it will be able to multitask. Faster memory can speed up tasks that require data to be frequently loaded and retrieved.

Computer Cases

There are many different types of computer cases, from small portable ITX cases to larger E-ATX cases for servers and workstations.

When selecting a case, you should consider how and where the computer will be used. Also, determine if the case’s internal dimensions are adequate for the components that you plan to use.

Power Supply Unit (PSU)

Computer power supplies are components that connect to an electrical outlet and send power to the individual computer parts. When selecting a power supply, you will need to determine if can handle the total power requirement of all the components.

To do that, add up the power loads of all the internal components and ensure that the PSU can supply at least that much power. It is recommended that you choose a power supply well above that minimum for more flexibility.

Hard Drives

The hard drive is a data storage device that can be used to store the operating system, programs, documents, and other important files. When selecting a hard drive, ensure that it is compatible with the motherboard as well as being large and quick enough for your needs.

Alternatively, you can use a solid state drive for increased data transfer speeds, lower noise output, and better energy efficiency.

Video Cards

A video card is a required component, but many motherboards already have one built-in. However, some tasks may require the use of a dedicated video card even if the motherboard has onboard video capabilities. Tasks such as 3D rendering and simulation can sometimes require the use of workstation-grade video cards.

Network Adapters

While not required for the computer to be used, network connectivity is necessary for internet and local area network (LAN) access. Some motherboards have network adapters built into them, so separate adapters are not always required.

There are two main types of network adapters, internal and external. Internal network adapters utilize expansion slots while external variants are usually USB.

Sound Cards

Many desktop motherboards have sound cards built-in, allowing for audio playback without the need for a dedicated sound card. However, the quality of these built-in sound cards is generally not on par with high-end dedicated sound cards. For tasks that require high definition audio playback, dedicated sound cards are usually better than onboard solutions.

Optical Drives

An optical drive is beneficial for many uses, including backing up data, installing software, and playing multimedia content. Before shopping for an optical drive however, you should check what type of data connector the motherboard utilizes and if any are available for use.

SOFTWARE

The term business software can be used to describe many different types of programs and applications that are used by professionals to fulfill their duties. It can also be used to describe home or personal software that has been adapted for professional use. Below are some notable types of business software.

Audio & Video Editing

Audio and video editing software gives users the ability to modify and manipulate multimedia content. It makes tasks such as adding special effects to a video clip or adjusting the treble in an audio file possible.

Editors in the film and music industries often depend on these tools to perform many of their job duties. For users outside of those industries, these programs can be useful for projects such as developing multimedia promotional and training content.

Business & Finance

Business and finance software can help professionals manage company sales, keep track of finances, prepare tax forms, and more.

Accounting – At a basic level, accounting software can record and process daily financial transactions. More advanced functions include tracking inventory and managing payroll.

If you plan to implement new accounting software, you should consider the challenges involved with integrating it into your organization’s existing processes. Aside from computer compatibility considerations, it may require training and changing standard operating procedures.

Tax Preparation – A specialized type of business software that is used mainly for preparing tax forms. Unlike comprehensive accounting software, tax software is not as ideal for keeping track of day to day operations and transactions.

Graphics & Design

Graphics editing and design programs are used to create and edit images and 3D designs. They can streamline tasks such as manipulating color balance and scaling image size. As with many other types of business software, some training may be required when implementing new graphics and design programs.

Operating Systems

An operating system is essential for managing computer hardware, processing user requests, functioning as a platform for programs and applications, and more. It is an intermediary that interconnects software and hardware.

If you are considering an organization-wide migration to a new operating system, you will likely face several challenges. Two of the biggest will be hardware and software compatibility, as not all computers and programs may support the new operating system.

Office Productivity

From drafting e-mails to creating spreadsheets, office productivity software is essential for many different tasks. Some of the more basic office productivity software suites will typically include programs for word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, and e-mail. Enterprise-grade suites may include diagram, database, and publishing programs as well.

Server Software

Servers are specialized computers that are used to perform a variety of functions, including managing network resources, hosting websites, and providing services to client computers. For servers to perform those functions, they require specialized operating systems and programs. Compared to desktop software, server software is designed to meet the needs of multiple users rather than just a single user.

Security Software

Security software is used to reduce the risk of and mitigate damage from viruses, external attacks, and other digital threats. They can range from relatively basic antivirus programs to complete suites that protect user identity, prevent system exploits, and encrypt data.

NETWORKING

Are you up-to-date on your knowledge about networking equipment? If not, the primer below will outline what you need to know about network equipment such as routers, switches, hubs, NAS drives, and etc.

Network Switch

A network switch is a device that connects other networking-capable devices together, typically via Ethernet. A switch uses packet switching to receive, process then forward data to the correct receiving device, creating a LAN (Local Area Network). Switches range from inexpensive desktop devices with 4-12 ports to large chassis-based managed switches with hundreds of ports. Switches use the MAC address of each device to identify them. High end managed switches can also perform basic layer 3 routing functions too. Some switches even have built-in wireless controllers.

Network Hub

Similar to a switch, a network hub creates a network between multiple devices. But hubs are older and archaic compared to modern network switches. If you still have a hub deployed in your network, consider replacing it with a network switch.

Network Router

In addition to creating a LAN, a router is able to connect multiple networks to a wide area network (WAN). A WAN is a network that covers a large area and is sometimes used synonymously with the internet, though the internet is only one example of a WAN. Network routers can be either wired or wireless, with wireless routers sometimes referred to as Wi-Fi® routers.

Network Access Point / Wireless Access Point (WAP)

An access point is a device that adds wireless connectivity to a wired network. Some APs are standalone devices that connect to a router while others are components of the router itself. APs come in two varieties, stand-alone APs are for small installations with 1-5 APs while controller-managed APs are typical of larger implementations to permit central management of all the devices.

Network Firewall

A network firewall is a security device that controls traffic entering and leaving a LAN based on a set of rules. While it functions similar to a software firewall, but it protects the whole LAN instead of a single PC. Especially at the small business level, a firewall is combined with a router and often a WAP into a single package. Newer firewalls are often referred to as Unified Threat Management devices as they can inspect and control traffic at the application level.

Network Attached Storage (NAS) Drive

A network attached storage drive is a dedicated drive on a network that has its own IP address and functions similarly to an external hard drive. Some NAS drives feature built-in software that allow them to not only store files, but also stream media and provide remote access. Advanced NAS drives may utilize multiple hard disks arranged in a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) setup for increased performance.

Network Adapters (NIC)

Network adapters are devices that add networking capabilities, and can sometimes be referred to as network interface controllers or network interface cards. There three types of network adapters, wired, wireless, and dual wired/wireless. When purchasing a wireless network adapter, be sure that it is compatible with your organization’s wireless network standard.

Modem

A modem connects a router or computer to a telephone line to provide access to the internet, though some modems may have built-in router functionality. When purchasing a modem, you will want to be sure that it is compatible with your internet service provider’s (ISP) network.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)

VoIP is a method of voice communication that uses a computer network instead of the telephone system. You may already be familiar with VoIP services such as Skype™ or Google Voice™, which allow for communication over the internet. For your staff, there are VoIP solutions that can connect them with each other through your computer network as well as your telephone lines.

Power over Ethernet (PoE)

Ethernet uses only two of the four pairs of wires in a copper Ethernet cable, leaving the other two available for power delivery. This allows low power devices like VoIP phones IP cameras and WAPs to run solely off the Ethernet cable. Many switches offer models with PoE (15.4W/port) or PoE+ (25.5W/port) on some or all switch ports.

Power Line Networking / Power Line Communication (PLC)

Did you know that power lines can be used to create a network in addition to powering electronic devices? Creating a computer network through your power lines will not require modification of the lines nor will it increase electricity usage. To set up an Ethernet power line network, you just need to plug at least two power line network adapters into wall outlets and run Ethernet cables from them to whatever devices you want on the network.

Network Print Server

A network print server is a device that allows you to connect one or more printers to a network and provide print queue information to users. A print server can be used with any printer as long as the printer and print server feature compatible connections. Some network print servers have the ability to redirect print jobs to if one printer has too many requests.