Purchasing a new computer can be a daunting task. There are many options to consider: Do you need a desktop or a laptop? Windows or Mac? What technical specifications are best? 

Community IT prefers to work collaboratively with our clients to help make these decisions. This approach allows us to apply recent experiences with different makes and models. We are also scrupulously agnostic and use vendors that we work with but do not compensate us.

We have been getting a lot of questions about what equipment to buy, especially when so many nonprofits have moved to a work from home model, or have begun allowing staff to bring their own devices (BYOD).

With the caveat that these are very generalized recommendations, and that before any purchase you must check with your own IT and finance staff regarding standards and reimbursements, we would like to offer this basic check list.

Of course, if you are ready for more assistance and would like to schedule an assessment of your needs and technology plan, let’s talk.

Community IT is able to support Apple/Mac computers in an enterprise environment or on an individual level, but this article is focused on the procurement of Windows devices. If you have Mac questions, let’s talk.

Desktop or Laptop? What to Consider

1) Desktop or laptop? Consider a laptop instead of a desktop. Laptops are more expensive and have a shorter life cycle, but being portable they allow much more flexibility for remote work at various locations, even just different rooms in your house.

2) Computer models: For any manufacturer, please purchase the enterprise-class models. We prefer our clients purchase Dell computers if everything else under consideration is equal. However, we understand that user preference matters (especially for laptops), so enterprise-class devices from other manufacturers such as HP, Lenovo and Microsoft Surface Pros are acceptable alternatives. 

If purchasing Dell, this means buying Latitude laptops and OptiPlex desktops (not Inspiron or Vostro). The build quality of the enterprise-class models is substantially better, and Dell’s consumer-class computers do not have the functionality Community IT recommends for automated firmware and driver updates.  We manage a range of products from many manufactures, but feel that Dell’s customer support is often superior, again with all other things being equal. 

3) Operating System: Buy computers with Windows 10 Pro, NOT Windows 10 Home. Windows 10 Pro is required for  joining Windows  domains  and  for being managed through  Office 365.  It means fewer logons and more security.  Windows 10 Pro  also  gives more ability to manage Microsoft patching schedule s and  includes the  ability  to encrypt the hard drive for added security.

But the most important thing for organizational support is Windows 10 Pro’s ability to join a domain or Office 365/Azure. Even if you  don’t  need this now, we anticipate Azure for Nonprofits to manage devices will become a standard approach in the future. 

Windows Home cannot be upgraded with Windows Pro easily. If you want to upgrade from Home to Pro you will need to purchase the full $199 Windows Pro License as of this writing. 

4) Warranty: For peace of mind we recommend 3 years of next-business day support. For laptops you may also want to consider adding “Accidental Damage Coverage.” This will provide for the repair of a laptop regardless of how the damage occurred. If you (or your Executive Director) is particularly accident prone, this can be a good investment. Also be aware that most laptop warranties require you to ship back the device. If you don’t have a spare computer available you may want a warranty that includes on site repair service.   

When you partner with Community IT, we are always glad to assist you in making your computer purchase decisions. You can request a recommendation on a laptop or desktop and we’ll connect with you to learn how you’ll use your computer and give you a recommendation that will suit you and your organization’s needs.  

Ready for IT support you can depend on?

We’ve found that many nonprofit organizations deal with more IT issues than they should have to. Resources are tight. Systems are unreliable, responses are too slow, and repairs are too expensive. Sometimes nonprofits don’t even realize how bad things are until something big breaks and their mission is derailed.

Our process is based on 25 years of exclusively serving nonprofits. Our technicians have certifications across all major platforms, and we constantly research and evaluate new solutions to ensure that you get cutting-edge solutions that are tailored to the needs of your organization.

We regularly present webinars at Community IT about nonprofit technology issues, and we work hard to keep our nonprofit technology community informed and engaged in best practices, including this IT support for nonprofits guide.

If you’re ready to gain peace of mind about your cybersecurity, let’s talk.