Where to Buy a New Computer: Tips on Buying a New Computer

Big box store? Catalogue? Internet? The local pro? Where is the best place for you to purchase your new computer?

You need a new computer for your business — or maybe two, or ten. Where will you go to buy them?

There was a time when the IBM PC was the only standard business choice for desktop computers, and the only way to buy one was to call IBM directly and talk with one of their salespeople. Those days are long gone, and now the business buyer is in the driver’s seat.

The Big Box

Many businesses go to local “big box” computer stores like CompUSA or Computer City. The advantages of buying in these stores are price, convenience and selection. Most shops will offer you many options for your computer-buying dollar, and few businesses are located more than a 10-minute drive from one of the giant computer retailers.

Three drawbacks are worth considering, though. The salespeople at these shops tend to be less computer-savvy than smart buyers are themselves. Sales staff turnover is high, and training is not what it could be, so do your reading ahead of time, and don’t expect to have all of your questions answered expertly.

Another consideration: Big box shops tend to push older models at bigger discounts, and to be a bit behind the curve when it comes to the very latest machines available. This is more a function of their warehouse and stocking strategies than anything else. You can wind up with a short-term cost reduction, but long-term inefficiency, if you buy a computer that’s not quite up-to-date.

Finally, these computer superstores tend to do a less-than-perfect job of making add-on software available to you. Businesspeople often complain that the latest versions of the programs they want — databases are a common example of business programs that don’t come pre-installed on most computers — aren’t on the shelves in the big stores.

The Local Pro

Many businesses are fortunate to have small computer shops in their areas. These stores tend to be run by very knowledgeable professionals who care a great deal about the technology they sell. Some offer on-site service that goes above and beyond the manufacturers’ warrantees. They’ll often help you select the right computer for your particular needs, and customize the computer on the spot. The two major drawbacks: price and selection. These shops tend to carry only two or three brands at a time, and they often can’t compete with the rock-bottom pricing of the big box stores.

Catalogs and the Internet

Computer catalogs often combine the best of the big box stores with the advantages of the local computer shops. Selections tend to be broad, and the advice printed on the page is generally smarter than what you’ll hear from the typical salesperson in a large retail environment. The downside: You’ll have to wait at least a few days for your computer, and you’ll pay shipping charges that are often inflated. The same holds true for purchases on the Internet, where the choices are broad, but shipping tends to take longer than a drive down to the local superstore.

The bottom line for most businesses is that great buying opportunities are out there — and the more effort you put into the buying process, the more likely you’ll be to take home high-performance hardware at a low-budget price.

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