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Be careful when buying office equipment

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Buying computer equipment for your office can be challenging and risky if you don’t have the technical expertise to make the right purchasing decisions. A trip to a national chain office supply or electronics store probably won’t improve your chance of success. Most big-box computer stores can’t provide the level of service and expertise required to assist businesses with proper purchasing decisions, and in many cases they don’t even have access to business quality products.

I have many examples of businesses trying to save money or time by purchasing from a national electronics dealer, only to find out later that the equipment would not work in their office environment. The most recent example was a local nonprofit that we were visiting as part of our IT Makeover campaign.

This organization had recently received some funding for IT purchases and had ordered a number of computers and peripherals it desperately needed to run its operations. It probably seemed natural for them to contact the office supply store where they buy staples and pens; after all, they have an aisle full of computers and printers.

The problems began when the organization got the systems and attempted to set them up. The computers they ordered included the Microsoft Home operating system, which was not compatible with their network. While they had the licenses to run the proper version of Windows 7, it was not easy to install this on 12 systems and update the drivers to make the consumer systems work in a business environment.

This same organization had also made a decision as to which laser printers to purchase based upon the apparent cost of toner. A toner replacement cartridge was $50 for the printers they chose, while the cost for a true business printer was $70. It failed to take into account that the business printer cartridge was a little more expensive, but it was capable of printing more than twice as many pages.

There are many other potential problems with buying consumer or small office equipment from retail electronic stores. In many cases the warranties are not designed for business users and the equipment might not have the reliability or manufacturer support for business use. Security should be another major concern; you won’t find systems or devices that have business level security features in off-the-shelf products. The lesson here is for all businesses to get expert advice when buying products that will be critical to your success. In the case of the nonprofit, we were able to get them better product at the same price with features and warranties that were not available from the big-box store.

Steve Cerocke, founder/president of IQ Systems Inc. of Reno, can be reached at 775-352-2301, ext. 1001, or

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