Choosing the right computer is a challenging task. There are so many options on the market, and each one has different features that may or may not be appropriate for your church office. This blog post will help you figure out which machine is best for your needs by presenting the factors to consider when purchasing computers for church offices.
What will your church computer be used for?
Consider how many people will be using the computer and what they’ll need to do with it. A single-user machine might suffice for a secretary who just needs to create and organize documents.
But if you’re trying get everyone at the office on one computer, it will need more power because of all those people running programs simultaneously with different requirements that can’t be met by some computers’ lower specs (the hardware).
If your church is buying multiple computers, make sure each computer is individually suited for the tasks that may be required.
Buying second-hand machines may be cheaper, but it’s not always the best idea if they keep crashing or take forever to complete simple tasks.
Desktop or Laptop?
Determine if you want an all-in-one or desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone for each person in your office.
Each of these different devices has its own pros and cons depending on what your office needs are:
Tablets and Phones – ideal for simple tasks like sending email, but not really useful as general purpose devices. Great in an emergency and for staying in touch, but you’ll need something larger (and with a real keyboard) to get serious work done.
Desktop – a desktop is the perfect solution if someone in attendance at church offices doesn’t have any other device or just wants to use one computer for most tasks including sending email, typing up documents, etc. The biggest limitation with a desktop computer is that is tied to one location – sure, you can move it, but it’s a pain to do so!
Laptop – a laptop is great for when volunteers or employees are on the go or don’t have access to a desk. Laptops also usually come with more storage space than tablets so they’re good if you need roomier hard drives.
The Microsoft Surface can be the perfect device for any church office. It can be used as both a laptop and tablet – which makes it great when you need to take your work on-the go or just want something different from sitting at one desk all day. But many will prefer a device that sits on one side of the fence or the other!
What Operating System?
Choose computers that are easy to use and have a user interface that is intuitive and familiar for those who may not be tech savvy. While the interface for MacOS, Windows, and certain varieties of Linux can be similar, they all have their quirks.
Windows is the most widely used OS in the world, and so most people will be familiar with it. It also has great support for many programs. In an office context, it may be important that your computer runs a particular accounting package, or perhaps you need MS Office – checking the requirements of your software to help with your choice.
Of course, accounts packages are available for MacOS, and so is MS Office. You can also get programs like ProPresenter, Photoshop, and Illustrator on both platforms – but they tend to work more reliably on a Mac. If you have a design team, they may well request a Mac!
If price is a factor, Windows PCs are usually cheaper than Macs, but you may find that Macs last longer – especially with the speed of the new M1 chips. Linux is an option for those who know what they are doing, and installing Linux is free; you just need the hardware.
Linux won’t natively run Photoshop, MS Office, or ProPresenter. There are hacks and tricks to do it, but it can be complex. Alternative software packages are available, such as GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) and Libre Office, but they may have a steep learning curve.
Another alternative is to use Chromebooks. These run on Google’s ChromeOS and allow access to the internet easily. If your accounting package is cloud-based, you don’t mind using Google Docs for your word processing needs, and can get away with Pixlr or SumoPaint for image editing, Chromebooks can be a good option. They also make great (low cost) laptops that are simple to use, even though they are not overly powerful.
If you’re editing videos, it can be much harder on a Chromebook!
What Size Monitor/Screen?
Chromebooks and laptops start with screen sizes at around 11 inches (measured on the diagonal). MacBooks can be seen at around the same size, and much larger. Windows and Linux laptops come in all sizes – but once you get to 17 inches or larger, they can be unwieldy.
Monitors for desktop computers (and don’t forget, you can plug external monitors into many laptops) can be huge – ultrawide screens are available that will occupy your entire desk.
The size for this kind of monitor should be determined by the physical space available as well as the needs of the software. If you’re running a spreadsheet and need to see lots of info, choose a larger monitor. If you’re only sending emails, a smaller monitor will work just as well, as long as it isn’t too small to see comfortably.
How Many USB Ports?
Or any other ports, for that matter! The more ports available, the more options you have for connecting external devices. You might need to add a printer, a webcam, a mouse and keyboard, and so on.
This is a consideration for laptop and desktop devices. If you want an external monitor on your laptop, make sure it has a connection that supports it.
Which Brands to Consider for Office Use and Why?
If you’re after a Mac, you’re buying Apple, and that’s that. Using it along with an iPhone and iPad creates a unified system.
Similarly, using an Android phone alongside a Chromebook creates a unified system – but many manufacturers build Android phones and Chromebooks. In fact, some say that the best Google app experience is found on the Apple-made iPhones…!
As a general rule, it’s best to stick with brands you know for phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, monitors, and even printers. You can hop on Wish and find something that looks like it might work well…but you might end up WISHING it worked well.
Names like Acer, Toshiba, Microsoft, Canon, Samsung, Panasonic, Epson, Apple, Google, Asus, IBM, and so on can usually be trusted. There are horror stories of devices breaking on day one from every manufacturer, but a well-known name is much more likely to honour the guarantee.
Always choose to buy from a reputable dealer too. PC World, Argos, Amazon, John Lewis, and other businesses have dedicated customer service and you can contact them with relative ease.
What about the free option?
There’s always a chance that you can pick up some second-hand hardware and software for free (or nearly-free). They might get you out of a sticky situation, but long term, you’ll probably be using out-of-date equipment.
This can mean it is slow and won’t receive the latest security updates. Save yourself the frustration and potential problems and do what you can to get something a little more powerful!