Is your business using the right computing equipment?
When considering IT budgets and workstation setups, it’s perhaps understandable that computer peripherals might not stir up much passionate debate. If a brand new laptop, desktop PC or smartphone are blockbuster purchases, peripherals are all too easily viewed as the bargain basement purchase from the local supermarket.
It’s very easy to dismiss peripherals as a one-size-fits-all solution, simply not worth spending too much money on, but that would be a huge mistake. The hardware and software your teams are using are at the heart of the IT setup, of course, but it’s the mice, keyboards, monitors and printers that staff are constantly interacting with, so ergonomics naturally play a part. As someone who suffers from time to time with mild RSI, I know only too well of the dangers of not investing in the right peripherals, and kitting a workforce out with cheap, insubstantial tools is only going to result in a false economy in the longer term.
The variations on the humble keyboard are, frankly, rather mind-boggling when you begin to look into your options. One person’s dream keyboard is another’s nightmare, so it’s vital to get this particular peripheral exactly right. Broadly speaking, a simple, basic QWERTY keyboard with a numeric keypad and function keys will see you right. Obviously, even with a basic board, the options and brands are extensive, but you’re going to want to look for something that feels comfortable, sturdy, possibly backlit, and likely kitted out with USB ports and Bluetooth/wireless connectivity.
Other, more niche options to consider would be ergonomic keyboards, which are specifically designed to help combat RSI, carpal tunnel syndrome and other problems that could lead to long-term injuries. Again, there are options aplenty here, although you may typically have to pay a slight premium to take advantage of the particular comfort that these keyboards offer.
Whichever keyboards are ultimately decided upon, don’t neglect your wrists. You need to ensure that wrists are correctly supported at all times to avoid potential injury or discomfort, and this is true whether you're using a desktop or laptop device. Also, tablet users on the go should consider investing in a wireless or Bluetooth keyboard rather than using touchscreen keys if using that device over longer periods.
The first question to consider with mice - and it’s strongly recommended to use an external mouse with laptops rather than the provided (most likely minuscule) trackpad - is whether to choose a wired or wireless device. Wired devices are typically more responsive but they don’t offer the same level of flexibility during use as a wireless one. Restricted movement is the thing to avoid here so whether wired or wireless, make sure that that isn’t going to be a problem. It’s important to carefully study your workstation in this regard too to make sure you’ve given yourself enough space to move the mouse around on.
You also want a mouse that feels just right in your hand, so finding one that’s the right size for you and houses a comfortable grip is important when shopping around. Some devices are relatively flat, while others will sit up in the full palm of the hand, so try to get a feel for a few before choosing, if that’s an option.
In the past, mouse mats were necessary, but with technology having moved on, these can be more of a hindrance for movement these days, although for RSI sufferers they are still something worth considering.
Any business wants to install printers that can get the job done in the most cost-effective way possible. Inkjet, laser and LED printers are all available to businesses large or small these days but the age-old debate of hardware versus consumables continues. It’s vital that before making the hardware purchase that you ensure you understand how much it’s going to cost to replace the ink and what its paper-handling capabilities are.
Choosing the right sized printer for the print volume of the office is all important, as are printer options such as connectivity - wireless or USB - and networking capabilities, which is clearly a must for shared workgroups. Finally, will you need a printer that can also scan and copy, or will your business be fine with a printer that, well, prints and that’s that? All good questions to think about before spending.
It can be very easy to overspend on monitors as the breadth of choice is really quite dizzying. It can also be all to simple to get carried away with bigger, wider screens and higher, clearer resolutions. In the end, the important thing to bear in mind at all stages of the procurement process is to be clear about what the business’s requirements are and how the monitor in question can best serve that need and maximise productivity.
As most displays are high definition these days, that’s the least employees are going to expect, but because HD is the new standard, this won’t break the bank. If workers need to multitask, then larger screens may be a consideration.
One thing that is certainly worth looking at is a monitor that comes with an adjustable stand for tilting and pivoting how the user might require. As for other options such as speakers and USB ports, these can be beneficial but are also a potentially needless additional expense.
These are the basics to think about with peripherals, but of course there are other devices such as USB drives which need to be factored in to the buying process. Hopefully, this post has given you some food for thought before buying.
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