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Business-Grade vs. Consumer Grade Technology in the Workplace.

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Posted by Jackie Edwards - 02 August, 2021

In a previous post,  we discussed the fact that PCs and laptops are still the primary endpoints in the workplace, despite the emergence of mobile devices. However, because these computers are so inexpensive and easy to find, they’ve become commoditized. As a result, it’s not uncommon to see consumer-grade, off-the-shelf PCs and laptops being used for business purposes. The price may be right, but consumer-grade computers typically lack the durability, reliability, performance, support and security of business-grade computers.

The same tradeoffs apply to most computer gear and office technology that you can buy from discount retailers, office supply stores or Amazon. Will these tools help you save money and perform basic tasks? Sure. Will they deliver the value and peace of mind of business-grade technology? Rarely.

Some organizations may pick up a cheap, plug-and-play storage appliance when they approach their capacity limits. But capacity is just one aspect of storage. You need performance and availability to maximize productivity and minimize downtime and data loss. You need seamless scalability so you don’t have to keep buying new appliances when capacity runs out. You need advanced features such as data de-duplication and compression that reduce capacity requirements. You need storage that is compatible with other components of your IT infrastructure. You need support that’s available and helpful. This is why you need to invest in a business-grade storage system.

Many organizations assume that a consumer-grade, offsite backup device or cloud-based solution offers adequate protection in case of disaster. Yes, backup files will be saved, but that’s about it. A business-grade backup system will back up your server image so you can quickly resume business operations without having to rebuild your server and network configurations. Data recovery using a consumer-grade backup solution is usually unreliable and slow.

Wired and wireless network routers of the consumer variety are great for managing parental controls and supporting gaming and streaming applications, but those features have little value in a business environment. Business-grade routers use Quality of Service to identify and prioritize different types of traffic. This makes it possible to avoid disruptions to real-time applications such as voice and video, which receive priority over email, for example. Business-grade routers include security tools such as firewalls, advanced encryption, content filtering and network access controls, while VPNs provide a secure connection to the company network for sensitive data.

If there’s one area in which consumer-grade technology might be adequate, it’s printers and peripherals. Speed and output are often comparable to business-grade tools. However, keep in mind that cheaper printers often mean more expensive toner. If the number of users is limited and you’re printing mostly text documents with minimal graphics, a consumer-grade printer may do the trick. Just make sure you analyze ongoing costs and choose a model with the features, reliability and capabilities to support your workload. Business-grade peripherals typically provide better performance, security and features than cheaper, consumer-grade options.

The only consistent advantage of consumer-grade technology is price. Some of these tools are also easier to set up and use. But they don’t deliver the overall value, reliability and quality of business-grade tools. Consumer-grade technology is fine for home use. In a business environment, it’s just not worth the risk.

Posted by Jackie Edwards

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Topics: Technology


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