In this example, I’ll talk a bit about the very workstation I am writing this blog post from. I’ll tell you how it’s configured, what’s running on it, why, how much it cost, and why it works for us.
The box itself is a second hand Dell OptiPlex GX270 with a Pentium 4 processor running at 2.4 Ghz. Some of you out there will gawk at a technology company using a 4 year old workstation, but I’ll be the first to tell you that these boxes are dirt cheap ($90-$100), can come with a valid Windows XP license, and will run all the office software, load all the websites, and play all the music that you want them to. I think these Pentium 4’s still have several years of life left in them.
We’re running Windows XP Pro, because our computer is part of a domain. We encounter too many clients who had an IT guy set them up with a Windows domain, only to have them go buy new computers at Wal-Mart and on eBay that are running XP home… XP home will not play well with the domain, and you won’t get the centralized permissions, scripting, and other massively time-saving benefits you get from a well-functioning internal domain.
3 – Memory
1GB. We recommend that you have at least 1GB of memory if you are running Windows XP. Any less and you will find yourself waiting, waiting, and waiting while all of your programs compete with each other for resources. Memory is the best investment you can make if you want a “speedier” computer, and again, it’s cheap!
4 – Displays
2 displays is the standard for workstations at Charm City Networks. Many of our clients have already implemented this for all of their employees, but others fail to see the benefit and only look at the dollar signs. Support for multiple displays has been built into windows for years, and an additional display card and low-end LCD can be had for under $150, and allows you to be much more efficient when you’ve got your email, two documents, iTunes, AIM, etc all open at the same time. If you aren’t using at least 2 displays, you are not being as efficient as you could be. (I recently installed a network for a client that included 8 22″ monitors per desktop! 8!)
5 – Software
More and more of what we do on computers is located in web browsers. The first thing we recommend to all of our clients is to ditch internet explorer (which is probably already laden with 6 toolbars) and install firefox. Our email is running on google apps, so is completely web based.