Business-grade vs. consumer-grade technology: Which is better for your business?

A photograph of two monitors on a wooden desk overlooking a window. A keyboard, mouse, cellphone, and notebook rest in front of the monitors.

If you find a computer sale at your local store, should you take advantage of it? If your business needs new computers, do you know what kind to buy?

Business-grade and consumer-grade hardware and software are built with different user functionality.

For instance, the computers on store shelves are consumer-grade, made to be used as personal computers in the home. On the other hand, business-grade computers include additional features for office use.

Will consumer-grade computers meet your business needs? Or do you need business-grade technology? What's the difference between the two?

For over 25 years, WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of satisfied clients plan for, evaluate, and purchase technology for their businesses.

By reading this article, you will know the definitions of business-grade and consumer-grade technology, the benefits and disadvantages of each, and how to choose the best for your business.

 

Defining business-grade technology

Business-grade technology is designed to grow alongside your business for the long term.

Business-grade technology improves on foundational technology by adding features and functionality.

 

Benefits of business-grade technology

Business-grade technology holds several benefits, including:

  1. Built for long-term use
  2. Additional updates and upgrades
  3. Extra security features
  4. Ability to connect to business networks
  5. Compatibility with business-grade software and devices

1. Built for long-term use

Business-grade technology is built to meet long-term needs and to withstand extended use. As a result, it will last longer than consumer-grade technology.

For instance, you use your work laptop for 8 hours or more each day, roughly five days a week. During that time, you also use multiple applications, many of them simultaneously. Personal devices rarely experience the same level of activity.

Business-grade technology utilizes elements to make faster, more robust hardware and software. In addition, it is created to handle the bandwidth needs of growing businesses.

2. Additional updates and upgrades

Business-grade technology comes ready to fit into your company's unique IT setup and grow as needed. This includes additional updates and potential upgrades.

Business-grade technology is compatible with various upgrades, software, and other network hardware. These same items are usually incompatible with consumer-grade technology.

Business-grade technology also receives regular manufacturer updates to improve security and performance.

3. Extra security features

Business-grade hardware and software come with extra security measures like hardware encryption. These features help protect your business's confidential information and maintain industry compliance standards.

For example, Windows Pro automatically encrypts your hard drive. So if you accidentally leave your work laptop in an Uber and it's stolen, the thief will be unable to steal information from your hard drive. It's protected thanks to the business-grade operating system.

4. The ability to connect to business networks

All business-grade hardware and software can connect to business networks. This allows file sharing within your organization, an essential business IT function. Users need to be able to access and share files.

Your company's IT technology must connect to your network to securely communicate and complete tasks.

5. Compatibility with business-grade software and devices

Only business-grade technology is compatible with business-grade software and devices.

For example, applications like Windows Pro and Microsoft 365 are built specifically for business use and only function on business-grade hardware.

 

Disadvantages of business-grade technology

Despite its many positives, business-grade technology holds some disadvantages. These mainly include:

  1. Price
  2. Not readily available
  3. Not easily identified

1. Price

Business-grade technology is more expensive than consumer-grade technology.

It's expensive to produce technology with additional abilities, security features, and a longer lifespan. Unfortunately, this shows up in business-grade technology's price tag.

2. Not readily available

You cannot simply go to any computer store or website and order business-grade technology. Instead, it must be purchased through trusted vendors.

Because business-grade hardware isn't stocked on store shelves, it takes additional time to order and set up. There's no quick fix if your laptop breaks unless you have a backup laptop in storage.

Even if a vendor has some available, you're waiting at least 24 hours for it to arrive. While you wait for the laptop to arrive, you cannot work.

3. Not easily identified

When shopping online or in a store, computers are not labeled "Business-grade" or "Consumer-grade." Therefore, shoppers must know beforehand if hardware models or software versions are business-grade.  

If you don't know the exact business-grade model you want, you may end up with a consumer-grade version. But unfortunately, consumer-grade technology is most likely incompatible with your office network, hardware, and applications.

If this happens, you must either buy a business-grade replacement or purchase additional licensing and equipment upgrades to create the necessary functionality (which may not be possible).

Either way, you're spending more money than anticipated to correct the mistake.

 

How to purchase business-grade technology

The best way to purchase business-grade technology is to talk to your IT provider or internal IT team. They can help match you with the best solutions for your needs and then work with a trusted vendor to secure the technology.

Once the technology is purchased and delivered, your IT provider or team will ready it for use.

There is an additional service fee for the time and skill used to research, match, and set up the technology. This service saves users considerable time and stress. You can also speak directly to a vendor about ordering hardware if you prefer. However, vendors also require a service fee.

 

Defining consumer-grade technology

Consumer-grade technology is hardware or software that meets an immediate need and is designed for personal use.

For example, you can buy a laptop and a printer from your local computer store if you need to type and print a document. These devices will meet your needs without worrying about things like network compatibility.

Consumer-grade technology is also the most basic, foundational version of that technology.

 

Benefits of consumer-grade technology

Consumer-grade technology is essentially a foil to business-grade technology. Business-grade technology's disadvantages are the advantages of consumer-grade technology and vice versa.

  1. Price
  2. Availability

1. Price

Consumer-grade technology is built to be affordable for the average user. Therefore, it is less expensive than business-grade technology.

2. Availability

Consumer-grade technology is readily available both in stores and online. If you want a new laptop, you can visit your local computer shop, test out the samples, and pick one off the shelf that same trip.

Unlike business-grade, consumer-grade technology is easily accessible. It's easy to order or purchase new hardware or software.

 

Disadvantages of consumer-grade technology

Again, the strengths of business-grade technology are the weaknesses of consumer-grade technology.

  1. Not built for extended use
  2. Fewer upgrade abilities
  3. Fewer security features
  4. Cannot connect to business networks
  5. Incompatibility with business-grade technology

1. Not built for extended use

Consumer-grade technology is not built for long-term or extensive use. In addition, most consumer-grade hardware does not have the speed or capability to keep up with complicated tasks and applications needed in daily office use.

2. Fewer upgrade abilities

Consumer-grade technology is more limited in its compatible upgrades than business-grade technology.

Because most personal hardware and software do not require the same intensity as business-grade devices, fewer upgrade options are available.

3. Fewer security features

While its security features are adequate for home use, consumer-grade technology lacks business-grade technology's security features and abilities.

In addition, due to its lesser security, consumer-grade technology may not meet industry compliance standards.

4. Cannot connect to business networks

Consumer-grade hardware and software cannot connect to business networks.

For example, Windows Home operating system can connect to your home internet connection, but it will not connect to your office network and allow file sharing. Like all consumer-grade technology, it lacks that ability.

5. Incompatibility with business-grade technology

Consumer-grade technology is less likely to be compatible with business-grade software, hardware, and applications.

Consumer-grade technology is made with home users in mind, not office users. Because of this, it is not constructed to accommodate technology built specifically for business functionality.

 

How to purchase consumer-grade technology

Consumer-grade technology is available at any store or website that carries technology. You can purchase this independently or through your IT provider or internal IT team.

 

Next steps towards choosing technology for your business

While they may look similar at first glance, business-grade and consumer-grade technologies are very different. One's strength is the other's weakness.

Consumer-grade technology's most significant advantages are its affordability and availability. It is less expensive than comparable business-grade technology and easier to find.

However, business-grade technology has several advantages, including:

  1. Built for long-term use
  2. Additional updates and upgrades
  3. Extra security features
  4. Ability to connect to business networks
  5. Compatibility with business-grade software and devices

To find out which technology is right for you, ask yourself, "What do I need this technology to do, and for how long?"

If you want to connect your business network or other business-grade hardware and software, you should consider purchasing business-grade technology for your company.

Business-grade technology is a potential solution if you want additional security features or a longer lifespan.

If you need easy-to-obtain, inexpensive technology, consumer-grade technology will likely fit your needs.

It may also be a successful solution if you do not need additional security or network connectivity. This is particularly true of general accessories like keyboards and monitors.

Talk to your IT provider or internal IT team about what technology best suits your business needs and goals. A trusted partnership can match you to the best hardware and software on your budget.

It may be time to reevaluate your partnership if you do not trust your IT provider to help with budget and purchasing.

WEBIT Services has helped hundreds of clients with thousands of technology purchases over the years.

If you are looking for a new IT provider, schedule a free 30-minute consultation to see how WEBIT Services can help.

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