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  • Business Computing: Desktops vs. Workstations
Technology Articles > Computers > Desktops > Business Computing: Desktops vs. Workstations

If you’re looking to outfit an entire office or department with IT equipment, you’ll find yourself shopping in the business computers section. Here, you’ll encounter a new term: workstations. Workstation computers have a few subtle differences from desktop computers, but when you’re buying 50, 100, 200 or more computers at a time, these differences really add up. Check out this quick guide to the distinguishing factors between desktops and workstations to understand what you need.

What is a Business Desktop Computer?

Business desktop computers are optimized for price, image and security. For this reason, desktops are best suited to supplying an entire office or department with machines they need for general purposes, such as emailing, document preparation and accounting. Desktop computers are an all-in-one solution with budget and uniformity in mind. Desktops will usually be optimized with similar operating environments across your entire office and department and similar security protocols to help keep your data consistent and secure.

What is a Workstation Computer?

Technically, a workstation computer is a desktop. Workstation is a distinction that’s been created within the business computing industry to denote a computer that is optimized for performance, rather than price. As such, the base setup for a workstation will almost always be at least $300 to $500 more expensive per unit than a comparable desktop. Workstations often come with better CPUs, more RAM and bigger power supplies. True, you can upgrade a desktop to a comparable CPU, but workstations are better suited for running high powered software and hardware. That’s because they are designed for longer life cycles and expandability. Most workstations will have additional bays, PCI slots, I/O interfaces and bays for hard drives and optical drives that make upgrades more feasible.

Workstations are typically not designed for general, all-in-one use. Instead, they are usually tailored to a particular trade or function. For example, workstations are often required to run certain certified applications. These are applications that are used within industries, such as professional graphics development software, oil and gas analysis software, engineering software and other mission critical apps that you can’t exactly buy off the shelf at Best Buy. Workstations are designed to have the hardware and processing power needed to run these certified applications—so it’s a good idea to know what kind of software you’ll be running before investing in a workstation.

When Do I Need to Buy Workstation Computers?

Chances are, if you aren’t sure if you need workstations or desktops, then you likely need desktops. Workstations are specialized and optimized for performance—they are desktop computers in every sense, but they are more carefully tailored to specific operations and applications. Workstations are the specialized tools of the trade, while desktops are geared towards general computing.

Bottom-line: If you’re just looking to get your office workers online so they can email a few spreadsheets, desktops fit the bill. If you’re bringing in the dream team of architects or offshore drilling engineers, workstations are a must. Either way, a quick call to the business sales department of a major computer distributor may serve you well. Check out some of the bigger vendors, such as Dell, HP and Apple for the best information.