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What Do You Use?

July 5, 2012

© 2012 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine 

Folks often ask me what I use for a computer, cell phone, tablet, headset, etc.  Here are my answers– and why– so my perspective might help you make whatever hardware decisions you need to make.

Computers fall into three categories for me: servers, desktops, and notebooks.  Here’s what I use in each category:

  • Servers.  I’m a fan of Dell PowerEdge servers.  Their performance is high, their Pro support is excellent, and their price point is modest.  We recommend tower and rack servers (we only use rack servers in our office and datacenter because they fit in our server room best), and most are configured to be virtual server hosts using VMware.
    • Because we often run five or more virtual servers on one physical server (or host) we like them to have at least 12gb of RAM.
    • We also like to have redundancy in hard drives and power supplies since they are the components that fail most often.  We configure the hard drives in RAID5, which means three or more hard drives act as one, and any one can be lost without crashing the computer or losing data.
  • Desktops.  In this category we use and spec two kinds of systems, generally.
    • For Windows systems we like the Dell Optiplex 790 running Windows 7 64-bit.  We usually put 4gb of RAM in, which is a terrific spec for most roles.  Three year next-day on-site warranties take us and our clients out of the hardware support business and make these systems a great value– built for the corporate network environment.
    • For Macs we like the iMac.  Depending on the role we may spec it with as little as 4gb RAM, or as much as 16gb for video editing stations.  And we like the 27″ display.
  • Notebooks.  In this category we also use and spec two kinds of systems.
    • For Windows systems we like the Dell Latitude E6420.  A 14″ display and weighing in just over 4 pounds, this is a good value and dependable system.  We also load these up with 4gb of RAM and Windows 7 64-bit.  For those who like larger displays when working at their desk, we recommend a docking station (less than $100) to avoid the complication of having a second desktop computer.
    • For Macs, we like MacBook Pro and MacBook Air systems.  Solid state drives are worth having, and because these are more expensive systems we almost always spec them with 8gb of RAM, if possible, so they’ll last longer.

The computer I use is a MacBook Air 11” with the maximum available RAM (4gb) and a 250gb solid state hard drive.  When at my desk I connect it to a 27″ Thunderbolt display, which acts like a docking station.  Connected to the display is a wired keyboard with numeric keypad and a 2tb external hard drive for use with Time Machine (local backup).

I recommend IT Directors and Network Administrators use a Mac.  A growing number of church and ministry staff are using Macs, and they need support and guidance.  The only way an IT Director or Network Administrator is going to have a voice that is received credibly by many Mac users is if they use a Mac.  That either means two computers (a Windows computer and a Mac), or getting a properly spec’d Mac that can run both OSes (which I recommend doing with VMware’s Fusion).  Unfortunately the Mac OS will not run well enough on a Windows computer to gain the expertise needed.

I use an iPad, and am very impressed with it.  I’m also very impressed with the Kindle Fire, which is an Android tablet.  Both have great capabilities, but neither replaces a computer for me because I need to do more than little apps let me do.  I need full applications, like Microsoft Word and Excel, and using those in a Remote Desktop/ Terminal Services connection is not always possible.

I use an Android smartphone because I need to be active in every OS (Windows, Mac, IOS, and Android).  The phone I have is the Motorola RazrMaxx, which has wonderful battery capacity!  I also use it as a mobile hotspot, and have yet to run out of battery (I recharge it every night).

I use different ‘headsets’ in different situations:

  • We have a VoIP phone system in our office, and I use a software phone instead of a more typical handset.  That means I use a headset to make and receive phone calls at my desk.  The headset I use– and love– is a Sennheiser Office Runner.  It is wireless, but not Bluetooth.  It is RF (radio frequency) and has a crystal clear range of about 400 feet!
  • When I’m away and using a headset for my softphone or for my smartphone, I use a Jawbone Era.  The exception is when I’m driving my vehicle (a Ford F150), because it’s equipped with Microsoft Sync.

So, those are the hardware solutions I use, in what circumstance I use them, and why.  I hope that helps you as you evaluate your next purchases.

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