There are four ways of buying a computer:
- Purchasing from a computer dealer or IT specialist a package that includes the equipment, installation and after-sales support. Sometimes more costly than direct from a manufacturer, but a good option if technical expertise in your organisation is limited or your IT is complicated. Advice with choosing the right system, help installing a new network, database or email system and expert ongoing maintenance will assist in avoiding problems.
- Direct from the manufacturer or mail-order company by phone or via the Internet. This is quick and cheap, but only useful if you are absolutely certain of what you want. After-sales support is usually by phone only and limited.
- Going to a retail shop will generally cost more than other options, and after-sales service is unlikely to meet the needs of a community organisation, as the main market for retail outlets is usually home users rather than businesses.
- Leasing equipment has various advantages, including being able to trade in for a different model if your needs change, and payment terms that fit within your operating rather than capital budget. However, it may be a more costly option in some instances.
If you are on a restricted IT budget and do not need a really up-to-date model, you may want to consider a second-hand computer. The Microsoft Authorised Refurbisher program provides free and low-cost second-hand computers (PCs) with a Windows operating system to community organisations.
Prices in the computer market change rapidly, and major direct suppliers of well-known brands will offer competitive rates. You need to check the details of equipment you are considering (specifications) in order to be able to compare different brands. Check the technology being used in the equipment, as cheaper models may use older or cheaper technology and will be less useful and last less time than a more-expensive model.
If your IT budget is restricted, your organisation may want to investigate options for donations and free downloads before buying new software through your hardware supplier, online suppliers or retailers.
ConnectingUp donation program
For a small administrative fee, not-for-profit community organisations with tax-free exemption may apply, for example, for a donation of Microsoft Office programs (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint as well as Publisher and Access).
To register for these donated software products, visit the ConnectingUp website.
Copies of software applications are available from the Internet at no charge. Not all software available in this way is reliable or trustworthy. Try the following websites for free products that can be expected to be reliable:
Adobe Reader is required for opening Portable Document Files (PDF). Download it free on the Adobe website.
Open Source software
Open Source is free software that people with a good understanding of computer systems can modify freely, using publicly available source codes. Linux is the best-known example.
Others include FreeBSD, Perl, PHP, MySQL, Apache, SendMail, PostgreSQL, ZOPE. In total there are around 70,000 more packages.