The Cost of a Cheap (Slow) Computer

01.10.24 10:33 PM Comment(s)

The Cost of a Cheap (Slow) Computer

Is it worth it to buy a better computer? It's time that business owners start thinking about the costs per hour of their employees and the cost of slow computers in their workplace. Many business owners don't realize the financial impacts they're creating simply by buying cheap tools (computers) for their workers. Most of them wouldn't dream of sending a wood cutter with a dull chainsaw blade, but they equip their entire team with crappy computers they are stuck using every day! 

For the below example, I'm going to assume we're buying workstations for a business for workers who use it for their main job function and they work 50 weeks per year. If that's not the case, you may still be able to learn something but you'll need to adapt the math to your situation. We're also assuming that computer will last 3-5 years, but the older they get the more likely they are to be slow and the slower they will become. Also, the cheaper computers will likely have a smaller lifespan. 

What Does It Cost If It's Slow?

Having a slow computer has a two main cost centers: time and frustration. If you're using a computer that's constantly slow to open tabs or programs then not only do you lost valuable time from your day, but it's also a frustrating experience especially the busier you get. 

Financial Cost

Let's say you decide to buy a cheaper computer and save $500 because you buy an I3 instead of an I5 and 8GB of RAM instead of 16GB and you get an HDD instead of a solid state drive (SSD). All of those upgrades could easily cost you a three minutes of slowness throughout the day. If this computer is for an employee that costs you $25/hour then you are wasting $1.25 per day ((3/60) x $25), that may not seem like a lot, but every year that will cost $312 and over the lifetime of the computer (5 years) you'll pay $1,562 for 3 minutes every day. That's the best case scenario. 

Let's say in a few years the computer is running REALLY slow and takes 30 minutes out of every day because of the lag in opening programs or slow restart times. That will cost you $12.50 per day and $3,125 every year you run a slow computer like that. 

Morale Cost

But there's more than just the financial cost. When you have employees working for you and you don't provide good tools to do their work that is a big hit to morale and will likely lead to higher turnover and less employee satisfaction. The cost of hiring and training a single employee is easily thousands and thousands of dollars. But let's say they don't quite and just spend their days complaining. Even that will have a negative impact on the business and every person that employee interacts with (I hope they're not doing customer service). 

A Nerdy Table

Below is a table calculating the costs per minute of slowness in your employees day. Of course, this assumes that this is time that could have been used on productive work, but it really doesn't take long to have slow computers costing you a lot of money!

Slowness Minutes Per DayHourly RateCost/DayCost/Year (50 Weeks of Work)Cost/3 YearsCost/5 Years
1$25 $0.42 $104.17 $312.50 $520.83
2$25 $0.83 $208.33 $625.00 $1,041.67
3$25 $1.25 $312.50 $937.50 $1,562.50
4$25 $1.67 $416.67 $1,250.00 $2,083.33
5$25 $2.08 $520.83 $1,562.50 $2,604.17
10$25 $4.17 $1,041.67 $3,125.00 $5,208.33
15$25 $6.25 $1,562.50 $4,687.50 $7,812.50
20$25 $8.33 $2,083.33 $6,250.00 $10,416.67
25$25 $10.42 $2,604.17 $7,812.50 $13,020.83
30$25 $12.50 $3,125.00 $9,375.00 $15,625.00   

What Should I Buy?

So what should you buy? At the least, check out our Workstation Specification Standards and buy in the Standard User column, but if you have some heavy hitters who are very expensive per hour, consider bumping it up! If you have users that are doing billable work for you, then add that into your calculation as well. If you're using a program that requires lots of graphics capabilities, consider upgrading to a dedicated graphics card. 

As a rule, stay away from the following:

- Pentium, Core Duo, I3, or Ryzen 3 processors. These are garbage for the most part. I wouldn't even want to check email with these. 

- HDDs. They just aren't worth it... ever.

- Refurbished computers. Yes you can save some money up front, but you're likely to run into issues later. Especially don't buy these if you pay for your IT support because that will get costly really quick. 

- Any computer that is under $500, it's almost always garbage.