With the ever-evolving speed of workstation computers, it can be difficult to determine what kind of processing power your organization’s users will need. In this week’s In Response column, we’ll examine workstation processor speeds and whether your organization should keep up with the newest technology or settle for a slower pace.

It’s all in the hype
When it comes right down to it, even if Intel and AMD don’t care to admit it, for the most part processor speed is all hype. Each company is currently racing the other to prove to vendors and consumers that one reigns supreme in the PC processor business. Does this mean everyone in your organization needs the newest, fastest processor? In most cases, probably not.

Office suite software
Employees who primarily use data entry or office suite software do not usually require a great deal of processing power. These types of workstation applications include:

  • Word-processing programs
    Most companies should put these popular applications on a midlevel 300- to 500-MHz PII.
  • E-mail applications
    As with word processing applications, many of these programs, such as Outlook Express, require only a 300- to 500-MHz processor.
  • Spreadsheet applications
    Spreadsheet programs also don’t usually require a great deal of processing power. Midlevel, 300- to 500-MHz workstations should work perfectly.
  • Presentation software
    Microsoft’s Power Point, Sun’s StarOffice Impress, and Corel’s Presentations can usually be run effectively on 300- to 500-MHz machines. Only if a user works with large graphics files should these applications require more processing power.

The need for speed
While it may seem like most end-users don’t require a lot of processing power, some have a legitimate need for speed. Examples of such employees are:

  • CAD designers
    CAD applications are notorious for hogging system resources. Depending on software requirements and the amount of work, CAD designers can require lots of processor power to work efficiently.
  • Graphic artists
    The applications used by graphic artists often require hefty systems to run well. The rendering of complex and detailed graphics can take either minutes or hours depending on a system’s processing speed.
  • Developers
    Building, testing, and compiling applications uses lots of processing power. This is one case where the more speed you throw at it, the quicker it will usually get done. Anyone who’s tried to compile a large program understands the importance of processor speed for developers.
  • Audio and Video editors
    Without question, individuals who regularly process audio and/or video require a fast processor. Video and audio files are usually quite large, and editing them can be a chore or a breeze depending on processor power.

Of course, the speed required by these users depends solely on the amount of work they have and the speed at which the work must be done. These individuals will often work on a 700-MHz or faster machine, possibly even a computer with dual processors. Operating anything less could hamper productivity.
Should organizations attempt to keep up with the latest and greatest technologies available, or would lower-end, less expensive workstations fulfill that role just as well? Let us know what you think! Feel free to express your opinions by leaving a post below.