Workstations are designed with technical and scientific applications in mind. When purchasing a rig for your business, means investing a substantial amount of money. You need to make sure you have all the facts at hand to ensure you get the right rig to meet your business needs.
Workstations are no longer all about speed. Technology is evolving at a fast rate and you need to make sure your business can keep up.
To get the right rig that will work best for your business, it needs to include the right components. You also want to make sure it’s future-proof and can handle new technology, so it will last for years to come.
This doesn’t mean buying a rig that includes every top component there is to buy. It means buying one that suits your business needs without overkill.
To achieve this, there are a few specific areas that need special consideration when choosing your rig.
The CPU is like the brain and heart of your computer. This unit is responsible for the majority of processing that goes on inside your computer. Like a heart pumps blood around the body, a processor works the same by keeping the data flowing.
It also passes and controls instructions as a brain does in the body. To do all this means relying on a chipset. Each chipset is a set of microchips (like cells in the body), and these are located on the motherboard.
Each CPU has two main components:
The cores are what receive instructions and then perform actions or calculations as per the instruction. Each instruction sent to the core is a thread. Some processors are capable of multithreading and others only single.
If your business requires multiple tasks, completing them is more ideal for your CPU to be capable of multithreading. This is where you need the support of a higher number of cores.
If your business requires operations that need to be carried out in sequence, a higher number of cores will not be utilized to their full potential. So you will be paying a higher price for unnecessary cores.
For example, working with 3D designs will probably use more cores, particularly at the rendering stage. Yet, most businesses’ day-to-day work will only involve the use of one core.
Some cores are also capable of hyper-threading. This is where single processors act like two processors. These are ideal for use with heavy multitasking.
Hyper-threading is great for operations where multiple tasks can be scheduled for completion. This leaves no idle time on your processor, giving your business efficiency. Another good thing about it is that it will push lighter tasks to a single processor, optimizing the completion of more important tasks.
If you opt for four or six cores, you should be fine with handling most tasks and can always upgrade at a later date if needed.
All processors include a measurement of the speed at which they work. This is called the clock speed and is measured in GHz. This is a measurement of how many instructions the processor can handle per second.
The higher the GHz, the better the performance. For example, a CPU with a clock speed of 2.2 GHz would give you 2.2 billion cycles per second.
Having a higher clock speed doesn’t always mean it’s faster though. It will also depend on the architecture of the processor. Some processors may take more clock cycles to complete the same tasks. This means that although they have a higher clock speed it doesn’t result in them completing the task quicker.
Graphics-based programs are the ones that are going to need the most CPU power with sound engineering not being far behind. If you opt for a speed of around 3 GHz, that will run up to 4 GHz in turbo, and you should find this sufficient.
The RAM is an important part of your workstation and you need to get the right amount for your system to run effectively. Having too little will result in a slow and sluggish system that will not prove at all efficient.
RAM is computer memory that temporarily stores information your computer is accessing at the time. Pretty much like short-term memory. It learns new things quickly and can load information fast so you can gain quick access to whatever it is you’re doing.
RAM is usually 2 to 32 GB on most machines. The amount you require will depend on your usage, but more is better in terms of RAM. So if the expense is not a factor, aim for 16 GB.
Much more than that is pretty much pointless. Having said that, some graphics platforms do require a 32 GB platform to function properly, so check out the requirements of your graphics.
Sound or CAD applications won’t require as much as that. Unless you’re running virtual machines, you really don’t need more than 16 GB.
If you’re using high-value data, you should consider ECC RAM (Error Code Correcting). It will protect data corruption by detecting memory errors and correcting them.
You do need to note that ECC RAM is more expensive and can reduce clock speed by up to two percent, so only add if it’s absolutely crucial to the data you use.
The storage you include on your machine also affects its performance and is an important component that you need to get right.
There are two kinds of storage: HDD (Hard Disk Drive) and SSD (Solid State Drive). To choose the right type and the correct amount of storage, let’s take a closer look at each one.
Hard Disk Drives have been used for many years. They are rigid disks that are coated with magnetic material and work by spinning at great speed. The disk has a magnetic head mounted to an arm that moves to read and write data.
When looking at the specifications of a machine, you will see a number followed by RPM (rotations per minute). This is the speed at which the disk works. If you have ever heard your machine give out a humming sound, this is what is causing it.
HDDs are pretty robust and will last for years unless something causes them to crash. Compared to SSDs, they are also much cheaper.
Solid State Drives are a much newer concept and are also much more expensive. They are more efficient than HDDs and less likely to crash.
They have no movable parts and store the data electronically, rather than magnetically. Most types of SSDs use flash memory, similar to that used in a memory card or USB flash drives. A great advantage is that they have no movable parts, so they are resistant to physical damage, unlike HDDs.
They are quickly becoming the more popular choice despite their expense, but prices are starting to become considerably lower.
You will also see them featured alongside HDD. So, if you can’t afford a full SSD setup, you could combine a small amount of SSD GB with a large hard drive GB. These are often referred to as hybrid hard drives.
With a hybrid drive, you get the speed of SSD for fast boot-up and quick access to files, plus you get the capacity of a hard drive for archiving your files. This helps to cut the costs a bit, yet still gives you great performance and storage capabilities.
The amount of storage you will need depends on the type of work you will be doing. Always check that the system you buy is upgradable. That way if you find that you need more, it’s easy to add it at a later date.
CAD could take up a lot of storage unless storing on a cloud-based system.
The graphics cards used in workstations are specially designed. The software drivers they use are specifically written to help maximize CAD performance.
By including a high-end GPU, creates less work for the CPU in processing the output of the screen. Some GPUs are also capable of taking some of the workloads from the CPU. This results in an even faster and more efficient machine.
The downside to this is the expense. High-end GPUs are expensive, but in the long run, will be a worthy investment in terms of performance.
You don’t have to go out and buy a ready-made workstation, you could easily build your own. This will ensure you get the one most suited to your business needs, and the cost will be considerably lower.
Building one is not as difficult as you may think and there are hundreds of online tutorials to give you tips and pointers.
The first thing you need to do is decide on the components you want to use. Consider all of the aspects we mentioned above so that you choose the right ones. You want to avoid overkill and hiking up the price unnecessarily.
Obviously, there is more to a workstation than the parts we have already covered. Here are few pointers to consider when building the perfect workstation to meet the needs of your business:
Overclocking: You may choose to overclock your processor, RAM, motherboard, or GPU. This will allow them to perform faster than they are specified to.
Cooling: You can choose a water or air cooler. Both are fans, but a water cooler runs slower and so is much quieter.
Design: Inspire people with a great design, and make it the centerpiece of the room. As the builder, your design possibilities are endless.
Connectivity: Make sure to add all the additional ports you will need.
Peripherals: Add whatever keyboard, mouse, and display you want to make your build look the best.
Audio: If this will be something your business uses, then add a sound card as well as speakers to give better audio output and quality sound.
Power: Get a certified power unit. A gold power unit will be more efficient and save on power consumption.
To avoid overkill when buying your workstation, there are a few things you need to consider.
Don’t rush out and buy the most high-end, premium-priced model you can find. Although the guys selling it will be pleased, you will probably be spending far more than you need to.
Before you go sit down and think about:
Sometimes, cheaper models are just as good and can offer you the exact components you require. No matter what the guy in the store tells you, there is no need to add additional features that are just not necessary.
You don’t want to be paying for something that will not be used. After all, you’re buying it to improve your business, not bankrupt it.
If you have decided to have a go at building your own, you will save heaps of cash plus you will get exactly what you need. You can include all the major components that will fit your business needs.
Shop around for the components to get the best price. Take time to design the casing you want, it doesn’t just have to be a plastic box sitting in the corner. It could be some amazing work of art that is the centerpiece of the entire office.
Now you know what you need to include without overkill, get to work on buying or building the ideal rig to take your business into the future.
Mico is a current graduate student in computer science researching computer architectures for pattern processing. In her free time, she loves walking her dog, Charles, and exploring local coffee shops.
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