“All for one, one for all,” as the Three Musketeers famously like say. Such is the state of our “dynamic trio.” Together your workstation’s SSD, processor, and RAM form the vital triumvirate that ultimately serves as the basis for all computational functions performed.
In goes like this: the second you boot up our computer, the CPU leaps into action by starting to transfer stored data from your hard your hard drive to the temporary staging area that is RAM. By moving this data out of storage and placing it somewhere more readily accessible, this allows the processor to most quickly carry out your computer’s instructions. Pull any one of them out of the system and you’d be left with a very, very expensive doorstop.
Let’s get to know them better.
RAM’s Purpose Is Anything But Random
Random Access Memory, or RAM, is the “working” storage that your computer uses as a holding area for any data it needs to run its current processes. While this might sound unnecessary, it’s actually super important.
Think of it like this… when you’re making a giant pot of soup, what’s faster: getting all the vegetables out at once, and keeping them on the counter next to you as you chop them all up — or — getting each vegetable out of the fridge one by one, when and only when it is its turn at the cutting board? It’s the first one, isn’t it. In this case, the counter serves the same function as random access memory: it’s a temporary staging area for you in your process of making Grandma’s famous minestrone soup. (Recipe upon request.)
Where memory becomes especially important is when your business uses RAM-intensive programs such as those for graphic design, web design, video editing software. In these cases, having enough makes it possible for these applications to function without lagging.
It’s All About the Process(or)
Even less understood than RAM is a computer’s CPU, or processor. When considering an upgrade, it’s important for a company to take into account everything this new computer is going to be used for, including the system requirements of the business programs they use. As is the case for memory, graphics-heavy programs generally demand a faster processor. But what does a processor even do?
At its core (pun totally intended), the processor acts as the brain of your computer. In the soup-making scenario above, the chef would be the processor. She’s the one taking ingredients out of the crisper, and she’s the one executing all processes necessary for making the soup. That’s what the CPU does, too. It reads the instructions that programmers wrote when they developed XYZ application, and then executes them. The faster a CPU is, the more quickly it is able to perform this function, as well as access data held in storage and move it to RAM. It might sound like a cop-out, but when asked “what functions does a processor’s speed impact,” the answer is pretty stark: everything. You can’t do much without a brain.
The Drive Towards Solid State
Of the three items on this list, the hard drive is the one you’re probably most familiar with. While the spindled disc drives of old might have been what you cut your teeth on, these days they are largely relegated to budget machines. Far more prevalent (and recommended) are what are called Solid State Drives (SSD). Don’t think you’re familiar with this new technology? Not so fast. SSD has been around longer than you think, albeit in a much more portable form: flash memory. That’s right, whether you call them jump, flash, or thumb drives, you’ve likely been the proud owner of the SSD precursor for years (if not decades).
The technology that we’ve long used to transfer our work around has been making its way into laptops and desktops for several years. When we wrote about Solid State Drives a year ago, we cautioned readers that they would have to sacrifice storage capacity unless they were willing to shell out a bit. To say things have changed is an understatement. Prices on SSD have dropped 50% year over year, making even a 2TB drive affordable to even your average home user. Why is this important? Because SSD is quick.
The brilliance of the solid state drives lies right there in its name: there are no moving parts. Hence, solid state. Instead of your data being held on a magnetized, spinning platter (or hard disc), it’s interface is purely electronic. This makes the drive incredibly stable, and by comparison, blazingly fast. To make a poor man’s simile, comparing Hard Discs and Solid State is like pitting your average person against Usain Bolt in a footrace. The read/write speeds make any attempt at a fair competition futile. To add, SSD use less electricity and run cooler, making them ideal for a world moving towards greener solutions.
But what is the role of a SSD in your computer? While the easy answer is to say that it’s where all of our programs and files are housed, it’s a little more involved than that. Hard drives serve their vital function as something called non-volatile memory. Think about how frustrating it would be to have all of your hard work disappear every time you turned your computer off. Even the most happy go-lucky person would eventually throw up their hands in defeat (or their laptop out the window). We’d get nothing done! As a type of memory that allows us to retrieve stored information even after being power cycled (without being wiped out), the non-volatile storage of SSD and HDD solves this problem.
Is Your The Dynamic Trio “Forever”?
Now that we’ve established exactly what each item in our dynamic trio does, what if you want to upgrade part of the system? There are situations when you might want to choose a more powerful processor, higher RAM, or an SSD over an HDD.
In the case of SSD, one of the biggest benefits is to in field agents, or anyone who has to walk around with their own laptop. Hard discs are not terribly forgiving when it comes to shock absorption — solid state technology is. Another group that might find a significant advantage in upgrading to an SSD is those workers whose jobs require them to transfer or work with a large amount of data. Remember, the fact that they’re entirely electronic means information flows through solid state drives much faster.
In the absence of resource intensive apps like Photoshop, more memory will only allow you to run more concurrent applications. Most people think it will allow them to do the same things faster, but that’s not always the case. The only exception is when you’re continually maxing out your RAM. In most cases, 8 GB of RAM should suit you fine. Although there are certain times when a jump to 16 would be advantageous.
Processing speed is where it all gets a bit murky. If you’re only looking to upgrade, instead of buying new, the CPU is the most difficult and complicated of the three to replace — potentially requiring a new motherboard to come along with it, and if not, a scary trip into the BIOS. (Microcode sequence, anyone?)
But believe it or not, having the most powerful computer might not be worth it. This is why it’s so important to speak to someone who understands your needs, and has the ability to translate those needs into a computer that will provide you results. A highly powerful computer won’t necessarily help you get things done faster. Instead, focus on getting the right machine for exactly what you need to do.
Still not sure? Our engineers are here to help you figure out what makes sense.
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