The musings of an IT Consultant

Jun 30 2009   2:00PM GMT

Buying a laptop for consulting

Raj Perumal Raj Perumal Profile: Raj Perumal

So you finally decide it’s time to turn in your old clunker of a computer and buy a shiny new laptop for your IT consulting business. What do you get? Brands aside, what specs do you want on a laptop in the wide world of consulting? How much horsepower do you really need?

Well lucky for you I have gone through tons of laptops in my time consulting and I have come up with a veritable list of must haves for the IT consulting geek! You see in the world of IT consulting, you are constantly on the move and a laptop is your best friend. Gone are the days where you sit in an office and get to work from an all powerful workstation. Sure, I have a nice workstation at home, but I find that I use my laptop the most when going from client site to client site.

Here is my list of must haves in your laptop as a consultant:

  • Lots of RAM! - Now with virtualization at the forefront, I would get a minimum of 4 gigs of RAM if not more (make sure your laptop can support more) so you can have lots of virtual machines open on your laptop at the same time
  • Multi-core CPU – With the meteoric rise of virtualization, it’s a good idea to have multi-cores so you can turn your laptop into a wonderful test environment without riding your laptop into the ground
  • Windows 64 bit (XP/Vista/2008/Windows 7) – A 64 bit version of Windows is essential to use all that RAM. If you limit yourself to a 32 bit version then you aren’t going to be able to use all that RAM to run virtual machines.
  • VMware Workstation! - This is my preferred software of choice for creating virtual test environments on my laptop. In my opinion VMware Workstation rules the roost!
  • The largest fastest hard drive you can find! – If you have to decide between large and fast, I would lean towards large first. You’re going to need all that space to store your virtual machines. You could instead get the fastest hard drive you can find and then get a small external USB hard drive for extra space too.
  • A USB to serial cable! – How are you going to configure all those switches/routers as a consultant without a serial port? Get a good USB to serial cable adapter and use that to connect your laptop to these devices.
  • A large USB key! – I carry around a 16GB USB key to transfer large patches and data between machines when needed. Also make sure you encrypt any sensitive data you place on your USB key, there are a lot of free solutions out there. This will save your behind if you lose your USB key
  • A portable mini USB powered switch – This will come in extremely handy when you need to connect multiple devices and your laptop to a network and you won’t have to lug around a clunky power adapter in your laptop bag to power the switch.
  • A good video card! – Don’t cheap out on your video card, you’ll regret it instantly. In these days of multimedia overload, you can’t go without a good card, make sure you buy a laptop with a good video card with lots of power.
  • A CD/DVD burner drive – This almost goes without saying. You’re going to need this to burn countless installation and patch CD/DVDs. It’s part of being a consultant!

-Cheers, RP

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