A look at the difference and how to tell when a customer needs to take their equipment to the next level
On the surface, many smart home and business products look the same—identical mechanical design, similar capacity and matching form factor. However, there are usually significant differences between commercial- and consumer-grade products. And these distinctions can be important because they affect reliability, endurance and total cost of ownership for your customers over time.
How do you know which grade is best? A lot depends on how the solutions will be used.
Here are a few product categories that may sway your thinking—and situations in which paying a bit more for commercial-grade (or “business/industrial”) quality may (or may not) make sense.
Digital displays: Almost any screen can be turned into a digital sign—but there’s a big difference between a consumer TV (intended for home use) and a commercial digital signage display (geared for business use). Most commercial displays are built for 24/7 operation with higher quality and more durable parts. They’re also designed for high-bright conditions (e.g., window and outdoor environments) and can be scheduled to turn on and off automatically, reducing the need for human intervention. Don’t forget about extra features like screen burn protection, sleep mode, rugged enclosures, choice of orientation (portrait and landscape) and the unique ability to create a video wall—a solution that’s only possible with commercial-grade video wall displays with ultra-thin bezels.
PCs: Since the birth of the personal computer, there have always been “consumer PCs” and “business PCs”—machines built differently and aimed at two separate markets. While many computer manufacturers have merged their two product lines together, others (like Dell, HP and Lenovo) still make a clear distinction between the two and have unique business PCs geared for enterprise, government or healthcare. Here are a couple examples of how business PCs can be different:
- Technology: Business machines often come with more ports, including VGA port, ExpressCard slot and an array of other oddly shaped ports—simply, they’re still used in many business environments.
- Lifespan: Due to budget constraints, businesses tend to keep PCs past their expiration date. Therefore, business laptops typically offer longer support from manufacturers, certainly a longer shelf life for replacement parts, and offer easier maintenance from onsite technicians. Want a new LCD for that consumer machine from six years ago? Good luck. Want a new LCD for that business PC from six years ago? You’ll probably still find it in stock.
Flash Storage: In this category, “industrial” grade flash devices typically outperform consumer-grade devices significantly when it comes to write endurance. They use higher grade NAND technology—called single-level cell (SLC) NAND—which can offer 20-30 times better endurance and reliability. They also have significantly better data retention life and functionality in extreme temperatures. Not surprisingly, industrial-grade flash devices also have a considerably higher cost. However, in the long run, many customers agree it’s a small price to pay for higher reliability over the lifetime of the application in the field, and ultimately, a lower total cost of ownership.
Hard Drives: While consumer-grade drives are a quieter, lower-cost option, they’re usually better suited for desktops and laptops (with expected use of 8–10 hours per day). They can only handle 25–30 TB of workload per year and are known to have higher random failure rates (which go up dramatically once they’re heavily used). Enterprise drives, on the other hand, are designed to run 24/7 and usually withstand higher temperatures and other stresses. That’s why most experts suggest that consumer-grade drives only be used in specific circumstances, like if data workload is small, and RAID isn’t used. When you need reliability and high performance at a larger capacity, enterprise-class drives are the best option.
Firewall routers: One significant distinction with these products is that consumer routers prioritize speed, media streaming and security (in that order), while business routers prioritize security, remote access and scalability. There are several other specific features that separate these two product sets, which you can read about here. However, in this era of hackers and ransomware, security should always be the top priority.
Video surveillance cameras: Anyone can go to a retail store and pick up a few cameras to install at their location, but for a business-quality connected security solution, the best choice is commercial-grade cameras that can stand up to heavier use and inclement weather. Commercial-grade cameras can accommodate dramatic lighting changes, view expansive spaces needing full coverage, and provide analytics, exception reporting, networking, scalability and more. These are worlds apart from consumer-grade systems that focus on an unobtrusive design, affordability, accessibility and other features that appeal to residential users.
Whether your customers need commercial or consumer-grade solutions, Ingram Micro has the broad selection you need. For more information, contact Ingram Micro’s Business and Consumer Solutions team today.