The real cost of devs using mediocre computers

I contracted for many years. All the companies were the same in that the computer equipment we used was exactly the same as everyone else in the company. That’s great if you’re only using it to send emails or write a word document. When it comes to Devs, both front-end and back-end there is a huge cost to this poor decision.


Devs use programmes that are resource heavy. Visual Studio, Photoshop and so on. Many corporate websites are sourced controlled and use a content management system. One day while I was sat there waiting for the computer to do its thing I worked out how much of my time was spent like the image above.

It’s worth mentioning that I couldn’t do anything else because it slowed (but more often crashed) the process I was trying to execute.

The time cost.

On an average 8 hour day I would spend 1 hour, 15 minutes waiting. As a contractor I was paid pretty good money, £45 an hour. So roughly £56 a day was spent being completely unproductive. In a year I would work roughly 250 days (after weekends, bank holidays and two weeks holiday).

So 250 working days multiplied by £56 equals £14,000 a year for the company to pay me to do nothing because the computers were not fast enough or good enough to handle the programmes we had to run.

With a decent computer that time spent waiting could have dropped to 20 minutes a day.  On my own personal machine that is all it would take.

To save a few hundred pound on a better computer cost the business roughly £10,00 a year and that was just for me. Some of the teams I worked with were huge so you can quickly see how much waste there is by trying to cut corners on the equipment the staff need.

I hated waiting for things to happen. Many coders know that once you’re in the zone any interruptions and delays break that zone. Waiting several minutes for a programme to load, waiting 15-20 minutes for a deploy to go through and so on are painful. Trying to work on content management systems that seemed to be powered by the bio matter of a dead Smurf never helped.

 It’s easy for procurement to smile and say they’ve saved £200 on each computer but when you factor in the time-loss it is an incredibly bad decision that happens way too often.

I would sometimes get PSD files from out-sourced graphic designers that I couldn’t open because there wasn’t enough power or memory in the computer to open them. When time was a issue and waiting for the graphic team wasn’t an option, I have been known to drive home, cut the sizes down (or separate blocks into separate files) and then drive back to work to use them. Some firms did allow me to bring my own laptop in which meant I could work quickly (it could run everything) and leave the work computer just for the basic tasks.

Never ever, ever cut corners on Dev computers, it will cost you a lot more than you think you’ve saved!

I’ve only had one work-from-home contract job and the down-time was so much less, even on a remote connection. Companies don’t like this type of job but a lot more can be done with a geek on his personal high-spec computer than is possible sitting at a desk with a basic machine, where sitting there waiting for something to happen takes up so much of a working day.

Simon Day

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