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Blogs by Trenton Systems

Commercial Computers vs. Industrial Computers

We are all familiar with the typical big name online computer companies that you’ve used at home or at your desk. Maybe you are considering what computer hardware you need for an upcoming requirement at work and you are wondering if there is possibly something more industrial, better quality, more rugged, etc. You might be worried about designing in a computer made mostly of plastic into your application.

Here are 5 advantages of industrial computers over commercial computers:

  • Longevity: The typical commercial computer is only available in the market for 2 or 3 years. That assumes you started taking production the moment that the computer supplier first released their product. Probably your application took months, or sometimes years, to qualify, certify, and move to production. Typically industrial computers stay around much longer. In some cases up to 15 years. It is important to know that there are many “hidden” costs associated with a short product lifecycle.
  • Revision control: Commercial computer companies make very few promises that the hardware will remain consistent through the whole product lifecycle. Any change that would affect the form, fit, or function of the hardware could potentially have catastrophic impacts on your application. Don’t simply take someone’s word that the changes they make to your hardware won’t impact you. Make sure there are systems in place to lock down and control the component selection and manufacturing processes.
  • Built to your exact needs: Commercial off the shelf computers have their place. They are typically adequate for temperature controlled, desktop applications…but for industrial applications where down time is unacceptable, you need something just a little different, you may have your own PCIe cards or OS that needs to be installed, a plastic box won’t be enough, etc…the industrial computer has many more options and will prove to be much more flexible.
  • Support: We’ve all had the negative experience of trying to get some company on the phone. Unless you are a huge customer the typical commercial computer company will not likely pay much attention to you. Note that some computer companies would consider themselves more industrial, but their support is not necessarily much better than the regular commercial hardware companies. Still, there are exceptions to this rule and I hope you can find an industrial computer company that wants to partner with you and support your needs.
  • Failure rates: Most people don’t realize that the typical commercial computer hardware has about an 18% failure rate! That’s unacceptable for industrial applications…especially military and medical uses. You should expect no more than 3% failure rates and in the best cases you can actually see less than 1%.

There are many more reasons to consider industrial hardware over commercial computers: more stringent testing (functional testing tailored to your specific requirements), extended temperature options (i.e. options at 60C under 100% CPU stress), logistical flexibility (i.e. stocking parts, more flexible last time buys), willing to custom design hardware for relatively low production volumes, direct contact with engineers rather than just sales, etc. My hope is that you will consider the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) of an industrial computer!

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