E-Learning Development – The Two-Computer Solution

The picture on Facebook made my heart sink.


My colleague Diane was headed to Orlando to speak at Learning Solutions in just a few days, which meant the laptop had to be replaced soon. In the mean time she was stuck – it’s hard to get much done in the e-learning business without a computer! And if you know Diane at all, you know she’s a Type-A, Energizer bunny, 24/7 kind of operator. No computer = climbing walls and pulling hair from head.

Her predicament got me thinking about how precious our technology is to us as e-learning developers. We take its availability for granted, and given that time really is money for us, any computer down-time can be fatal. I think there are two solutions to this particular problem. In my next post, I’ll talk about “life in the cloud” as a solution for the e-learning developer. This week, I’d like to address what I call the “two-computer solution.”

Since computers are so important to our business, why should we have just one? I like to have both a desktop and a laptop computer at all times. Here are the reasons why:

1. More bang for the total bucks 

Most e-learning developers buy high-end laptops that can cost from $900 – $1500 or more. But the problem with laptops is that you get less hardware for the same money than with desktops, and they are generally more prone to failure and more difficult to repair. I like to buy a custom “whitebox” (meaning no name brand and built by an individual or small company) desktop computer through eBay or a local vendor. I can get a very powerful machine for $500 – $700 with specs equivalent to many high-end laptops that cost much more.

“But Rod, I’m a road warrior – I need my laptop.”  I hear you. Go ahead and buy your laptop, but ignore the high-priced luxury models and get yourself a solid $500 – $700 machine that has the essential hardware you need without all the bells and whistles.

Now for perhaps the same money (or a little more) that you paid for that high-end laptop, you have two machines that get the job done.

2. Fault tolerance

The biggest benefit of having two computers for e-learning work is the built in fault tolerance. Laptop screen goes haywire? Dropped it in the Trevi Fountain while in Rome? Desktop motherboard fries like an egg? Your spouse spills a pitcher of margaritas on it? No problem – just cruise on over to the other machine and you’re good to go.

“But Rod, what about all the files I had stored on the dead computer – I had some important work there!” Well, you’re probably going to lose some work, but come back for my next post on “life in the cloud” and we’ll take care of that problem.

The one catch here is software licensing. While most programs can be installed on two machines for a single user (thanks Articulate and Captivate!), not all can. That could be a roadblock to the two-computer solution depending on what software you use and how much it costs. Be sure to read the software’s license agreement (you know, that window that pops up where you automatically click “I agree” without reading it) to find out if you are able to install the software on two computers.

3. The latest and the greatestsooner! 

That awesome computer you bought three years ago isn’t so awesome anymore. It’s slowing down, a little buggy, and well, not that cool! With the two-computer solution, you stagger your purchase cycle so you’re buying one of your two computers every 18 months to 2 years. That way, one of your computers is always relatively new with upgraded hardware, a newer operating system, or whatever new shiny feature you just have to have.

Let’s face it, in this day and age, computers are commodities. We can argue about brand names and unique features, but all we really need is any machine with the horsepower to get the job done. And if our time and technology are so important to us, why would we settle for just one?


Rod Jackson

4 Responses to “E-Learning Development – The Two-Computer Solution

  • Michael Shawn Stiles
    7 years ago

    I recently experienced the sudden “loss” of my laptop. Which meant not only the loss of my computer, but also all work files and more importantly applications. It is critical to keep good backups. Whether you use portable drives which can be kept in different locations than your computer or cloud/network storage, make backups frequently. For your applications keep a list of your software and serial numbers with your backups. Restoration is more than getting a new system. Restoration also includes the evaluation of data loss, time to recovery and getting your work schedule back on track.

    • Great advice Michael – thanks so much! In my experience the “loss” of a computer without proper backups and documentation is something that usually happens only once to someone. Once they’ve experienced that pain they never want to go through it again! Rod

  • Paradiso Seo
    7 years ago

    we often want to prevent us headaches in the storage of our eLearning platform and maybe we do not see quick solutions, with storage as Moodle Hosting gives us the complete confidence and reassurance that they are in good hands, knows our Moodle services

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  • There are only two kind of people – those who already make backups, and those who will do it in the future. Gotta backup now 🙂

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