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Q &A Column - From
our April 2001 Newsletter
WOULD A COMPUTER
HELP YOUR BUSINESS?
own a small business and think a computer would help. Now what?
lots of help available. Typically, these services know a lot about
computers - both equipment (hardware) and application programs (software).
What they don't know is YOUR BUSINESS. There are certain decisions
must make. Here are some questions to ask yourself.
1. What do
you want to automate? This is absolutely critical. Services are
'HOW' but you must decide 'WHAT'.
simple to start, but make as complete a list as you can. You
should start with something that's easily done the old way just
in case something
goes wrong or there's a delay - invoices, for example. Here are
computers can do: bookkeeping, inventory, email, advertising collateral
preparation, order processing, customer information storage, and
Are you a tailor?
Perhaps you want to track your customers' measurements and
Are you having
problems with bad checks? Perhaps you want to connect to a
check verification service.
Is your business
accepting orders by fax? Perhaps using a computer to receive
them will avoid incidents like losing orders because the fax is
out of paper.
2. Who will
be the primary computer users? You? Your employees? One person at
a time? More than one?
3. Is connecting
to the Internet important? If so, how often will you be "online'?
(Being "online means your computer has a live connection to
at least one other
4. How much
flexibility do you want? There are special-purpose and
general-purpose software packages. An example of general-purpose
software is a
database; it allows you to build functionality tailored specifically
specifications. An example of special-purpose software is bookkeeping.
special-purpose software packages contain several related functions.
bookkeeping package may also handle payroll, invoices, check-writing,
5. Where will
you put the computer and associated equipment (called
peripherals)? Is there enough space, grounded power outlets,
telephone/cable/satellite connections? How vulnerable is the location
tampering or accidents?
6. How much
are you willing to invest initially?
include a surge suppressor, virus protection software, and some
way to make backups of critical files.
Learn to type! Make a backup! Make another backup!
If all else
fails. Turn everything off. Wait a couple minutes. Turn it all back
games like solitaire can help you learn to use a mouse. If
possible, learn to use the mouse with either hand. (I believe that's
prevented me from getting a repetitive stress injury.)
parts fail more often than digital parts. You are more likely to
problems with a printer than a computer.
You may want
a separate phone line for the computer.
It takes a
lot of disk space to store photographs, music and fancy graphics.
to Karen Boutilier, an Information Technology Management Consultant
with KLB, Inc and a member of the Chambers Technology Committee.
contact Karen at 510-865-3387.