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Technology Q &A Column - From our April 2001 Newsletter


Q: I own a small business and think a computer would help. Now what?

A: There's 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 that you
must make. Here are some questions to ask yourself.

1. What do you want to automate? This is absolutely critical. Services are good at
'HOW' but you must decide 'WHAT'.

Pick something 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 some things
computers can do: bookkeeping, inventory, email, advertising collateral
preparation, order processing, customer information storage, and communications
(email, fax).

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 to your
specifications. An example of special-purpose software is bookkeeping. Many
special-purpose software packages contain several related functions. A
bookkeeping package may also handle payroll, invoices, check-writing, and more.

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 to
tampering or accidents?

6. How much are you willing to invest initially?


Most purchases include a surge suppressor, virus protection software, and some
way to make backups of critical files.

Three rules: Learn to type! Make a backup! Make another backup!

If all else fails. Turn everything off. Wait a couple minutes. Turn it all back on.
Start over.

Simple computer 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 what
prevented me from getting a repetitive stress injury.)

Mechanical parts fail more often than digital parts. You are more likely to have
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.

Our thanks to Karen Boutilier, an Information Technology Management Consultant
with KLB, Inc and a member of the Chamber’s Technology Committee. You may
contact Karen at 510-865-3387.



January 2001 | February 2001 | March 2001 | April 2001 | May 2001 | June 2001 | July 2001
| August 2001 | September 2001 | October 2001 | November 2001 | December 2001

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