In many ways, your computer data IS your business. You need to protect it and take best advantage of it. Lets talk about your business and I can offer some suggestions to help your PC systems be more effective.
Consider the following in evaluating your PC systems and network. Be sure to also look at the section on Home Systems, since they share many of the same issues.
Network Server One PC system in your office should be designated as the server to hold all of your critical data files. Other PCs access these files over the network. The server then can be hardened and enhanced to protect this data.
RAID Duplicated disks in the server mirror each others contents. If one disk stops working, the PC keeps going on with the other disk. When the failed disk is replaced, it is automatically updated from the other disk.
Network Backups Critical files (such as the "My Documents" folder) from each PC in the office are automatically backed-up to the server at routine intervals. If a user corrupts or mistakenly deletes a file, he or she can restore it from the server.
Off-site Backup Once a week, you should backup the server data to physical media (such as a DVD) and store it at another location. Should your office perish in a fire or other catastrophe, your server and its critical office data can be resurrected.
File Encryption If you have highly sensitive data that others should never see, these files can require a password to be opened. This is a standard feature of Windows XP Professional Edition.
Power Glitches Critical systems, such as the server and network should be connected to the power grid through a battery backup device. Sudden power losses will not corrupt any data files or transfers that are open at the time.
Power Outages During extended power outages, should the battery approach exhaustion before power resumes, the server will automatically shut down, even if unattended. Therefore, there is no chance for data corruption when power finally drops.
Brown-out and surges During times when the power company is supplying voltage levels that are over or under standard levels, the battery backup device will regulate it to normal levels to protect your equipment.
Paperless Office Critical documents should be scanned and filed in an online library to be easily searched for and retrieved. This also permits documents to be e-mailed to your customers and vendors. Also, documents can be reproduced from backups in event of loss.
Document Collection Physical documents or pictures are input via a scanner. Use a screen capture tool to save electronic documents, such as transaction screens that say, "Print this screen for your records".
PDF files The "pdf" file format, popularized by Adobe Systems, Inc., is the defacto standard for electronic documents. You can save your documents as pdf files. Common office programs are setup to print to a pdf file. Instead of paper popping out of a printer, a pdf file appears in a Windows folder.
WEB Site There are network services providers that can quickly and inexpensively get you up and running. This site is supported by Network Solutions, LLC. Registering a domain name, such as "MyCompany.com" is part of their service.
Presentations Sales brochures, site tours, advertisements and other visual information can be easily compiled to Video CDs or DVDs and given to your customers or others. The material can be still pictures, motion video, or both and put to the sound of your narration or to music.
Multiple Users Specific software applications, such a financial management tools and design and estimating tools, can be setup to run on any number of PCs. Each PC accesses the data from the server over the network. Specific applications dont have to be relegated to specific PCs.
Multiple Screens Enhanced video cards support multiple monitors connected to one PC. If you need two screens up simultaneously (such as a spreadsheet and an Internet browser), you dont need two PCs to do it.
Remote Access You can setup your office server to permit logging in from home (or anywhere else) over the Internet.