GETTING STARTED WITH A COMPUTER SYSTEM FACTSHEET

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1 FACTSHEET When setting up a small business there can be many areas of uncertainty, but getting your IT or computer systems right and connected does not need to be one of them. If your company is either home-based or running from a small office it is possible to find the systems you need and install them quickly, whilst minimising the risks associated with information security. Advice for getting started with a new IT system can be found in this section, which includes: Computer hardware Application software Security software Backup software External connectivity the Internet Internal connectivity the network (LAN) Moving up as your business grows Weekly tasks If your company is involved in online trading you might also find our online trading section useful or, if you are concerned about physical security issues, you may wish to check our physical security and remote working section. COMPUTER HARDWARE When purchasing computers one of the most important things to keep in mind is to buy only what you need don't be talked into purchasing larger, more complicated systems if you don't need them and are unlikely to do so in the future. If you need a computer for administrative work (for example, word processing, spreadsheets, financial packages, accessing the Internet and ) you do not necessarily need a state-ofthe-art system. 1

2 However, you DO need: The latest versions of operating systems software Appropriate security software Many people are daunted by the prospect of installing these, however it is often just a question of inserting a CD and answering a series of questions. APPLICATION SOFTWARE If you think that some of the software you might need is expensive (and if it wasn't supplied with your computer(s)) there may be free versions available on the Internet. For example, if you can't afford to buy Microsoft Office there is an alternative called OpenOffice that can be downloaded free of charge (although it is a very large file so you would need a broadband connection to do so). SECURITY SOFTWARE Even if you have a limited budget, anti-virus software is essential for any business that is connected to the Internet and/or exchanges data with other companies (e.g. by ). Many computers are pre-programmed with some form of anti-virus package. However, you should always check the default settings never assume that the standard configuration will meet your requirements. If your computer is not supplied with anti-virus software it is essential that you buy a package and install it. Anti-virus software is relatively inexpensive for a small system and deciding not to buy it is likely to be a false economy in the long (or short) term. Any computer system without virus protection is a vulnerable system, irrespective of size. You should also think about some form of personal firewall software to protect computer systems from attempts to gain unauthorised access (hacking). 2

3 BACKUP SOFTWARE It is advisable to have some means of backing up important data e.g. letters, spreadsheets, s, reports, invoices, images/drawings, etc. You can buy specialist backup software, or use a CD/DVD burner. CD/DVD writer drives need special software which normally comes with the drive. If you are buying a new PC with a CD/DVD writer drive installed, check to see if it comes with suitable software (it probably will) and then you can use this to write important data to discs at appropriate intervals. EXTERNAL CONNECTIVITY THE INTERNET Connecting to the Internet using a modem and telephone line (i.e. a narrowband/ dial-up connection) can be sufficient for a new business that requires and occasional use of the Internet. If your use of the internet is likely to be on a greater scale (for example, if your business involves some form of online trading) or the number of staff grows significantly, you should probably invest in a broadband connection for greater speed and reliability with its 'always-on' technology. Beyond this there are options for leased lines, but these tend only to be worthwhile for larger organisations. There are security risks associated with broadband connections but these can be minimised with some fairly simple measures such as ensuring that you have up-to-date anti-virus software and a personal firewall. INTERNAL CONNECTIVITY THE NETWORK (LAN) As staffing levels grow and people require shared access to common resources, you should certainly think about linking computers and other devices (for example, printers) via a Local Area Network (LAN). A LAN consists of two or more computers that are linked (i.e. networked) using network cables (or sometimes a wireless connection). This means that one person can access data and resources on another person's computer, and vice versa. 3

4 For example: If your company employs three people who all require access to the Internet and a printer, one option would be to install a modem, dial-up software and a printer on each of the three PCs. However, a more efficient (and probably cheaper) option would be to buy one broadband link and one printer and then use a LAN to set up a network. Setting up a basic LAN can seem a complex task but actually you should not need to complete any technical configuration. For a small LAN, all you should need is: a network card in each computer that is to be included on the network network cables to link the computers physically (or wireless connection devices if appropriate) a 'switch' or 'hub' each computer will have a network cable that runs from its network card and plugs into the hub If you have broadband connections then you can also buy an integrated broadband router, firewall and hub from your local supplier. These are normally pre-configured, and will not require you to carry out any additional work. Having completed the physical setup there is some network setup to complete using Windows. If you have a reasonable grasp of networks and Windows operating systems it is possible to complete this yourself this type of configuration is becoming much easier via newer operating systems such as Windows XP. Alternatively, your hardware supplier may know someone who can install the network for you, or they may even do it themselves. 4

5 MOVING UP AS YOUR BUSINESS GROWS As your company grows you may need to improve or expand your IT setup to meet new requirements. For example, you might consider: File servers. A file server is a computer on the network that is used to store all files and data. When people need this data, they access it from the server. Working in this way makes sense for many reasons. For example, it ensures that people access the same version of files, it makes backups straightforward and files easier to find (because they are stored on one computer, not on the PC of whoever created them). If you use a file server, you might also consider installing software to control access to files. For example, you may need to prevent anyone other than the accounts department from accessing payroll information, and anyone other than Human Resources from accessing personnel records. You should be aware that if a file server develops a fault it is possible that people will not be able to access important data. For this reason it is imperative that backups are carried out on a daily basis and that company plans and policies detail contingency measures for such an eventuality. Print servers. With a basic network, printers might be attached to different PCs which can be accessed by everyone on the network. However, if someone shuts down his/her PC and it has a printer attached to it, that printer will not be available to the rest of the network until the PC in question is switched on again. A print server is a computer on the network that is used to handle all printing. Printers are attached to this computer so that they can be accessed by all networked PCs The print server (which could be the same machine as the file server) is not used as a workstation and is always left running. This means that all printers are available to everyone at all times. You should be aware that if a dedicated print server develops a fault, the only way that people could print files would be to link a printer to another machine and make this a shared resource on the network. 5

6 Domain controllers. Larger environments of Windows operating systems are often managed using a 'domain'. This is effectively a grouping of computers where a central computer manages all logon and password controls for the network. Using a domain can make access to valuable corporate information a simpler task. Note: If a domain controller develops a fault, users may not be able to login to the network (although they may still be able to access their own computers). As a contingency measure it is advisable to have two domain controllers. Certainly, any company plans and policies should detail contingency measures for such an eventuality. servers. Rather than connecting individual computers to an ISP (see How To Choose an ISP ) you could install an server using software such as Microsoft Exchange. All company can be directed to the designated server and network users would connect to this to access their e- mail. One advantage of using an server is that it can run anti-virus software to check all incoming and outgoing messages. Combined with anti-virus software on desktop computers, this provides a much greater level of security. If the idea of different servers for designated tasks sounds expensive, remember that you can combine roles on single devices if your business is still relatively small. For example, you might only have two servers, each acting as a contingent domain controller. One would be used as a file/print server and the other for . This setup could service four to five users up to a maximum of forty or fifty. WEEKLY TASKS A number of good housekeeping tasks should be completed for any IT setup within a company, irrespective of how basic or sophisticated that setup is. The checklist below details tasks that every business should complete, at least on a weekly basis, for desktop computers and servers: Update anti-virus software. New viruses are emerging all the time so it is important to ensure that your software is regularly updated. Most anti-virus software vendors provide updates or patches, which must be loaded to cater for the latest viruses. If required, seek advice from your anti-virus software vendor, or check their web site for information. 6

7 Having ensured that your anti-virus software is up to date, run a full virus scan on all systems. In many cases, this task can be scheduled to run automatically. Backup your data. One of the best methods is to transfer files to CD or DVD. These are now relatively inexpensive and often installed as standard on new computers. Ensure that you take copies of all critical documents, s, databases, etc. Ensure that operating systems, application software and firewalls are up to date. This is often just a case of running an 'update' utility which will list any necessary updates and allow you to download them. If you are using Windows, you can usually do this by connecting to the Internet and then selecting the Windows Update option from your programmes menu. For further information, please visit our security patches section. Clear out temporary internet files. With Internet Explorer, this can be done as follows: 1. Right-click on the Internet Explorer icon on your desktop 2. Select Properties from the shortcut menu 3. Click on the Delete Files button If you have a little IT experience it is worth getting to know and interpret various log files that are produced from your IT systems. These can often show signs of errors and potential security issues. For example, most devices (such as firewalls) create log files. Keep an eye out for information about any new computer viruses, including what signs of infection to look for and possible effects. Most anti-virus software vendors will have this information on their websites. For more information on Achieving best practice in your business: Visit our website at Call us on to order from our range of free best practice publications or visit Contact your local Business Link adviser by visiting the website at or calling Published by the Department of Trade and Industry. Crown Copyright. 04/04 7

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