Planning for a small business system
A business system consists of computers (and now tablets and smart phones) used by the employees and the network infrastructure including data sharing and backup solutions. Consider all of the following in planning for a small business system.
- Employee computers, tablets, smart phones
These usually come preconfigured from the manufacturers. They attach and become part of your office system through wired or wireless network attachments. Desktop computers should have an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) to prevent loss of work-in-progress in case of power glitches. They are loaded with specific application software for running specific needs of the business. For example, accounting software, spreadsheet software, word processing software, presentation software, etc. Many use their portable computers and tablets as a platform to host meetings, perform slide shows in meetings.
- Network the computers
The computers in the office can be connected together using wired Ethernet or wireless network or a combination. The central point for the wired network is an Ethernet switch. Ethernet switches are sold by how many ports and the speed of the office network. Determine how many computers and devices (DSL router, networked printers, networked copier, WiFi Access Point) you need to connect. You need to get enough Ethernet cables to connect all equipment. The computers and devices are connected in a “spoke” like fashion. Each computer is connected to the Ethernet switch using one Ethernet cable. The central point of the wireless network is a WiFi Access Point. Each wireless computer must connect to the WiFi Access Point by associating with the SSID of the Access Point. Typically you can connect up to 64-128 devices depending on the model of the Access Point.
- Internet access
Your office network can be connected to the World Wide Web (www) to access information available publicly and privately on the Internet. You also must be connected to the Internet for communicating using email and other social media to other companies. Typically, this is achieved by subscribing to a DSL modem service or a Cable modem service provided by the local Internet service provider such as the telephone company or cable TV company.
- Firewall your network
By placing a Router between the DSL modem and your office network, you can make sure that your network cannot be accessed from the Internet by undesired people.
- Company Email
Set up a small business email account through one of the email providers. Usually, this kind of email will allow you to have separate email accounts for each employee under the same umbrella. Employees access their company email using a web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Safari) on their office computer. Two examples of such email providers are: Yahoo mail, Gmail, etc.
- Virus protection
Any computer that is networked to another computer is exposed to malicious software that can infect your computer. Educate and restrict employees about viruses. A few things that you should do: (1) protect your company email at the service provider; use SPAM filter to weed out email from unknown sources. Use the “safe sender” feature. (2) don’t open any suspicious email or its attachment that got through the SPAM filter. (3) Use your browser’s feature that will alert you of unsafe websites and avoid them.
- Company Private Messaging
Set up a Messaging tool so that employees can communicate with each other using real time messages besides using the phone or email.
- Collaboration of work
Depending upon your business’ need, server based tool and facility may be set up to help collaboration among employees on individual or project base. This promotes cooperation and also provides a way to deposit the joint work in a central location instead of on paper or on their computer.
- Snap shot of employees’ work
One of the most important things that small businesses must do is to back up each employee’s computer to preserve their work that they are doing for the company. These includes Accounting spreadsheets, project schedules, design diagrams and charts, computer programs developed by code designers, Marketing collateral material, HR’s employee data base, Production Control’s inventory data base, etc. These are usually stored on employee’s computer or a shared department server, and are changed as often as on an hourly basis. Every time a file is updated it should be backed up to a depository. It is also a good idea to keep several generations of a particular file so that if the last update had a problem, the company can access the prior revision to recover the information. These safeguards will prevent the lost of employee’s work in the event of accidental erasure (employee deleted files that he is not supposed to delete), equipment failure (hard drive crash), lost of equipment (laptop stolen from employee’s car), or files getting damaged by a malicious software. It should be done to every employee’s computer. Any lost of one employee’s work is a lost to the company’s time and money.
- Business continuance consideration
Businesses that run their business on computers or shared servers must take into account the possibility of equipment failure and power lost causing disruption to the running of the business. To combat the problem of power glitch or power lost, use a UPS for each of the computer that must be “operational” even during those periods of power problem. Utilize mirrored or redundant servers to protect against equipment failure of shared servers. Two similar servers mimic each other, making sure that if one failed, the other will immediately take over the job and guarantee that your business will not stop. Replace the failed machine with a good one in short order, so that the mirrored set up is restored, thus continuing to protect the business operation.
- Disaster preparedness
Destruction of the business premise due to a natural disasters and theft can wipe out the physical and intellectual assets. You may be able to replace the physical assets, but the intellectual assets cannot be easily restored unless you use off-site replicated copy of your main data depository. Usually, this is achieved by contracting with a remote backup service provider to allow them to copy and store your files onto their servers. Another method is to maintain an identical server setup outside of your premise in a safe location and run a similar backup scheme saving yourself the monthly service fee. After a disaster, you can replace your office machines with new ones, then restore the files from the remote backup machine, thus putting your business back to the day the disaster happened.