In this first guest blog the wonderful Michael Donkin from Northumberland Computer Support talks about what you need to be aware of with regards to computers when you start up your business.
So, you’ve started up in business on your own? Well done! That’s the hard part and the rest will be plain sailing, right? Well, maybe not….
I can’t help with the nuts & bolts of winning and keeping customers, accountancy & tax, getting paid (preferably on time), juggling the demands of family with an all-consuming business, walking the dog, etc etc.
But, I can help with the technology side of things. What does a new, or even an established, business need – without breaking the bank to get there?
1. A Computer
Not many businesses these days cope without one or more computers.
If you need the computer itself to be mobile, or you hanker after finishing the accounts on the sofa in front of the telly of an evening, then you’ll want a laptop. They now cost about the same as the equivalent desktop machine, but don’t need a separate monitor, nor so much desk space. Job done!
Not quite. A laptop, simply because it is mobile, is at more risk of accidental damage or theft. The design of a laptop, with limited cooling airflow, means that it will run more slowly and not last as long as a desktop.
If your business is mostly office based, or all of your computer work will be done in the office, then buy a desktop PC and a good monitor.
The make and model of computer can be critical. You very much get what you pay for in computers and you should be looking to spend in the region of £600 (+ VAT) for a solid, business-grade machine that will be expected to last for 5 years. Add £120 for the monitor.
The PC will come with Windows 10 pre-installed & licensed but this will need configuration & tweaking to get the best out of it. (Unless it’s an Apple Mac, of course! You may not wish to pay the premium for a Mac, unless your business has a specific need for such a machine. There are very good reasons why around 90% of businesses use PCs rather than Macs.)
Whilst the PC will have Windows 10 already installed you can’t do anything much with the computer unless you have the correct software.
Most business users will be comfortable with Microsoft Office 365. This is the latest version of the Office Suite and is available on subscription. You no longer buy a disk that you keep for years and years, before finally being forced to upgrade. Office 365 keeps itself updated, so that you always have the latest version and patches installed.
“Office 365 Personal” is for use by one person on up to 5 devices and is available for as little as £59.99 per year. But, it is not well known that this version, (and “Office 365 Home”), is not licensed for business use.
A subscription to Office 365 Business, for one user on up to 5 devices, can be bought for under £100 a year (+ VAT). The last thing that your new business needs is a knock on the door from Trading Standards!
Windows 10 will update and patch itself against threats; and it comes with decent anti-virus software built-in, but I always recommend additional protection, for example Webroot Anti-Virus and MalwareBytes.
Other software, such as Ccleaner is often installed, but can slow the computer down, for little real benefit.
Having a good Domain Hosting company, with email filtering in place at their Server end, is a very good idea. (The less expensive Domain Hosting companies may not offer such a service, but a good provider should only cost around £100 a year.) The majority of viruses get on to computers through email.
Having said that, the greatest security feature in your office is you. If you get an unexpected email, which either has a link to a website or an attachment included, STOP. Think. Does this look legit? Or could it be dodgy?
Even if it appears to be from your best mate, inviting you to look at the latest cuddly kitten video on Facebook, it may be too good to be true. Don’t even think about going there!
No IT professional will talk for very long without mentioning backup. And testing your backups. We see computers that have unexpectedly died every week. Some were being “backed up”, but no-one had ever tested the theory.
If you aren’t backing up your data what will you do when the computer suddenly fails? Not if. When.
Many clients will say, “Oh, there’s nothing of much value on my computer!” So why waste your time putting it on there in the first place? If it was worth doing, it’s worth backing up!
Online backup is the way to go. You set your PC to run an automated backup as often as you’d like, and it works away in the background. Because the backup is remote from the computer, up in “the cloud”, it is much better protected from viruses that could attack the actual data.
Office 365 comes with One Drive storage, but this is not the same thing as backup. Yes, your data is remote from the computer, but as soon as you change something on the PC, the One Drive document also changes.
Use One Drive, with the data also stored on the computer and a robust, cloud-based, backup solution. Carbonite is inexpensive and very effective.
Many users will store backups on memory sticks, or an external hard drive. These have their place, but they are at risk of the 3 devils; fire, flood and theft. At least one backup should always be kept in a different physical location to the main data.
About Northumberland Computer Support
Northumberland Computer Support offers high quality Computer Support for businesses, schools and charities throughout Northumberland.
We prefer to be proactive, rather than reactive, and we believe that on-going, preventative maintenance is much less expensive and much more productive for your business.
As Microsoft Partners, with many years of experience and Microsoft qualifications, whatever your IT Support requirements in Northumberland, we can help.
01670 432 324
© Northumberland Computer Support 2020