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Computer systems

There is hardly a business around today that does not have at least one desktop personal computer (PC). The trusty PC is now the tool for holding and managing databases of customers, spreadsheets of financial figures and lots of other important business information.

What computer hardware should I buy for my business?

A business will normally need a PC for each employee if they are office-based, depending on the nature of their work. The technology contained in these computers is constantly being upgraded, so buy as recent a model as you can afford - its age will, to a large extent, determine its useful life.

Computers nowadays normally have built-in modems, which you will need if you want to connect to the Internet. This will allow you to send e-mail and visit websites - a vital function of computers today. If your business is a heavy user of the Internet, then cable access can be cost-effective.

Four or five users could share a printer; this can be done by linking the users' computers with a network cable. To make regular copies of important business information, you will also need a storage device like a CD writer.

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What types of software applications are available to help me run my business?

Computer software used in a business usually includes the following kinds of application:

  • Word processors - mainly for writing letters and documents.
  • Spreadsheets - mainly for calculating financial figures or statistics.
  • Databases - mainly for storing and managing large numbers of records.

Specialist packages are also available for certain business functions, such as accounting programs that allow you to manage all financial functions on computer.

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Do I need to network my business computers?

A computer network makes the sharing of information much easier. A network is often essential if office staff need to access a single source of data at the same time.

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What is remote networking?

Remote networking is a way of getting access to information on your office computers when you are away from the premises. This requires you to dial in through a telephone line from a computer at another location. The arrangement requires your office computers to be well protected against unauthorised access.

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How do I make sense of all the jargon?

As a layperson, it is difficult to keep up with computer jargon. But generally you will only need to know what affects you, and here you will find that working with the technology will familiarise you quite quickly.

There are also plenty of ‘jargon-busting' lists of computer-related definitions available to the public - see HelpWithPC's.com as an example.

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Hints and tips

  • Equipment reviews in magazines can be helpful, if a bit technical. Occasionally they produce beginners' sections or supplements aimed at small business or home office users.
  • PCs can have a range of energy saving features, some more effective than others. Check manufacturers' claims if environmental concerns are important to the business.
  • Portable computers (or laptops) can now be as capable as desktop models, but always cost more for similar specifications.

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