News August 2011.

August 2011 News – My Home, My Office (Part 2)

Not all businesses need the presence of a formal office building to be a success. Last month we looked at computers, printers, the Internet, email and file sharing in a home office. In Part 2 of My Home, My Office, we take a look at another 5 technology considerations for your home-based or small office based business.

Your backup strategy: Without your own I.T. department, you need to make sure that your important files are backed up and that they can be restored from those backups. There are many hardware options to store your backups on. A USB hard drive will provide a cheap second storage location in addition to your computer, which can be accessed to retrieve accidentally-deleted files. There are downsides to using a USB hard disk for backup. One of the primary ones is the manual operation to connect and disconnect it. The other is that you end up with a lot of cables, and as soon as your business grows to 2 or more computers, suddenly maintaining the backups on the single disk is a problem. A better solution, can be to invest in a device called a NAS. These come in a wide varity of models and features. Computer Troubleshooters Croydon can help you better understand these.
When considering your backup strategy, you also need to consider what you are trying to protect against. If you are trying to avoid data loss due to fire, flood or theft at your place, duplicate your information at another location (e.g. the home or business of someone else you know well) or use an internet-based backup service. Invest in backup software that runs seamlessly and can be easily checked and tested.

Security: If you are the only person who uses the computer in your home office, don’t think that it doesn’t need a password. Passwords are an important part of your defence against hacking attempts, as well as helping to secure your information if your computer is stolen. Consider using Strong Passwords, and a password management tool, where ever possible”. Also consider the physical security of your home office and perhaps use window locks, security screens and a burglar alarm. If your home office can be seen from the street, use window blinds or curtains, especially if working at night as your computers can easily be seen from the outside when your lights are on.

Ongoing maintenance: Without an in-house expert to keep your computers running, their performance will slowly degrade and their security will be at risk if they are not maintained. Cars need a yearly service, and despite appearances, computers are more complex than cars. It’s important to ensure that software updates are installing correctly when they are released and that tasks like temporary file removal, defragmentation and virus scans are all occurring regularly. Talk to your Computer Troubleshooter about how they can easily take care of this for you.

Comfort: You may not have a big corporate budget for desks, but if you spend a long time at your computer it’s important that you reduce your risk of overuse injuries. You also want to feel comfortable and enjoy being at your desk. Look at an ergonomic, adjustable chair, a foot rest and a comfortable mouse and have your desk, keyboard and monitor all at the correct height. Also consider the placement of your desk in your office, to reduce any screen glare from your windows.

The separation of home and business: Most home offices are also the place where the household bills are paid and are sometimes where the kids play computer games or do their homework. If your work computer is also your home computer, separate user ‘profiles’ can be handy to restrict your children’s access to your business files (e.g. to prevent accidental deletion). You might also consider extra security software or internet filtering software to prevent your children from introducing nasty malware onto your computer. You also need to consider that if your business buys a computer for you to use, then if you experience a Tax Audit, then one of the items they will investigate is if your computer is used for non-business purposes. Use a separate paper filing tray for the ‘paperwork of life’ to keep it away from your business documents. And a second telephone line or a Voice over IP number is a great way to stop business calls from coming through on your home phone. Then you can also switch on the phone answering system after-hours to enjoy some undisturbed family time.

If you are thinking of starting a business from home, or moving back home, or if you’d just like some advice on your current home office setup, talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter.