Microsoft provides easy to use network operating systems such as Windows XP and Windows Vista. Ansome Computer Services can help your business run more efficiently by utilizing this functionality to provide a single point of access for company data. This also streamlines backup procedures. For smaller networks, (less than 5 PCs), that don't require data access control, a shared folder on a Windows XP or Vista PC will provide a simple means of sharing and backing up data. For larger networks, or clients requiring access control, we will install and configure a server running Windows Server 2003. This moves authentication from individual PCs to the server, allowing for complex file access control.
Intuit's Quickbooks Point of Sale product is a great solution for retailers. The software is easy to use and comes available in hardware bundles that include a cash drawer, receipt printer, bar code scanner, and credit card reader. Pole displays, pin pad readers, and remote bar code readers (for taking inventory) are also available. QB Point of Sale integrates with their popular accounting software and can seamlessly manage credit card sales with merchant services available through Intuit. Ansome Computer Services can, in most cases, convert older POS data to Quickbooks format. This can save countless hours of data entry.
Starting a new business often requires an investment in technology. We can purchase and configure hardware that will meet your budget, yet be flexible enough to allow for growth.
Client/Server systems are the most configurable and easy to manage. In addition, server class computers can be purchased with redundant systems to reduce the possibility of down time. Anyone that has owned a computer long enough has probably experienced a failed hard drive or power supply. Servers can be equipped with hot swappable (can be removed/replaced while the server is running) power supplies and hard drives. A time consuming recovery occurs if a hard drive fails in a single drive environment. With mirrored or striped w/parity drive configurations, the system continues to function until a replacement drive is installed.
Most software cannot be run across slow, WAN links (point to point T1's or VPN tunnels using high speed internet). For businesses with several locations, this requires expensive, multiple server configurations that are time consuming to manage and often cannot centralize company data. Microsoft Terminal services allows for a single server installation that, in conjunction with SSL VPN access, gives access from almost anywhere that has an internet connection. Since the client and server software are on just one computer, only that machine needs to be backed up and updated with software patches. Please note that not all software can be configured to run on a terminal server.
In order to share data or have access to the internet, a network must be configured. Most networks have a modem, a router, and (for larger environments) a switch. The modem provides an interface between the inside network and the internet. The router directs traffic between computers and between computers and the internet. A switch is like a big power strip, allowing access for several computers through one outlet.
Wireless networks are very convenient, but must be carefully considered. The biggest problem is that wireless traffic does not stop at the walls of your office - it can be broadcast hundreds of feet in optimal conditions. Wireless signals do not travel through thick walls or the earth very well, limiting its use in some locations. Most importantly, wireless traffic is not secure by default and several of the security options will only slow an intruder down. WEP and WPA can be broken in a matter of minutes. Use of wireless should be limited to businesses that don't share or store sensitive data.
Remote access to the office is becoming more popular with the proliferation of high speed internet access. VPN access is a secure way of providing this, but until recently, required installation of VPN client software that was buggy and broke some applications. The latest technology is VPN over SSL. This uses the same technology that a secure (https) website uses. The benefit is that no client software needs to be installed and the connection is made through a web browser.
Information technology support costs should be predictable and affordable. We offer maintenance contracts for a flat monthly fee based on the number of PCs and servers. These contracts offer unlimited support "with reasonable limits" for all existing hardware. Think of this as an insurance policy against I.T. problems.
When we make our first visit to a new client, we rarely find any cohesive documentation about the network environment. This information is vital to quick problem resolution. We will, in detail, document the server's administrator sign-on, the physical layout of the network, network settings, and anything else that makes troubleshooting easier. Everything is placed in a binder, including a "Visit Sheet" where we detail any changes or fixes we make when on site.
A problem that causes a lack of productivity is a problem that costs you money. We understand how important a working computer system is to your bottom line. If you call us with a serious problem, and have a maintenance contract with us, every effort will be made to resolve the problem as quickly as possible - guaranteed.
PCs need maintenance just like a car. As part of our maintenance agreement, we will visit your location once a month to make sure everything is working and is up to date. We will test your backups, make sure your anti-virus is current, check that all Microsoft patches have been applied, and address any other small issues while we are there.
Disasters don't always take the form of a fire or a flood. What if your PC won't boot up or if you lose internet access for an entire day? Having a plan to handle problems from a broken PC to a total loss is vital to your business' survival.
The first step in a business continuity plan is a risk/cost analysis. Very few small businesses can justify an expensive, mirrored hot-site, but some simple, cost effective solutions can make recovery a matter of hours instead of days.
The key part of a business continuity plan is a backup solution. Expensive and inconvenient tape drives are usually not the best solution for a small business. Since the advent of fast USB 2.0 technology, external hard drives are a simple and inexpensive way to back up company data. In addition to this, network backup companies provide a secure and simple way to back up data to a remote site. Offsite backups are necessary to protect from local disasters.
A business continuity plan is worthless if it isn't tested routinely. Virtual machine technology allows us to simulate new hardware and to test the recovery of data. These practice runs help work out any issues an actual recovery might encounter. Some software requires installation by the software vendor. Other software might require activation or be complex to reinstall. Continuity testing allows us to develop a proven and working plan.
Viruses can not only render your computer unstable or unusable, they can ruin your reputation. Many viruses will email copies of themselves to everyone on your contact list. Anti-virus software should be installed on every computer and server and kept current. A business that operates without anti-virus software is working on borrowed time.
A layered approach to systems security ensures that if one layer fails, another will prevent a threat from becoming a problem. A network gateway appliance is one of the best ways to prevent intruders or malware from ever getting into your network. These appliances have dropped in price over the last few years and are now affordable insurance to protect your computer systems.
A commonly overlooked part of systems security is making sure that Microsoft software is up to date and patched against any exploits. Many viruses use security holes to infect and then spread to other computers. Windows XP and Vista both include software to automatically apply security updates, and are configurable to do this after business hours.
Not all threats come from the outside. In any client/server environment, data must be protected from staff that do not need access. The default security setting on Windows Server gives any authenticated user read access to a shared folder. This is not appropriate for payroll or employee evaluation data. Some industries strictly regulate data security (health and finance), so care must be taken when sharing company data.