Let's take a look at the typical small office.

You have 5-10 computers, probably with a mix of XP Home, XP Pro, Vista Home Premium and Windows 7. Everyone logs into their computer with a username like Administrator, Default User or some such because that's how the computer came. All data files are saved in My Documents. My Documents has no subfolders other than My Music and My Pictures so there's 100 or so files in My Documents, both personal and work related.

The bookkeepers machine has Quickbooks on in and the Quickbooks file is stored on the local machine. Maybe it's backed up to a flash drive or onto a backup folder on the same machine.

Anti-virus came with the machines but expired after the 90 day trial so it no longer works. Alternately someone downloaded the Home version of Avast or AVG and it may or may not be current. Nearly every machine will have some sort of spyware or malware on it.

All this is typical when you don't have an IT Manager.

What should be done?

  1. A central file server. This does not have to be an expensive Microsoft Windows server. You can get by with a NAS drive of about 500GB in size. A NAS Drive is a small device that acts as a windows file server. A 500GB drive can be had for less than $100. The central file server will be the place to store all work related files. Security can be placed on folders so sensitive materials can be kept safe. Another drive can be attached to the NAS drive to backup the data stored there.
  2. Offsite backups. The NAS will not do it's own backups. One machine will have to be kept on overnight to control the backup process. The Amazon S3 service and Jungledisk can be used to do backups offsite at night. Offsite backups are needed to mitigate any kind of disaster that could take out the NAS Drive or other office equipment, like a fire. Every backup strategy should include an offsite component. If your data is lost your business may be too.
  3. Anti-Malware. Viruses, spyware, trojan horses, etc. are part of everyday life on the Internet. When those things get on your machine it could compromise security or merely be a nuisance. Either way they sap productivity and are costly to your operation. I install centrally managed Anti-malware. That way I can keep an eye on all computers at your business and I will know when machines are being attacked, need updating, or if someone disables the software. Unfortunately the free Home versions of anti-virus products are not licensed for use in a business environment. If you have them installed, and are caught, you could be fined.
  4. Quickbooks files need to be hosted on a Windows machine, but, the backup can be setup to go to the NAS Drive and then be copied offsite during the nightly backup.
  5. All users will have a unique username and password to login to their computers. This will assist with securing the files on the NAS drive.

These few things will make your business run smoother once implemented. Your people can be more productive and make your business more successful. The cost of doing that is small compared to the benefits.