With 15 years of experience using computers in a business environment, we can help you decide which system is best suited for your needs. Whether it is desktops, workstations, terminals or servers, using the improper computer can end up costing both time and money, and frequently a lot of frustration. We have extensive experience with personal computers running current business operating systems, as well as several of the popular server platforms. A comprehensive needs and systems analysis should be used to determine which systems are best suited for the task, including applicable alternatives.
Although client-server technology was the norm a decade or two ago, the advent of personal computers (PCs) gave significantly more freedom to the individual user. It allowed the employee to do far more than the 'green screen' terminals would allow but also created a sudden distribution of information to the individual machines resulting in a heavier systems maintenance burden. The small number of specialists required to keep the server and terminals up and running were usually not sufficient to quelch the new problems created by the dozens or even hundreds of individualized systems. Additionally, the distribution of information into individual systems that were frequently proprietary or incompatible prevented the direct exchange of information and caused additional work in the form of duplicate data entry.
There is currently a return to the server-centric architecture, where the data for the entire company is stored on a single server. By using standardized or commonly accepted protocols, it is possible for many different applications to access or share common data. Many of todays systems use a back-end database or server and a variety of front-end 'clients' that allow the user to access the data in the most efficient manner. It is also becoming more common for systems to use an internet browser as the client, allowing for cross-platform compatibility while simplifying the programming requirements. With this in mind, many of the hardware manufacturers are now selling 'thin' computers that are basically web browsers in a box, or that boot and launch applications from a common server.
Determining whether several $1,000 PCs or one $20,000 client/server system is the right tool can be a daunting task. Forgetting to include the maintenance costs can be a serious mistake, as it is not uncommon for Windows based businesses to spend twice as much on maintenance every year as it cost for the purchase of the equipment. Also, the rate at which technology is becoming obsolete must be considered, as most PCs will have to be upgraded or replaced within three years - or up to five years for 'top-of-the-line' systems. However, with careful planning, it is possible to keep up with current technology and not 'break the bank'. It requires a realistic budget, a plan and understanding of the company's goals.
These issues are amplified for small businesses, since the prohibitive cost of information technology (IT) specialists can cause critical decisions to be made based on incorrect or incomplete information. Extra care must be taken to consider the maintenance and training needs when evaluating any new IT solutions. Many specialized software packages can require extensive training or hiring additional manpower. The other side of the same problem is not supplying existing manpower with the required resources. It is especially important for a small business to consider the highest 'return on investment' when allocating resources within the business. More often then not, the executives who rarely use their systems will have superior systems than the specialists who use them all day long.