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Osiris Systems: Network services for small businesses.

Network services and installations.

It wasn’t that long ago that networked computer systems resided solely within the realms of large corporate businesses. However over the last few years there has been a huge growth in interest for all things ‘connected’.  For many users this began with the advent of higher speed broadband at easily affordable rates - which in turn brought about the the addition of the ubiquitous wi-fi router for both small businesses and home users - along with the reduction in cost of networking hardware. The use of a local area network is now pretty much taken for granted, whether perceived as such or not.  Many home users now have more complicated systems than businesses that we were dealing with a few years ago.  With DNLA (Digital Living Network Alliance) compatible televisions, digital music systems, digital ‘photo-frames etc. along with wi-fi access for smart ‘phones, personal music players, and not forgetting of course notebooks, PCs and tablets, more and more people benefit from the daily connectivity of a network solution. There are two basic types of network, each suited to different requirements. These are known as 'Peer-to-Peer' and 'Client-Server' networks, a very brief explanation of each is detailed below.

‘Peer-to-peer’ networks - mostly suited to small office or domestic environments.

Generally best suited to a small office or domestic environment where the amount of data to be shared is not great, but the sharing of other resources such as printers, network attached storage (NAS) devices, or as mentioned above other media devices, is highly beneficial. The peer-to-peer network consists of a number of PCs, notebooks or other devices linked together to allow users to share data or content with each other on a fairly ad hoc basis, without the need for a file server, but is not really suited to running business applications across the network.

‘Client server’ networks - for business users with a need to run network based applications.

The major difference here is the introduction of a dedicated file server, this is a computer designed specifically for running a network operating system such as Microsoft Windows Foundation Server 2008 (or later), or for larger networks Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Edition (or later). The benefits of basing the network around a file server include, faster file access times, increased scalability, greater control over user access rights, improved stability and easier management. Each of the computers, notebooks or other devices attached to the file server (the 'clients') can then be configured to connect to particular data sources on the file server. The ‘client server’ network is also far more suited to running network based software applications, such as Sage, Mdaemon Mail Server (or similar) or our own Osiris FMS (Funeral Management System). Please be aware that you must still possess a software license for each of the client systems that you intend to run an application on, for instance you cannot install a single copy of Microsoft Office onto your file server, and then allow ten client systems to run the application without appropriate volume licensing. Most of the computer networks that we supply and/or support are really a combination of the above, where the main network structure is ‘client server’ based, but ‘peer-to-peer’ may also be incorporated to enable additional network content, printer sharing, and ad hoc connections for additional devices such as smart ‘phones and tablets. As well as the obvious benefit of sharing information between users in real-time, a computer network can offer many other benefits. Reduced ongoing hardware costs: Because it is possible to share many hardware resources within a network, capital expenditure on printers and peripheral devices can be greatly reduced. For instance a ten user computer network might require only two work-group level network printers to meet all ten users printing requirements, rather than ten personal printers. This would not only result in a lower initial cost, but would reduce ongoing expenses for printer consumable items, as larger printers tend to be more cost efficient on a price per print basis. A knock-on effect of this type of scenario might be that a single heavy-duty colour printer that was previously used for the occasional mail-shot and only accessible from one system, could now be utilised fully from any PC system within the office. Centralised data backup: Just how much is your data worth to you? If you came into the office on a Monday morning, and all of your computers had been stolen in the night, or the building had been destroyed by fire, how long would it take you to be in a position to start trading again? By centralising essential data storage on a network and implementing a clearly defined backup routine, you could be trading again a lot faster than you think. Client records, account details, work in progress, current quotations: these items are the core of your business, and have a far greater value than the equipment they run on. The chances of all your computers being destroyed or stolen at the same time are slim, and we’re not in the business of scaremongering, but it never ceases to surprise us how often we come across businesses who do not have a clearly defined and regular backup routine in place already. We can offer simple backup solutions for home or corporate clients, including basic flash-drive or hard drive systems, suitable for backing up an individual’s PC or notebook, or cartridge based rotational media options, and network attached storage (NAS) equipment. Our preferred backup method for small businesses, is to use a secure, encrypted online hosted backup service, often now referred to as a ‘Cloud Backup’ solution.  Once configured this backs up the users data automatically at a set time, onto a secure off-site server, with daily backup reports then e-mailed to the user.  We also recommend that at least one local backup copy is retained locally on an external hard disk drive or similar, giving the end user two options for restoring from a backup, depending on the circumstances for the need to perform a restore.  Read more... Data protection: By implementing user access rights and passwords you can ensure that each user on the network has access only to the information that they require, while maintaining a degree of privacy for other data. The exact specification requirements for a computer network are always end-user driven. The type of network operating system to be used, the necessary file server and PC hardware, and peripheral items such as network switching and routing equipment, UPS battery backup devices, and the client configuration are all determined by the volume of data involved, and the number of network based applications to be deployed.  Also taking into consideration whether all of the computers are at one site (LAN - Local Area Network) or multiple sites (WAN - Wide Area Network).

Network management, maintenance and support:

Once a network has been installed most of our clients require a certain degree of ongoing support and assistance in maintaining the network. We can provide support in a number of ways by 'phone, ADSL (Broadband) remote access or as an on-site maintenance contract. We offer our clients details of the most suitable support contract available prior to installation, this helps to avoid hidden costs.

The degree of support required and therefore the cost will depend on a number of key factors:

The type of network installed: ‘client server’ or ‘peer-to-peer’ and the operating system(s) in use. The number of file servers and/or network attached storage (NAS) devices that are installed, and the number of sites that are linked if a wide area network (WAN) is in place. The number of computer workstations, notebooks or other devices connected on the network. Complexity of resource configuration - Number of shared printers, user access configuration, network applications installed, backup system configuration etc. The number of users, where required, that need remote access to a system. Osiris Systems Network Maintenance Plans (NMPs) are usually based on an annually renewable contract, which can be paid for either quarterly or annually in advance, we discuss precise details on a per client basis when installing a new network or when taking over the day-to-day support needs of an existing network. We now also offer a Simple IT Plan service (SIPs), whereby a client pays us a monthly retainer agreed in advance and then all on-site or remote support, new equipment installation and maintenance fees are deemed to be included as a part of the service. Again exact details for this type of service are based on a per client basis, and take into account how many users, servers, PCs, branch offices etc. are to be looked after, as a part of the maintenance contact. For more information see: Small business service agreements, and network maintenance plans.
Osiris Systems: IT solutions for business.
IT solutions and network services for small businesses
T. 01273 812 813 info@osirissystems.co.uk
Providing IT systems, network solutions, computer support, and PC repairs since 1990
Osiris Systems: IT, computer and network solutions.

Small business IT systems and computer solution specialists, offering:

Online data backup: Secure online, off-site encrypted backup solutions for PCs, notebooks or servers.  Read more. E-mail scanning and/or hosting services.  Read more. Zimbra Collaboration Suite hosted mail solutions, with mobile device integration.  Read more. Network management and computer support and maintenance on either an ad hoc basis or with an ongoing service agreement.  Read more. Local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) implementation.  Read more. Computer hardware, software, peripherals and printers; supply, installation, PC repairs and support.
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