Business Computer Systems Guide – Part 6

Application, File Structure and Backup

I mentioned in my last post, Business Computer Systems Guide – Part 5, that an astute businessperson must carefully consider messaging work-flow within the organization and the allocation of resources, both in human capital and dollars, which you are willing to dedicate to messaging work-flow, EMAIL and MESSAGING systems during your planning process.

Substantial budget and human resources need to be dedicated to communications, as well as applications, file structure and backup methodologies.

Application, file structure and backup are three unique items. Your plan needs to address each unique item in its own section based a specific initiative. Define the initiative first in terms of a business process, for example: “The Use of Instant Messaging Between Employees, Customers and Vendors”. Then, develop your plan around three areas:

1 – Make the business case for the initiative – state emphatically YES or NO and the associated company policies and procedures for use. “Instant Messaging will speed the sales closing process, increasing gross numbers of sales and gross profits on each sales transaction, so YES, I will deploy Instant Messaging. It will be used for business internal sales processes only. However, NO, I will not deploy Instant Messaging for Employees, Customers or Vendors outside of internal sales processes. All employees are forbidden to use Instant Messaging to communicate with other Employees, Customers or Vendors, except for the previously detailed internal sales process.”

2 – Define the scope of the initiative – “I will deploy instant messaging to Sales Managers, Sales Account Reps and Sales Support people only. I will train two HR people to administer Instant Messaging as part of their work tasks.”

3 – Commit the resources dedicated to the initiative – “I will spend $22 per user per month and dedicate 20 man hours administration time per month. I will spend no more than $12000 for up front deployment costs.”

Applications may reside is several places, although they are all rendered and interacted with on your PC. An application can reside on a local pc, a local in house server or on an application service provider’s servers. The location the application resides, defines the “network architecture” needed for the application to run correctly. Check out this article explaining hosted applications (the ones on application service provider’s servers).

Now that you’ve read the article, let me setup another example for a plan.

Say you have decided that you need to consider your sales peoples’ favorite sales application as part of your suite of applications to do your business. Two of your sales people have the application, Goldmine, on their laptop. So, your decision is to deploy Goldmine in your business. In the course of discussing Goldmine, you decide to use the management functionality, including a shared database of customers and prospects. Your business driven decision has just designed your technology architecture.

Deploying Goldmine in the manner you chose requires a Goldmine shared server version that runs only in a local network environment. Therefore, you will need to design a local network and server based on Goldmine sizing guidelines. Although this sounds somewhat complicated, most of the information you need, will be found in the first chapter of the Goldmine user manual.

In the article, you read about salesforce.com, currently the rave of sales and marketing companies. Your decision to deploy Goldmine ruled out salesforce.com or any other “hosted” application, as well as any of the benefits of a hosted application. However, the business driven benefits of deploying Goldmine outweigh any other benefits. You just need to get the Goldmine infrastructure guidelines correct and understand your costs.

The good news is that most of your off the shelf business applications that have been around for awhile, work much the same way. Narrow your list of applications down and do the research. Most of the manuals can be downloaded from the suppliers Websites.

In this example, your resources for Goldmine include the local network (cabling and switching), the local server to host the Goldmine application, the backup strategy to protect your database as it grows, your server environment, (cool air, conditioned and continual power), the installation and maintenance of the Goldmine application on the server, the customizations to get Goldmine and your accounting system to communicate with each other, the installation and configuration of Goldmine on the sales person’s laptop, training for your sales people so that they can use Goldmine, support for your sales people when they forget how to do something in Goldmine or when Goldmine breaks, Goldmine license management and Goldmine integrated documents. All of these items should be accounted for in your plan as well as when you consider your application choices.

File structure refers to the locations, types, versions and related policies concerning your business critical data. Files are similar to applications in the sense that they can reside most anywhere. I maintain some files within my Web mail account file storage area so that I can access them from wherever I am, providing I have Internet access. Recently I replaced a desktop computer for a teacher. Like most new desktop computers, there was no 3.5-inch drive for the old style 3.5-inch floppy disks. Much to her dismay, she stored all of her files on 3.5-inch disks. Our church office has a server with an automatically backed up “shared folder” for everyone to use for files. In spite of the folder, everyone keeps files strewn all over their own desktop computers.

File access, storage, versions and backup is a critical area for a business person to get their mind around. Not having a clear plan in this area can cost you your business. If you don’t know what file access, storage, versions and backup means, hire someone you trust that does know, NOW.

One can make a lot of headway towards personal backup by following these simple steps:

1 – Keep all of the files that are important to you in your “My Documents” folder, including any application data files, word processing documents. spreadsheets and other important files such as a personal information manager data file or your Outlook “pst” file.

2 – Purchase, download and install reliable CD burning software or utilize software built into your computer.

3 – If you don’t have a CD Burner in your computer, buy a USB CD Burner and install it on your computer.

4 – Read the CD burning instructions, and then copy your “My Documents” folder to a CD, at a convenient time every day.

5 – After you burn the CD each day, remove it from your computer and place a new CD in the CD Burner.

6 – Place the backup CD copy in the glove box of your car as soon as you can. Keep two or three CDs in the car and shred the older backup CDs.

If you don’t want to go to the trouble to go through the steps above, purchase Mozy Unlimited Backup for $4.95 a Month! Mozy is a simple and safe way to back up all the important stuff on your computer. A copy of your data is stored in a secure, remote location for safekeeping, so that in the event of disaster your data is still retrievable.

The application or application vendor generally defines the process for specific applications backup. QuickBooks’ process is built into the QuickBooks application. Several options are available including an online service offering by QuickBooks. Read the instructions or consult with the vendor to understand your applications’ backup methodologies.

Are you thinking Application, File and Backup just got complicated? I don’t know of anything worthwhile that is not complicated. So, I want to make a point about intellectual capital. Application, File and Backup requires specific knowledge of your business, your processes and systems understanding. Your information technology people resources, whether they be “IT People” or sharp sales, marketing or administrative people are your intellectual capital. Sharing knowledge of Application, File and Backup is a specific area where they can return value to your operation.

Isolation cannot be an option here. Your “IT People” need to be square in the middle of your business operations. Several years ago, these resources were called “Super Users”. However, it does not matter what you call them. Your technology savy people know the location of your business critical applications, files and whatever backup or lack of backup stratigy you might have. They are the roadmap to your data resources. Document their knowledge then place them in positions to lift the knowledge and skills of everyone around them.

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