Maximizing the use of your computer system has four main components. First, you must have a vision of what you’re trying to accomplish with your computers. Second, hardware appropriate for your needs is required. Third, you’ll need software that accomplishes these tasks. Finally, training is necessary to make your vision a reality.

The vision of your computer systems should be based on the concept of sharing data and resources. Networking will benefit most businesses, and tying your computers together is inexpensive and easy. The ultimate goal would be for each piece of information to be stored only one time on your system, and each software or computer that requires this data look to the same place for retrieval.

For example, if you maintain a customer Rolodex on your computer system, this data should be stored in a central place for every user to access, instead of pieces of information spread around on multiple user’s computers. Better still, the accounting system and Rolodex program could both look to the same set of customer data. This means that you only need to update the information one time, and each system will have current information. Unfortunately, everyone has different tasks and uses different software, so this is very hard to accomplish in practice.

Shared resources means printers and other hardware devices, such as modems, are available to all of your users. It usually is cheaper to provide one network printer to five users than it would be to purchase five printers, one for each user. In addition to the purchase cost, there is the cost of keeping multiple printers functioning. However, the downside to a shared printer is that if your one printer breaks, many people cannot print, instead of just one.

Purchasing your hardware can be a challenge, because there are so many choices. It is better to purchase name brand equipment, instead of off brands, because of better access to support during the lifetime of the computer. Once you’ve decided on a manufacturer, you should try to continue purchasing from the same manufacturer, and purchase the same model, if possible. Using the same computers throughout your business will make maintenance and configuration easier.

The computers that you buy should match your current needs. Someone using a computer for word processing will not require as much memory and processor speed as someone will doing graphic design. If you purchase a high powered computer with the thought that you’ll need it in the future, when the future arrives you’ll have an older computer that most likely will not meet your needs. Save your money now and buy what you need. Buy your high powered computer when you need it.

The selection of soft-ware will be driven by the tasks you’re trying to accomplish and the selection of software available to do the job. The variety of software today is mind-boggling, and someone has written software to do almost anything that you can imagine that a computer can do. The most important factor in software selection is degree of data integration with other required systems. Being able to enter information once and have it available everywhere is an enormous benefit.

An almost ironclad law of software is that as the computer systems add capability they add complexity. To be able to gain the maximum benefit of your computer systems, you and your employees must know how to operate them. If you become an expert on your system, you’ll find ways of doing things that were previously impossible. You’ll also find ways of operating your computer systems more effectively. Not understanding how to operate your system will doom the project to failure.

The vision you develop as to the direction and goals for your computer systems drive the remaining process. With a clear vision, smart hardware and software purchases, and well-trained employees, you can gain the maximum benefit from your technology dollars.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.