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 Small and Medium Business Information Technology Best Practices
by Norm Dickinson
SMBs face unique challenges when it comes to their IT infrastructure, procedures and support. Most organizations that fit into this category don't have the resources to retain full-time IT staff, so they rely on outside vendors and contractors for the bulk of their information. This can lead to spectacular results for businesses that find the right support, but occasionally there are shortfalls in the level or availability of support or advice. Keeping abreast of the best practices can be difficult, with change being the common factor in computing. This short guide is designed for the do-it-yourself IT support professional, or "Relative Expert" in an organization that finds itself in need of some tips or advice, but doesn't know where to turn.
TQF.US Computer Services
Here at TQF.US Computer Services, we take pride in being the single point of contact for small and medium business clients who need world-class Enterprise-Ready IT solutions on a mom & pop budget. Using best-in-class hardware, software, networking equipment, security tools, backup utilities and power protection, we can help any business compete with the giants. If you are responsible for a small or medium business that is located (or has an office) within Maine, you may want to give Norm a call at 207-660-5625. We use the following advice for our clients, and can help you achieve your IT goals on a shoestring, if that's what your budget allows.
It is important to standardize on one particular brand of computers, and when it comes to servers, that choice should be a well-known brand such as Dell PowerEdge Servers. With long warranties and available technical support, a company such as Dell can provide more than just a computer system - they can provide a computer solution. When problems arise with hardware or software, help can be a phone call away, any time of day. This may or may not be the case with other brands or custom built computers from local dealers, whose systems may be a mix of hardware that has no single point of contact for support or warranty coverage. Also check out Dell Small Business Precision Laptops and Dell Small Business OptiPlex Desktops when outfitting a new office with technology or refreshing an existing office.
When choosing an operating system, it is sometimes tempting to go with a low-cost or free solution such as Linux, especially for servers that provide background services for a large number of users. These systems can save thousands of dollars in up-front licensing costs, and offer many of the same features as commercial operating systems such as Windows Server. However, there is little support outside of the installer for these setups, and it is hard to rely on a particular vendor to always be there when you need them. When it comes to operating systems, Microsoft rules the day for compatibility and available support, for a price. It is this investment that will allow a business to relax and know that there is a solid operating system in place that can be supported by professionals on short notice if necessary.
Cisco products make networking easy, and their industry-leading standard approach to networking solutions can help any business connect securely and at the highest possible speed. Whether you are connecting two workstations to the Internet or connecting two hundred branch offices, Cisco has a complete line of products to do exactly what you need. Backed by amazing support and thousands of Cisco certified technicians around the globe, Cisco offers reliability and performance second to none.
There are a lot of choices in security software these days, with anti-virus and anti-malware software adding anti-spam and firewall functionality as well as protection from malicious websites and protection for (and from) smart phones. McAfee is the clear leader in the field of security solutions, and they offer a wide range of products designed to keep the bad guys out and keep the confidential data in. From traditional anti-virus and firewall software to dedicated hardware solutions that run comprehensive background pattern matching and allow protection below the operating system level, McAfee has the answer to all of your security needs.
Backup, Backup, Backup
Like the old adage in real estate: location, location, location - computer solutions need backup, backup, backup. No matter how new or old the system is, or how important the data is, the backup is the single most important factor in any computer system. Backup software is available that will allow a computer to be backed up to an archive and then restored to different hardware. Acronis makes professional grade backup software for commercial and home use, and has specialized versions for workstations and servers, including servers running Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SQL Server. Acronis also supports virtualized servers and servers and workstations that run on most forms of Linux. There is also an available online option to store a copy of the backup on Acronis' secure cloud servers.
Power Protection 
The utility power in most environments can cause a lot of problems with equipment if proper care is not taken to filter out the spikes, peaks, surges, sags and other electrical noise coming from the outlet. A basic surge supressor from APC can protect against lightning strikes, voltage spikes and various other issues that may arise. A battery backup unit can also provide power when there is a brownout or blackout condition, and typically provides even better protection against most power problems than a surge strip can. Smart battery backup units from APC can monitor the utility power and provide information about the health of the battery, the amount of runtime that is available if the power goes out, and many other things.
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Member of the Androscoggin County
Chamber of Commerce

TQF.US Computer Services owner Norm Dickinson
is on the Board of Directors for the
Norm is a 30-year veteran of the IT world and genuine computer guru, offering local businesses a single point of contact for all of their computer-related needs.  TQF.US is Dell Partner Direct authorized and offers professional sales, support and installation of products from Dell, Microsoft, Intel and other top brands.
TQF.US Computer Services BBB Business Review  
This website can be found at both http://www.tqf.us and http://www.fastfastcomputer.com.