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This report will clearly explain the differences between standalone and networked machines, as well as give a brief insight into the basic components of the network.
Also, it will state the possible advantages and disadvantages to keeping the current standalone set up opposed to the idea of creating a network.
A synopsis shall be included to summarise your options, and give a professional opinion on what would be the most beneficial for your small furniture business.
WHAT IS IT?
A standalone environment is when a computer is used independently – without connection to any communication devices. Each computer will need a copy of the operating system and software being used. If you need to transfer data between departments, it will have to be done manually. They vary from networked computers which are able to communicate to other computers because as soon as a computer is attached to a communication device, it instantly becomes in a network.
The main characteristics of a standalone computer are:
* It has no connection to any other computers
* It does not have an internet connection
* Data would need to be manually transferred via CD’s, etc
WHAT IS IT?
A basic network consists of several computers and hardware devices such as printers and scanners that are linked together so that they can communicate with each other. It features four distinct elements in addition to the computers themselves. These are:
* Communication devices
* Networking Software
* Data transfer media
* Standards and procedures
Communication devices are pieces of hardware that are needed to turn standalone computers into networked computers. Before a computer can be connected to a network it must have a network interface card (NIC). This is a card that contains essential circuitry and a plug-in socket that allows a connection between the computer and the cabling. The NIC basically prepares and convert data to a form that can be transmitted through media (such as a metal cable or fibre optic cable).
Networking software varies dependent on the size of the network. Because your furniture firm is only a small business, the networking software on Windows XP shall suffice, but take note of this information in case the business planning future expansion. Specialised network operating systems coordinate the activities of all the computers and other devices connected to a network. Popular network operating systems include: UNIX owned by the SCO group as 2000, Linux and Novell Netware, a popular client-server network operating system.
Data transfer media is the physical material through which data travels from one computer to another. The main data transfer media an offer in today’s market are metal wires, and fibre optic cable which add the cost of creating/installing a network, or alternatively wireless.
Standards and procedures are important because without them one device in your network could be sending data to another device in a form that the other device may not be able to interpret. In order for a network to run properly it must adopt certain procedures. Without procedures the security of the network might be comprised, as well as the health of the employees. Legislation such as the Data Protection Act and Computer Misuse Act may accidently be disobeyed.
ADVANTAGES OF STAYING STANDALONE
The advantages to keeping the current 5 machines set up as they are, as standalone machines are:
* It would be a cheaper option in terms of hardware and software. The cables, especially high speed fibre optic cables can be money consuming, as well this NIC and data transmission media can be costly
* Less ICT knowledge is needed to keep the systems running efficiently, hence qualified network managers/administrators do not need to be employed
* Training costs (such as money and time) on how to maintain/operate a network are unneeded if every member of staff knows how to use a basic standalone machine
* The spread of viruses and bugs can be keep minimal as each of the computers aren’t communicate, meaning the virus cannot be transferred from computer to computer
* Hard is less of a necessity, as servers aren’t needed. This is beneficial in two ways:
* If a piece of hardware malfunctions, it doesn’t affect every machine whereas, say, if a file server crashed the whole network would be sabotaged
* Initially purchasing costs and maintenance costs do not need to be funded if the complex hardware for a network isn’t needed
* Standalone machines can operate a lot faster as if they are only need for a specific task (e.g. Word processing) other software doesn’t need to installed on the hard drive, hence making the machine more efficient
ADVANTAGES OF CREATING A NETWORK
The advantages of setting up a network far outweigh the advantages of staying standalone. There are however disadvantages which will be covered on the next page of this report:
* Manual file transfer is rendered inept if the network operates using a file server, which holds all the important documents an organization needs, where every computer has access to instantly
* Hardware such as printers can be shared between multiple computers, meaning a separate printer doesn’t need to be purchased/installed to every machine
* Software such as application are shared, meaning it’s easier to control software maintenance and making sure the software is up-to-date is easier and more efficient
* Costs of purchasing software is reduced as you can purchase a single copy which can then be installed the server so every machine has access, which would be cheaper than the alternative of purchasing the software multiple times
* Network managers can control what websites employees do and do not have access to, so distracting game websites can be blocked from every computer
* Downloaded material can be checked with the latest virus checking software universally, so individual scans do not need to take place
* Backing up files to save loosing valuable documents can be done automatically or by the network manager so less responsibility is placed upon the work force and the likelihood of lose is reduced
* Internal business communication can be made easier throughout the means of e-mail, which will improve communication between workers
DISADVANTAGES OF STAYING STANDALONE
When there are advantages, there are usually disadvantages to go with it. The disadvantages of keeping the current layout format are as follows:
* File transfer is time consuming and frustrating, as documents cannot be directly sent to each computer, hence file transfer media such as USB memory sticks or CD’s need to be purchased
* Communication when working on a joint computer project can be fussy, as e-mails cannot be sent, so the employees will have to engage in face-to-face communication
* Information is hard to keep up-to-date as two or more users could be updating the same piece of information unaware the other is doing so, hence two or more documents will be produced causing confusion
* Software needs to be installed individually on each of the 5 machines, which can be costly as the software needs to be replicated enough times and wasteful of businesses time
* Back-up of files isn’t centrally done, hence each machine need to be backed up and checked regularly to ensure to lose of data
* The internet or intranet cannot be accessed by employees, meaning topics cannot be research, information cannot be posted in a bulletin, etc, hindering employees efforts
DISADVANTAGES OF CREATING A NETWORK
The disadvantages of creating a network are scarce as networks are beneficial to almost every organisation in today’s society. However, they include:
* The task of running and maintaining a network, ensuring that it is fully functional requires expertise, so a professional shall need to be hired
* If hardware fails or malfunctions, every computer is faced with the inconvenience. For example if the network file server goes down, no computer can gain access to the shared files
* The initial costs involved in setting up a network are high as all the hardware and software need to purchased, although a network will save money in the long run, in the short run it is costly
* Viruses can be spread more easily and quickly to every computer on the network, whereas if it happened to a standalone computer only one would be affected
Overall, the advantages to your small business of creating a network far outweigh the advantages of keeping the machines standalone. The ability to share files such as orders, receipts, etc would be drastically improved as a file server could be emplaced for ease of access. Providing you have the funds to invest in the highly priced equipment, the option of setting up a network would be beneficial in the long term for the business – especially in major growth happens which can be foresaw with the increasing mass of technology used.
You could use the internet research competitor’s prices, to offer your customer the best quality service available and even start trading online using e-commerce. Make sure sufficient antivirus software is in place to protect from the risk of hackers or viruses; this may cost extra money, as it needs to be updated. The ICT department may need to consider employing highly qualified employees to run and maintain the network to make sure it’s operational on a day to day basis. So the options are to keep the 5 standalone machines and be faced with the disadvantages of them, or set up a network of computers and experience the change.