Issue #195, July 21, 1999  

Survival Guide: Top 10 List For Entrepreneurs

By Stephen Lawton

oday everyone seems to be running Top 10 lists, ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. Don't get me wrong - I love David Letterman's Top 10s. What I can't stand are the lists in trade and business magazines that purport to be useful but aren't. Since these lists normally fill lots of space and offer little of value, how could I resist the challenge of actually providing useful information in what has now become one of the great American pastimes - spouting off about nothing?
     So here's the Lawton Top 10 List: A survival guide for entrepreneurs who serve double duty as IT managers.
     10. If you're about to buy new computers and you don't have a full-time IT professional, buy a prepackaged system that includes a Restore CD with all system files. Some vendors selling customized PCs provide the Restore CD only with their standard systems, not customized models. Each time you customize a PC, you add complexity and raise potential standardization issues.
     9. Insist on on-site service in your service contract. There's nothing worse than having to drag a machine to the service center each time you need help. Plus, you can't tell if you have a network problem if you're not connected to your network.
     8. Let your users try out monitors and keyboards before you buy. They have to live with these peripherals every day, and a comfortable employee is (often) a happy and more productive employee.
     7. Match your monitor to the video card. You won't be happy if you buy an expensive monitor and hook it up to a low-end graphics card. Check with the monitor manufacturer for recommended units.
     6. Avoid bleeding-edge technology if you don't need it. That 500MHz PIII system might look cool, but can you get by with a 233MHz Celeron instead and save a chunk of change? Not every employee needs a high-powered system - particularly the CEO in many firms. Often, you can save a lot of money by buying what's appropriate rather than what's cool.
     5. Back up. Back up. Back up. Make a daily and weekly back-up policy and stick to it. You'll thank me the first time your hard disk crashes.
     4. If you're connected to the Internet - and who isn't? - use a firewall. Keep external intruders out rather than fighting them file-by-file.
     3. Create a policy for downloading software from the Web. It's one way for you to maintain some kind of control over installed programs.
     2. Employ two levels of virus checkers, one for incoming files and e-mail from the Internet and another for each client. Have the program run automatically during boot-up. Automate the process so users don't forget to check their systems.
      And my No. 1 piece of advice: E-mail is not private. Remind your employees not to put anything into their e-mail they wouldn't want plastered in a public venue - including spam and chain letters, which could put your company at financial risk.
     OK, so this isn't rocket science. Sound advice doesn't have to be.

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