Nov 15, 2007

How Many Computers Do I Need?

It’s 3 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the phone rings and a distraught voice says, “My computer is broken. I can’t open any of my work files. I need a technician first thing in the morning. I’m due at the bank at 11 a.m.”

Fact or fiction? It’s a real call I received when working as a tech support person for one of the world’s biggest computer companies.

The caller ran her own business from home and the computer wasn’t just used for business accounting and typing. She actually ran a desktop publishing business!!!! Let’s not get started on the fact that she hadn’t backed up her work or that she had allowed her children to play games on the computer that was the cause of the computer failing to work. Fact was that a computer technician was not going to be with her first thing in the morning and tech support did not cover data recovery (always read the service agreement).

When do I need a second computer?

Where is this story leading us? Straight in to the idea that more than one computer can be a lifesaver. There are plenty of situations where a second computer makes sense. How about when:

1. Children want to use the computer. 2. You use a computer for critical business work. 3. Business computing on the road. 4. Downloading information from the Internet. 5. Trying new programs and applications. 6. College or education assignments.

Children are to computers what Mt Vesuvius was to Pompeii. They can get anything working without the need for a manual but they have no concept of the havoc they can conjure up. If you use a computer for any important task whether its business, education or the family photos have two computers one of which children are band from. At the end of my conversation with the business lady I explained that my sons are both banned from my work computer. She called me an Ogre, I explained that my computer was working and had been without problem for the last 18 months.

New or Used?

Do you need an expensive second computer? Probably not unless your work involves music or graphic files. Computer dealers always want you to buy the new state of the art mega computer with warp drive that just happens to be the most expensive. At the college where I work most of the networked computers are Pentium III and I’m writing this on a Pentium II. If you have an old computer get it out of the attic, dust it off and load up the operating system. You now have a second computer for no cost.

All you need to complete the perfect picture is to load just the basic programs you need. On this computer (running Windows 98) I have MS Office 2000 (Word and Excel only), MS FrontPage, Adobe Acrobat, Paint Shop Pro and my Epson printer utilities. Stable? You bet, the computers been working fine for over 12 months and gets used every day.

Don’t have an old computer hanging around in the basement? No problem. The solution is going to be a little more expensive but should not cost the earth. The most important thing to remember is that you probably don’t need a top of the line computer.

Try friends, garage sales, classified ads or used computer stores. You should be able to pick up a good Pentium II or III. But be careful check the price of a new basic computer with slightly older technology. Some people think that the computer they paid $1,500 for two years ago is still worth the same amount.

Finding Space.

Is finding space for an extra keyboard, mouse and monitor an issue? The solution is simple and should not cost more than $40-$60. What you need is a KVM switch and cables from any good computer store. This will allow you to use just one mouse, keyboard and monitor to control two or more computers

One final note. Having a hundred computers is no use unless you -


By Robert Cox

Robert Cox may be contacted at:

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