Published January 2001

Begin 2001 by improving computer efficiency

By Tom Schreier
Computer Q&A

Now that all of the holiday hoopla is over, it’s time to get back to work. Here are a few ideas that cost very little to implement while rewarding you with higher productivity.

The first thing to look at while the budgets are still fresh is what type of computers employees are using. A system that was top of the line less than three years ago might be having a hard time keeping up with all the new demands being placed upon it.

CPU processor speed is one thing, but even more important in a Microsoft Windows environment is RAM. Make sure all the systems have at least 64 megabytes of RAM. This can be done on a Windows 95/98/NT machine simply by right-clicking on the “My computer” icon and looking at the properties.

Now, if your employees use Word and Excel, a system with 128 megabytes is optimum.

Memory upgrades are the cheapest they have been in years, and depending on the system, upgrading to 128 megabytes costs about $100.

If the machines are more than 2 years old, they probably have Pentiums in them. Three other versions have been released in this time that will perform 15 to 20 times better.

If you find yourself with a bunch of Pentium “classics,” the easiest way to go is to get a “bare-bones” system.

In this case, you buy a new case/CPU/memory and motherboard. All you do is pull out your hard drive and place it in the new machine. This costs between $200 and $400, depending on what you want.

Those are “spendy” items, but remember, it only takes a few minutes of time saved daily to add up to the cost outlay during the coming year.

Applications resources
One of the most overlooked areas of computer usage is training, and I have found that one of the best, most cost-effective options is to get the “For Dummies” books.

These can be picked up for nearly every major application out there.

Now, you might need to wrap a book cover around the title so some will not be offended, but these books offer great tips without all the technical jargon that turns folks off.

I have seen many employees pick up a “Dummies” book and find one or two tips that save them all kinds of time. The books are a no-frills, “this is what you do to accomplish this” type of manual. Grab a few copies for each of the major applications you use and a few for the operating system, and make them available to all users.

Backup, anti-virus systems
Last on the list: Make sure there is a file backup and anti-virus protection system in use.

More hours of work and money are lost due to “I thought we had a backup of Bigwig’s account information” or “I just hit the wrong key, and now the file is corrupt.”

If you and your employees keep all documents on a file server or local machine, make sure backups are being done routinely and that you test your backups to make sure they will restore the files you think they will.

Anti-virus software also is a must. With people taking files home on disks or getting e-mails from across the globe, you never can be too safe. Check at least once a month, if possible, that all the machines are running current versions of their AV software. AV makers update their databases of virus protection all the time, so you want to be sure you have the latest version to protect your company’s computers from that new computer cold.

Do you have a computer or technology question, or a comment about this article? I would love to hear from you. Thanks, and have a great year.

Tom Schreier is the Web Master and Network Security Analyst for The Herald. He can be reached by sending e-mail to

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