IT Essentials & Data Recovery For Your Online Businesses

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IT Essentials & Data Recovery For Your Online Businesses

Nishant Baxi

Table of Contents

Chapter 1

The Beginning

A Short History of Information Technology

The Hellenistic World

Early Programmable Devices

Communications and Information Storage

Information Technology Since 1980

Information Technology Today

Types of Information Tools and Media

Personal Computer

Storage Media

Internet Options and Communication

Chapter 2

Understanding BizIT

Assessing Your I.T. Needs

Desk and chair



Computer and Monitor

Printer, Copier, FAX Machine

Other I.T. Options

All Those Bells And Whistles; Do You Really Need Them?

Getting It Cheap

Chapter 3

Getting Organized

Setting Up Your Workspace

Organizing the Worktop

Peripherals and Office Supplies

About Wireless Technology

Getting Online




T1 and T3

A Word Of Caution

Networking: The Intranet

Sharing Printers and Programs

About Sharing Programs

Protecting Yourself And Your Business

E-mail Issues

Computer Care And Maintenance

Protecting The Hardware

Software Maintenance

Chapter 1

The Beginning

When people hear the words «Information Technology,» the first things that come to mind are computers and the Internet. It may also bring up words like «network,» «intranet,» «server,» «firewall,» «security,» as well as more arcane expressions such as «router,» «T-1,» «Ethernet,» or the mysterious and exotic-sounding «VoIP» (pronounced «voyp»).

In fact, information technology is all of these things, and more. It’s hardly new, however. Information technology is as old as the brain itself, if you think of the brain as an information processor. As far as I.T. being a science, even that goes back as far as the earliest attempts to communicate and store information.

And that is essentially what information technology is: the communication and storage of information, along with the ability to process and make use of the information stored. In this chapter, we’ll begin with a brief history of I.T., what it comprises today, and the different major types of I.T. systems available today.

A Short History of Information Technology

As human societies have grown in size and complexity, so has the need to collect, store and transmit information. While it could be argued that brains represent a

form of «bio-information technology,» the Greek word «» — from which we get the word «technology» — really refers to scientific or mechanical knowledge, particularly that which involves the use of tools. Therefore, we’ll begin our journey with human’s first attempts to record and transmit knowledge through mechanical means.

might think of as «information technology.» Using a combination of tools that included manganese «crayons» and clay that was colored with various pigments, early humans left these images on the walls of a cave near Lascaux, France and on cliffs in the Algerian Sahara. These have been dated as being approximately 18,000 and 8,000 years old respectively. Unfortunately, there is no way to be certain exactly what message was being communicated (a problem our own descendants 15,000 years from now may very well encounter!)

Since the images depict animals that were commonly hunted at the time, and given the importance of game animals to a hunting-gathering culture, it’s possible that such images were attempts to present information about such game, or part of a rite designed to ensure a successful hunt.

The invention of writing systems — including pictograms such as hieroglyphics, alphabetic writing and «syllabic» systems — seems to have taken place almost at the same time as the development of agriculture. Agriculture introduced such formerly unknown concepts as land ownership, advanced trade and the accumulation of wealth, which in turn led to more complex societal structures. As you might expect, this necessitated more detailed and efficient record-keeping. Alphabetic writing has a substantial advantage over pictograms (hieroglyphs), because a relatively limited number of symbols (letters) can be used over and over in infinite combination to communicate nearly anything. (As you will see later, modern I.T. uses only two of these symbols!)

Preserving and storing such information posed certain challenges; information either had to be inscribed on stone or clay tablets (which were heavy) or animal skins, wax tablets or papyrus (which weren’t durable).

The Hellenistic World

The Classical Greeks were the first people of record to attempt to find scientific, rational explanations for natural phenomena. Some of the earliest proto-computers known were mechanical devices developed by the Greeks. One of these was a form of abacus (which also developed and was used in ancient China). The device facilitated and simplified mathematical calculation.

Early Programmable Devices

By the time the gradual break-up and fall of the Roman Empire was complete in the year 476 C.E., scientific and technological advances in the Western world had ground to a halt. While much of the scientific knowledge of the Greeks was preserved by Irish monks and Arab scholars, it wasn’t until the fourteenth century that principles of engineering were rediscovered and applied to information. The first of these was of course the printing press. Although the concept of movable type printing had been developed in China some four hundred years earlier, it was Gutenberg’s device in 1447 that revolutionized communications, making it easier and faster to record and disseminate information than ever before. The first truly programmable device would not come along for another 354 years, however.

The Jacquard Loom of 1801 was a product of the Industrial Revolution. This invention used a series of specially punched paper cards that functional as templates, allowing for the automatic weaving of highly intricate patterns. Those punch cards became very significant to computing in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s.

The next development was Charles Babbage’s «Analytical Machine» — a fully-programmable computer that unfortunately was never actually built. Babbage worked on designs from 1837 until his passing in 1871. This steam-powered mechanism would have also utilized punch cards, with a central processing unit (CPU) and a form of memory storage in the form of a system of pegs inserted into rotating barrels.

The Analytical Machine would have been capable of storing 1,000 numbers of up to fifty digits each, and perform six different mathematical operations, including the calculation of square roots. Babbage’s ideas were incorporated into early electronic computing devices being developed in the late 1930’s and 1940’s, although not all of these were actually programmable. The first truly programmable computers — able to store and use information — did not come into common use until the 1950’s, and yes — made use of punch cards (those born before 1965 may remember playing with them).

Communications and Information Storage

Other developments related to information technology involved major advances in communication, such as the telegraph — which was really an electronic improvement on ancient methods such as drums and smoke signals, and later semaphore communication. The first telegraph was actually built in 1809, but the technology matured during the mid-nineteenth century with the development of methods whereby actual images could be transmitted electronically (1843).

With the laying of the Transatlantic Cable in 1866, communication that once took weeks or months could be accomplished in minutes. Further advances included the development of wireless communication in the 1890’s, and the combination of this technology with the typewriter to create the teletype machine in the early 20th century.

Thomas Edison was the first to come up with a way to store sound information with the invention of the phonograph in 1877, but it was really the development of audio magnetic recording tape in 1926 by German inventor Fritz Pfleumer that would become a method of storing information electronically. Magnetic tape was initially used for recording sound. The technology finally arrived in the U.S. after the

Second World War, and early computer engineers soon found uses for it. Magnetic audio tape was used to store data by the UNIVAC I computer of 1951.

What is interesting is how the information was stored — which differs little from the basic way information is stored today. If you were to listen to a magnetic tape on which computer data was stored, you would hear a series of beeps of varying lengths — but consisting of only two pitches. These are basically «ones» and «zeroes»

— the building blocks of all computer data.

Today, we are able to store, process and transmit more information than ever before in history, using nothing more than two symbols!

Information Technology Since 1980

The development during the 1970’s of integrated circuits and the microprocessor were the advances that began the real revolution in computing. Before the 1970’s, computers were huge, extremely expensive, and relatively slow.

Integrated circuits and microprocessors made possible the development of smaller, faster machines that were priced within the reach of more people. «Personal computers» had actually been around since the early 1950’s (computing pioneer Edmund Berkeley published plans for a PC which he called «Simon» in Radio Electronics magazine in 1950 and ’51). However, the Apple II, released in April of 1977 (price: about $1300) was the first modern desktop computer featuring an interactive, graphical interface made widely available and affordable to the general public.1

The other significant development came in the early 1990’s when a system of little-known academic and military networks dating from the late 1960’s and early 1980’s suddenly exploded into popularity. The World Wide Web, or Internet, has changed

the way people access information, communicate and even entertainment itself. Separate devices such as telephones, televisions and cameras are now becoming single devices that encompass all of these functions. Meanwhile, the power and capability of computers continues to go up while the cost of the technology continues to drop. As you’ll learn later on, this has tremendous implications for your small business.

Information Technology Today

The smallest, lowest-powered laptop computers available today have millions of

times more raw processing power and storage than the room-sized UNIVAC I — and

are light years beyond large desktop computers of as little as ten years ago. In

addition to desktop and laptop computers, hand-held devices such as PDAs

(Personal Digital Assistants) allow people to take digital pictures and film clips,

access their e-mail and the World Wide Web, input text information and even play

video games! Not only do technology prices continue to fall, the technology itself

continues to shrink in physical size as well.

This is a good thing, because the processing and memory demands of software programs — more properly known as applications — continue to grow exponentially. A good example of this would be a typical word processing program. A version released in 1993 could run very well on as little as 256 kilobytes of RAM (Random Access Memory) with a low-powered 16 mHz processor. Today’s version of that same application requires over one hundred times the memory and perhaps as much as two hundred times the processing power. Even the operating system software — the set of applications that make your computer operate in the first place (such as Windows XP or Mac OS X) has increased its appetite for memory. In the old days (early-to-mid 1990’s), operating software might have used less than a megabyte of RAM. Today, just the operating system (OS) can eat up to 250 megabytes — and that’s before you even start running any applications!

In addition to the growing demands of applications, the products of those applications — known as «files» — have expanded in size as well. Word processing documents can get extremely large when high-quality graphics are added, as well — something to think about if your small business is involved in publishing and/or graphic design.

Fortunately, the cost of both RAM and hard drives (where information is stored) has come down in cost considerably in recent years.

Types of Information Tools and Media

This subject by itself could easily fill a book, since information technology is so ubiquitous. Chances are, you and your business will need more than one of these tools, but will probably not need all of them.

Personal Computer

This is the heart of your small business I.T. system. You’ll find a plethora of models and options to choose from. New, low-end, entry-level machines today start at under $400, and include a processor running at 1.8 gigaHertz (Ghz), 256 MB (expandable up to 3 gigabyte [GB]) or RAM and an 80 GB hard drive. On the upper end are the latest Apple machines with 3 Ghz quadruple processors, 1 GB RAM (expandable to 8 GB), and a 250 GB hard drive. (Incidentally, if you’re not familiar with terms such as «gigabyte,» gigahertz» etc., don’t worry. These are defined in the glossary at the end of this book.)

The decision of whether to go with a PC (IBM-compatible) or a Mac (Apple) is less of an issue that it was just a few years ago. The newest Apple computers use the Intel chip used by the most popular PCs. In addition, Apple computers can now run Mac OS X side-by-side with Microsoft Windows. It’s really a matter of cost — a new, top-of-the-line Apple runs about $3200, is not easy to upgrade, and will probably be obsolete within two years. On the other hand, if you’re doing high-end video

editing, high-resolution 3-d animation and special effects, you won’t find a faster machine than an Apple.

PCs become obsolete almost as fast as their Apple counterparts, but are much more easily upgraded. In fact, it’s not difficult to build your own custom PC from easily-obtained components. There are also several companies that will do this for you (see Appendix).

Bottom line — for most businesses, a mid-range PC equipped with a 2 Ghz processor, 2 GB of RAM and 160 GB hard drive will do just fine, and can be obtained for under $1000 (including monitor).

Laptop computers will do everything that desktop computers can, and have the added advantage of portability. There are three distinct disadvantages to a laptop, however:

A laptop tends to be substantially more expensive than a comparable desktop model;

The largest monitor size available on any laptop today is about 17» (most computer monitors today are 19»);

(3) Laptop computers are easily stolen, and are popular with thieves.

Storage Media

Storage media is the most important element of your I.T. system, for this is where all your vital information — text files, spreadsheets, graphics, etc. — will reside. You’ll probably be keeping some of it on your computer’s hard drive, but it’s a very good idea to make sure that anything and everything you work on is backed up in a second and preferably third location.

Today, the best — and most widely used media — are rewritable CDs and DVDs. The media itself is relatively inexpensive, and most new computers are equipped with either a CD or DVD writer. Even if your PC lacks this accessory, external (plug-in) DVD writers can be obtained for as little as $50 new. The media itself is also inexpensive. Rewritable DVDs cost about $1.50 each in packs of 15, and offer a whopping 4.7 gigabytes of data storage. Compare this to the old 3.5» floppy disks commonly used ten years ago. These generally cost about $1 each and only furnished about 1 megabyte of data storage — roughly.00025% of a $1.50 DVD-RW.

That said, the 3.5» floppy is far from dead and gone. Many people still use them, and there’s a lot of information on them. Therefore, if your computer has no floppy disk drive, you’ll want to get an external drive, which can be purchased at any department or office supply store for about $30.

One other popular type of storage media from the past that’s still fairly common is the zip disk. If you’ve never seen one of these, they look like a 3.5» floppy on steroids, and are usually gray. Depending on the type, they hold either 100 MB or 250 MB of data. Again, these drives are easy to find and are available for under $100. (Note: make sure you purchase a zip drive for the 250 MB disk. These will read 100 MB disks, but the drives designed for the 100 MB disk will not read the 250 MB disks.)

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