Gerald had never established a computer system in his home, let alone in his office. His small business was suffering, and his three employees encouraged Gerald to set up a basic yet powerful information system that would enable him to keep track of orders, inventory, payroll data, and client account information. Selling dried beans procured from organic farms around the United States and a recovering carnivore, Gerald had also been a techno-phobe for years. His employees had to do most of the work setting up the computer system, starting from scratch.
The following is a description of how Gerald set up his company's information system and made selling beans easier. After telling Gerald that his would unfortunately be neither an artificial intelligence system nor one that used robotics, Jane, John, and Ollie purchased the fundamental pieces of hardware from a local electronics chain store. "You really only need the basics of an office system: including an accounting system, an inventory control system, payroll system, and order entry system.
Robotics and artificial intelligence are unnecessary to sell beans," they said. Next, the team phoned the local cable provider and procured Cable Internet access and the requisite cable modem. All three of them were fed up with conventional dial-up Internet access. Explaining the fundamentals of the Windows XP operating system, the team showed Gerald how to launch the application software preloaded on the computer, including the solitaire games, audio, video, and multimedia software.
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When he was familiar with using his mouse and keyboard and with the operating system basics, Gerald learned how to access the Internet and World Wide Web using the Internet Explorer Web browser. The first activities Gerald was eager to perform on the Internet included online shopping and downloading online music. Before long Gerald registered for online gaming sites. However, Jane, John, and Ollie also showed Gerald how to conduct online banking for his personal and professional accounts and also to manage his stock portfolio using online investing.
Jane also showed Gerald how to set up his e-mail accounts: one was set up through the Internet Service Provider (ISP), but the other was a web-based throw-away e-mail address to protect the primary address from SPAM. SPAM, Jane told Gerald, could be minimized by using the opt-out buttons on many Web page registration forms and by periodically clearing unwanted cookies from the browser. Because Jane, John, and Ollie also wanted their own computer terminals, they talked Gerald into buying a computer for each of them.
They therefore had to set up a computer network using a router and hub connecting all their Ethernet cables. Knowing the potential for hacking and the negative impact unauthorized access could have on the business, the team decided to purchase an external hardware firewall rather than rely on software versions. Additionally, to prevent hardware theft, Gerald purchased an electronic security system for the entire office, and John bought a surge suppressor for extra protection against data damage. Additionally, John showed Gerald how to perform regular backups using the CDRW drive.
The team then showed Gerald how to run his antivirus program to scan for any computer virus, computer worm, or Trojan Horse that could threaten the system or network. Ollie also acquired some free anti-spyware and anti-malware software to help the company secure information privacy and prevent against identity theft. Once all the safeguards were in place, the network was up and running. Jane, John, and Ollie worked together on system development and system design. All three would also serve together as systems analysts and perform systems maintenance.
If any system failure occurred that was beyond the capabilities of Jane, John, or Ollie, they would phone a local expert. In addition to inputting data into the payroll, accounting, and inventory systems, the team wanted to design a Web site for Gerald so that he could drum up more business. Jane was put in charge of page layout, which she gleaned from Web sites that she liked. She also created an animated GIF and a java applet for use on the home page of the web site. With his extensive knowledge of HTML and java, Ollie was in charge of coding of the site.
He created a comprehensive order entry system enabling all of Gerald's customers to order beans directly from the Web site. The orders would immediately be tracked through the company's inventory processing system. John, with his marketing background, preferred to be less involved in the Web site design and more involved in customer relationship management (CRM). Writing an e-book about the different beans that Gerald sold, including kidney, pinto, and lima, John also did most of the work on creating the computer inventory system.
A graphic of each bean would help customers distinguish between the various legumes in the e-book, which described the health benefits and history of each bean. John also encouraged Gerald to start his own blog, telling customers about new bean recipes as well as about new retail market opportunities. Because they each had a wireless phone and remote access to the enterprise-wide system they had helped create, Jane, John, and Ollie talked Gerald into their telecommuting one day per week.
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