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New PC ?

(17 Posts)
AlliterationAlley Thu 28-Mar-13 14:34:00

Hi everyone - I do hope you can advise me.

I'm currently setting myself up as a Virtual PA and gave got most things in place now.

Clearly I will need a fairly decent computer and printer. I can't decide if I need something more heavy duty such as a computer you would you in a physical office, or whether a laptop would do the job?

I will also need to be strict about backing up the computer and storing off site.

As this will be the major expense for my new company I really need to get this right. So any comments and advice will be appreciated.

With thanks.

nannynick Thu 28-Mar-13 18:14:10

Consider space - would a small tower plus a screen, keyboard, mouse work or would having a laptop take up less desk space?

Consider how the printer connects, some are wireless these days, though the cheap laser I have is not - it connects via USB. So location of printer and how it connects to the computer may be considerations.

Would you ever need to work from somewhere else, a laptop is useful if going to a different place.

Have multiple backup methods... consider long term and short term. CD-R, USB stick, online storage. Things happen, disks fail, usb sticks fail, companies fold.
You may also want version control - so editing a file you can go back to the version it was a few days before.

Consider what software your clients would be using... do you need the same version as them.

I suspect a laptop will be fine.

PedroPonyLikesCrisps Thu 28-Mar-13 19:13:40

The key thing is making sure your PC has a high enough spec to cope with whatever you'll be throwing at it. Outside of that it doesn't matter really whether that comes in the form of a desktop or laptop.

Having said that, if I was doing it myself I'd get a laptop so that it's portable if it needs to be and then I'd buy an external monitor, keyboard, mouse and probably hard drive (for backing up) so that I could use it like a proper desktop when at home. Main reason being that general 'office health' things like good posture while working are likely to suffer if you are only using a laptop.

MTSgroupie Fri 29-Mar-13 00:13:18

I suggest that you get a laptop. This is assuming that on occasions you may need to be mobile. £500 should get you a decent spec model with a 15 inch screen.

Ok pound for pound a laptop isn't as powerful as a desktop but, unless you are using apps like video editing or gaming, you won't need that kind of power.

As for storage, I suggest that you get yourself a cloud account. That can be your off site back up.

For printing I suggest that you get a laser printer. This is based on the assumption that you will be asked to print off large reports and the like for the client or the client's contact/customer. An ordinary ink jet printer isn't fast enough for serious use.

You may want to ensure that your printer scans as well since you will inevitably want to be able to scan documents and to email them to people.

What software will depend on the type of clients that you service but I would have thought that Microsoft Office was a must have.

ouryve Fri 29-Mar-13 00:17:51

I'm guessing you'll mostly be using standard office and communication tools?

A laptop is more adaptable, so long as you can fund a decent one. My current laptop is a £1100 Dell one I got half price form the outlet store and very fast, though you could get a similar power desktop for much less, so long as you knew you'd only use it in once place.

For a printer, it's best if you work out what sort of stuff you'll need to print for work and in what sort of volume. You should be able to find price comparisons including real running costs, online.

NetworkGuy Sat 06-Apr-13 20:17:42

Have you decided anything yet ?

When I had no phone line at home for a time in 2006/7 (and therefore internet access was awkward, especially as some of the time I remote control clients' PCs to iron out problems), I worked from the under-the-stairs cupboard at a friend's shop, using my laptop and his internet (and there was a drinks machine in his workshop, the next room, so plenty of choices of refreshment, and it even used my favourite, Kenco coffee!).

I have a number of (Toshiba) laptops, a Dell Inspiron and an Acer, plus a pile of desktop and iMac systems) with the vast majority bought on Ebay for 200 pounds or less.

While they were suitable for me (s/h running XP and then a few running Windows 7), I'd expect you to be getting something in the 300-500 pound price bracket, with either Windows 7 (if you can still find it, and I know I'd probably prefer it even now) or Windows 8.

There really are a lot to choose from and someone not many weeks ago listed 4 laptops running from 299 to about 349. I'd probably recommend buying from say John Lewis (2 year warranty, price match) but trying beforehand in PC World, say, as they have a wide range, and perhaps a big Tesco store if they have a dedicated section with laptops/PC on display.

A laptop would probably be advantageous just for the ability to take it with you to a client's site, if absolutely necessary, so do think about weight as well as battery life. However, I'd go with one of the suggestions about having other things to plug in (such as a USB keyboard, and possibly a screen, too), so you can sit at a desk and have a screen closer to eye level, and a full size keyboard. Recent laptops have sometimes 'skimped' on USB ports, so consider a powered USB hub (so you can plug in any extras - eg external hard drive - 1 TB {1000 GB} is down to perhaps 60 pounds, plus your camera, mobile, iPod {well, you may as well expect to have some new toys from your new business...} but as well as having a powered hub you could get a couple of the cheap, unpowered hubs {and 1 metre USB extension cables} from Poundland for the day when/if the powered hub might die. Best to have considered the eventuality and been prepared.

Similarly, when you have 300 quid to spare, get a spare laptop of similar spec and what's more, use it too. If this is your business then it's not too much to consider and if your laptop was being repaired under warranty and away for 2 weeks, your clients would be less than impressed if there was no chance of anything being worked on...

NetworkGuy Sat 06-Apr-13 20:25:49

On the option of remote storage, I was just given 50 GB of cloud storage space, free 'for life' because I bought a Sony Xperia mobile. I bought a refurbished Tipo model for 50 quid from O2, (new they are 80 + a top-up) but T-Mobile has them at 50 quid.

Space is provided by 'The Box' ( and for anyone with an Xperia phone it should be automatically upgraded from 5 GB to 50 GB as an offer which expires December 2013 (they have extended it from 2012, and perhaps from 2011, when I think it was launched). Might be worthwhile.

The Sony Xperia T is reduced to 23 quid (26 including the Three 'One Plan' which allows tethering, so if you were working away from home, it would allow you to connect from Laptop to mobile (as a Wi-Fi hotspot) and then onto the internet. It was Sony's flagship mobile for a few months before they launched the Xperia Z.

If you went for the Xperia T you'd get a high resolution camera (12 Mpixel I think), plus the One Plan offering of unlimited internet data (yes, honestly - I've used 20-30 GB a month in the past year on one of their 15 quid plans), and the Xperia would get you the 'cloud' storage for free, as a bonus.

NetworkGuy Sat 06-Apr-13 20:36:30

On software, while I'd generally say to people (for home use) to get the free Open Office or Libre Office, you'd probably need Microsoft Office.

Consider buying a version with 3 licences, so you could install it on your reserve laptop and even for personal use on a home PC too. Also consider whether your PA work might include use of Access database (it's not in the low end Office, unfortunately), and either reject that work or bite the bullet and not just buy Office with it in, but actually use it with some of the sample data that should be provided, to get used to making alterations to a database in case you were asked to update a DB with contact details. OK, not that likely for all PAs, I suppose, but if the list was of CEOs of say 500 firms, with e-mail addresses and mobile numbers, it may well be something that had been stored in Access (though Excel may have been a more popular choice)!

Unfortunately Miscrosoft has a policy of making software redundant and with Office that has a 3 year cycle, so you get roughly 6 years from purchase to the end of support. It guarantees MS a big income stream with all the big business suckers users having to spend a fortune replacing Windows and Office frequently. Smaller businesses can be affected, too, of course, if they get on this merry-go-round.

NetworkGuy Sat 06-Apr-13 20:44:44

Back to the USB and plugging in - I really would suggest doing that - not only because some of the laptops have no number pad, but use function combinations, but because you could find a keyboard you like and have that as a 'standard' so no matter which laptop(s) you buy in future, your regular typing speed can be based on the USB plug-in and not need to worry over individual laptops having different layout for some keys...

It's very rare I need to use a laptop's keyboard (apart from some of the functions so I can switch from the laptop screen to view a film on my 42" TV via HDMI cable, for example). Some of the multimedia keyboards and wireless keyboard have a 'sleep' button on them, which is ideal so there is hardly any delay to get back to where you were (eg if an important client is on the phone, you can be back to having the laptop 'ready' in seconds)...

Oh yes, do consider an under the laptop cooling fan at some point, in case we get another summer like '76 as it will be vital to not have your laptop overheat and shut down while working on something!

AlliterationAlley Thu 11-Apr-13 22:36:21

Hi Networkguy. Thank you for all your thoughts - you make some very valid observations and I am adding them to my business plan. grin.

I may be old fashioned - but cloud storage does worry me in terms of offering my clients absolute security.

Oh and back in the day - a few years ago when I had my proper office job we used DocsOpen as the document management system on the computers - which was a brilliant way of easily accessing clients work etc. does this still exist, is it still current?

I plan to contact the firm I worked for last as my first port of call in touting business and undercutting temp agencies grin.

howshouldibehave Fri 12-Apr-13 10:26:09

I'm just interested in your point about cloud storage mot offering your clients absolute security-what would you say would offer this?

AlliterationAlley Fri 12-Apr-13 12:04:08

Hi Howshoildibehave my feeling with cloud storage is that ultimately it's out of my control and I worry about having clients stuff stored in the ether somewhere unknown.

I really don't know enough about it tbh.

My feeling is ultimately to keep things at close reach - by that I men backing up to a few different sources and keeping one set of back up off site.

As I say - I'm old fashioned.

If anyone can offer me something more informed then I shall welcome that info with an open mind.

NetworkGuy Sat 13-Apr-13 23:33:26

I can happily accept keeping backups on some other storage mechanism (and 3 copies, as in grandfather, father, son versions... hostoric terminology of course!)

NetworkGuy Sat 13-Apr-13 23:33:37

If you are able to read reviews about cloud storage, or try before you buy, then consider whether the data that is uploaded is encrypted or not. If it is encrypted with some passphrase of your choice, then one would hope that it is secure.

However, I remember recently seeing a news item about some US ISPs reporting users (customers) to the authorities because as a matter of routine, all data that was stored in their 'cloud storage' was routinely scanned for child porn.

While I would never condone anyone having child porn and find the whole matter distasteful and abhorrent, and one might consider scanning for such material a public service, it's perhaps one step too far if the person storing any files online does not know what scanning may take place and who has access to those files.

For them to be scanned, one has to assume they are not in some encrypted format (or if they are encrypted, that the key is also stored and has been used to decrypt the data) and it begs the question that if they can be scanned by some software, what's to stop a crooked employee of the storage firm from copying millions of other peoples' documents, on the assumption the files can be viewed by staff {one hopes there would be records kept of any such accesses, but you never know}.

unlucky83 Sun 14-Apr-13 00:18:45

I work from home/did my partner's accounts ...I have a 15.6 inch laptop on a monitor shelf at a desk with an external keyboard and mouse -mine is £500 samsung one about a year old before that I had a business £1500+ Dell one - still going after almost 10 years (hard drive did fail after 8 years) but technology moves so fast don't think it is worth investing that much in a computer now.
Laptop cos you can work anywhere ...boring train journeys etc
Agree laser if need lots of printing - but consider an all in one inkjet as well - wireless, scanner, photocopies ..I'd be lost without it - scanned docs much better than from photos)
Back up to external hard drive - every night if possible - hard drives can fail without warning! (happened to me - busy and I'd been putting off backing up till I'd just finished XYZ - lost loads). But also do weekly backups to a big USB, have 2 and keep them off site and rotate them - if one fails you will have a spare that is a week old at the most ...
(I'm not comfortable with Cloud storage ...what if they go bust/ off line, get hacked etc etc)
In Windows I don't use My documents/libraries -I store in a separate folder (Asafedocs) on the D drive (or C drive if you aren't partioned) - my docs etc are stored as you as a user -if for any reason your user account gets deleted your documents will go too -and are likely to be overwritten -gone for good (happened to me having mine put onto the network where I used to work).
I'm using Libre office - fed up with MS office (I use databases - would have cost £400! for Office with Access - although using Access from 2002 (on Windows 7! ) cos not managed to get Base to all I want yet... - Libre/Open office are not compatible for more complex layouts - but just simple text/spreadsheets - I would go for it!
(BTW HMRC Gift Aid now provide downloadable spreadsheets - an Excel version and (da da -fanfare please - progress being made!!!) an Open Office one!)
And get a cheap back up laptop -even notebook- just to get you though any breakdown disasters...

Heyonino Sun 14-Apr-13 00:28:38

Think carefully about the printer. Will you be producing hard copies of long documents for clients? If you will then get a machine that duplexes and mabe staples as well. Many photocopiers will scan and print these days and you can lease these - but read any leasing agreement very carefully - dont rely on what the salesperson tells you.

unlucky83 Sun 14-Apr-13 00:32:31

And free useful software -
Nitropdf - allows you to 'print' a document to a pdf .....
And PDFmate ...merges pdfs together to one file...
And Mozilla Thunderbird - desktop e-mail you can link web based email to (eg google/hotmail/yahoo) - (don't auto sync!) and you can delete your e-mails from the web -store them on your computer -back them up and they are safe from hackers! and your contacts - so you won't email your clients viruses disguised as adverts for viagra (but then you can't access old emails/contacts when out and about from your phone...)

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