From the July 1998 issue of Startups

Considering a computer upgrade? Evaluate your needs, resources and plans for the future before making that decision, advises Opie Thompson, shop manager at SMI PC, a computer sales and service firm in Carrollton, Georgia.

Thompson, who regularly consults with small businesses about upgrades, says the first step is asking yourself "Why do I need to upgrade, and how far do I need to go?"

Changing or adding software programs is the most common reason entrepreneurs need to upgrade their computers, says Thompson, because the new software may not work with existing hardware. "Look at the system requirements on the software package, and look at what your computer has," he says. "You may have everything needed except [adequate] memory." Another change you may need to make to accommodate new software is to install a faster modem or processor.

Although price is a major consideration, Thompson recommends you also weigh the costs of continuing to do business with an outmoded machine. You may lose money wasting precious hours waiting for a slow computer to work.

Keep in mind your plans for growth. "Look to the future; then, go a little beyond [those needs]," Thompson advises. "When you upgrade, you want to make it count."


Donna Chambers is a freelance business writer and small-business owner. She can be reached at donna94142@aol.com

True Or False?

Net surfers, beware: Is the information you get from the Web reliable? "Anyone can publish information on the Web for free or nearly free," says Bliss Sloan, vice president of EagleRidge Technologies Inc., a computer consulting firm in Rockwood, Tennessee. "Because of this ease of publishing, there's perhaps more incorrect advice on the Web than in other media."

How do you find Web sites you can trust? Sloan's suggestions for weeding out the good, the bad and the ugly:

  • Go straight to the source. If you want to find information about Hewlett-Packard printers, for example, don't visit a clearinghouse site; go to the Hewlett-Packard site.
  • Use several search engines to research a topic. Then visit the sites that showed up in more than one search. They're likely to be the most credible.
  • Consider the site's purpose. If it's advertising, be aware that any information given may be skewed in favor of the product or service.
  • Look for sites that list plenty of contact information. It's easy for a dishonest person to hide behind an e-mail address.
  • Visit sites of companies, organizations and publications with which you are already familiar and know to be trustworthy.

"There's an amazing amount of good information on the Web," says Sloan, and if you carefully screen sites, you're likely to get good results.

No Waiting

By Laura Tiffany

All business owners want their companies to be busy--but not too busy for important clients. If your clients are getting busy signals when they try to fax you via your computer's modem, you may want to check out the Futurefax 144, a computer and fax modem that works with your computer to accept faxes--even when your system is busy or shut off.

Incoming faxes are saved in the Futurefax 144 computer and can be accessed at your leisure by printing them or viewing and saving them through the Windows applications provided with purchase. Because the cigar box-sized Futurefax uses your PC's printer, it eliminates the need for a traditional fax machine and fax paper, saving valuable space in a small office.

The Futurefax 144 sends and receives faxes at 14,400 bps and requires 0.5MB of hard-drive space for installation. Suggested retail price: $299 for the model with 1MB RAM; $329 for the 4MB RAM model. Additional upgrades are also available.

From Advanced Image Communications in Pleasant Hill, California. To order, call (888) GET-FAX4

Contact Sources

Advanced Image Communications, http://www.aicmail.com

EagleRidge Technologies Inc., (423) 354-1500, OneTahiti@aol.com

SMI PC, (770) 834-9604, http://www.smipc.net