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Small Business Design

By Oldefar ·
Here are what I see as the key aspects of this design -
- Business objective:
This a professional service supporting a rural area. The service is consulting, provided primarily at the business office, but some of the providers work out of a second office as well.
- Business requirements:
Common scheduling of clients
Schedule access required at both offices and provider homes
Telephone is the primary scheduling interface to clients
Consulting is paper intensive
Fax (function not identified)
Billing mechanism (invoice, remittance, collection) to clients or insurance companies
HIPAA applies
Accounting for small business
Client data is extremely sensitive
- Business constraints:
Staff is non technical, use of technology limited to home user experience
Power to office is unreliable, past 60 days shows 3 days of power outage and over 4 hours of noisy line
Under 6 on staff
Cellular is not part of the current forecast
Second office has no business relation with first
Limited police presence in area
All calls outside of immediate area are toll, but extended calling plan available

I have my own thoughts on the best technical solutions. The short version is Internet PBX for telephony, and ASP solution to scheduling, billing, and accounting with a Web interface and smart card. Internet fax service, and a single office email. Thin client with browser and nic, DSL Internet access that includes managed router and firewall and managed or internal switch, UTP wiring.

I am leaning towards an IP telephone versus soft phone so the providers can bring it to the second office or home and receive client calls. I am leaning towards a open solution on the thin client for cost and performance.

If you have a different perspective on the technical solution approach, I am interested in hearing it.

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by CG IT In reply to Small Business Design

From an Information Technology perspective, e.g. computers, I would recommend to the client to use a 3rd part full business solution service provider if they have that through their phone company and/or DLS service provider. Having their own equipment is not recommended mostly due to the unreliable power situation. Damn thing would be a nuisance always going down or rebooting or whatnot and just cause more headaches than would be worth it. [you mentioned limited police presence but is it a high crime area?].

IMO this client doesn't really require their own computer system or Information Technology system that they rent/lease/own [except for maybe their own laptops]. You don't specify if they have a full time secrtary/book keeper/office manger/phone receptionist/all around do everything person, but say under 6 on staff so I'll assume they don't. So, that means mostly no one's at the office. So, for the office portion, I would opt for internet access docking stations at their office in which they can dock their laptops, and access whatever they need from a 3rd party full business solution provider. Rest is basically just plain ole mundane everyday business crap and I would just keep the status quo until the business can accommodate full time office person and even then I would recommend they continue with a 3rd party business solution provider until it warrants their own rent/lease/own equipment and by then they ought to move to a better location.

My opinion.

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by CG IT In reply to

I mentioned laptops as they can be carried around to where ever they go and access appointments and vital information via dialup access VPN where ever they are. My opinion.

The low crime but high penalty for information leaks says to me, don't have anything stored either at the office or one whatever appliance they use to access vital information. Lens credence to a 3rd party business solution where nothing is at their office or on the appliance they use to access the information.

again, just my opinion

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by CG IT In reply to

Sounds like Attorneys are your client, but I degress. Computers, be it laptops, desktops, "thin clients", servers, workstations and "whatnot" are just "tools" for an employer, employee, business, to do, that which they use to do by other means, easier, cheaper, better, meaning reduce costs and make more $$ than they previously would by other means. Thin clients are laptops per se and the user would cart em around just like laptops. no compromising data on em so, I would agree thin clients would be a solution. Even thin clients require some user orientation to use.

The bigger question is what 3rd party business solution could or would host their information & data services that they could securly access? And does that solution fit budget now and in the future? In a rural area, I would be at a loss. In a metropolitan area, the choices are more plentiful. I'd check with ISP providers in the area and find out whether they have such services.

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by CG IT In reply to

Talk to Joe Moore or Dklippert, TheChas, or many of the others , can't remember all great ones here, on the forums. I'm sure they also would have ideas for a solution to your clients neeeds.

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by Oldefar In reply to

Valid considerations. Thanks for the input.

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by Oldefar In reply to Small Business Design

The first answer references laptops. Why would I even want laptops or full PC in this scenario? Seems to me all they really need is a browser.

The area is not high crime, but the client information is sensitive and its disclosure would result in substantial fines even if due to a break-in.

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by Oldefar In reply to Small Business Design

No office staff, only practitioners. Any time spent on technology is time not earning revenue and time away from family.

The laptops strike me as additional weak links in security, so I hesitate to recommend them. The schedule is safe with SSL via any browser, so that is not an issue unless they have no access to a browser.

Growth is not forecasted. The rural aspect of the location (brand new building) will change over the next 5 years and become city location. I have reviewed the city master plan, and the only uncertainty at this point is the exact time frame. The office will be in an "estate" residential area when the city annexation occurs.

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by Oldefar In reply to Small Business Design

So far I have one concurrence with my design. Much appreciated and an answer I will accept.

I am holding this open in hopes of hearing legitimate objections or superior technical alternatives before awarding the points. Sort of a red team before client presentation.

Maybe somebody can poke a big ugly hole in this that I missed? Don't be shy - any thoughtful input is appreciated and will be rewarded.

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by md_hashim In reply to Small Business Design

The Design you speak of is more localized to the NAMO & EMEA regions. Cannot be extended to APAC & Africa. Infrastructure is key in arriving at a design.
- Hashim

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by Oldefar In reply to

Good insight on regional constraints. Thanks for the input.

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