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					                                    Variant 15 Task 1 (Practice 3)

       SOHO Tech                                                                    7/1/2004

       By Joel Durham Jr

        SOHO Tech: The State of Small Office/Home Office Technology
        Big companies have dedicated information technology (IT) departments. If you want
something that has anything to do with technology, such as a Palm device or a speaker phone, you
put in a request via the IT department and pray to the gods of bureaucracy that it goes through. Small
business owners and home office users usually make their own decisions concerning business
technology--which comes with advantages and disadvantages. The big downside is that, without
dedicated experts, it's up to you to research and deploy new technology devices and strategies. The
primary upshot is that you make the decision to buy or alter something based on your needs. The
technological future of your company is in your hands.
        This is a good time to be enjoying such authority. SOHO (small office/home office)
technology is booming! It's easier than ever to employ gadgetry and software to streamline your
business and make your life more convenient. As technologies mature, the prices tend to come down.
For instance, look at wireless networking: a year ago, a high-speed access point based on IEEE
802.11g technology cost well over $100; now you can get one for around $50 (after rebate).

       Let's take a look at the groovy technology out there that makes operating in a SOHO
environment simple and rewarding.


        Wireless Technology
        Networking computers and getting gadgets to communicate with each other is easier than it
ever has been, thanks to the burgeoning field of wireless technology. Years ago, people relied on
cabling up their offices to get their computers to talk to each other to share files, printers and other
resources. More cabling schemes required expensive switches, while earlier cabling topology actually
relied on one, single chain running from computer to computer--and if it came unplugged at any
point, the whole network would go down.
        Now, you can simply purchase a wireless access point for the office, and wireless network
cards for each computer, to create a network. While the price of such hardware is greater than the cost
of cabled network components, going wireless makes up for the difference in convenience. Running
cables can be unsightly, and to hide them you have to run them through the walls--a difficult and time
consuming procedure. Furthermore, many wireless routers are not only designed for networking but
also for sharing a broadband Internet connection--something for which you'd need dedicated
hardware in a wired network.

       Computers aren't the only gear with wireless capability. Using a wireless technology called
Bluetooth, smaller gadgets like palmtop computers and wireless phones can communicate with PCs
and each other. Hundreds of Bluetooth devices populate computer store shelves, including headsets,
modems, keyboards, printers, gaming devices, security devices, and more.

        As wireless technology evolves, look for wireless communication to blossom between
virtually any technological devices; someday, the only wire we'll need for our gear is the power
cable!

       Security
       The problem with wireless technology is that, unlike wired networks, it's susceptible to
invasion from outside the office. Hackers can access your network, leech off your Internet
connection, steal important documents, and generally compromise your security.

        Security has been a problem throughout the evolution of wireless networking (IEEE 802.11x,
or Wi-Fi) technology. An early security system called WEP (wired equivalent privacy) has proven to
be easy to hack (although it's better than nothing). Alternatives existed, but they were complicated.
For instance, one workaround was to use Windows's built-in Virtual Private Networking, which is
actually designed for creating LAN-style networks over the Internet. To combat hackers, a new
security system, called WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) was developed by a consortium of wireless
hardware providers. WPA has proven to be much more secure than WEP.

        With your wireless network locked down, there's still the matter of securing your system from
Internet attacks. All computers or networks connected to the 'Net should be protected by two
programs: a firewall and an antivirus application. Many wireless gateways have firewalls built-in. For
single-computer protection, there's an excellent freebie firewall called ZoneAlarm
(www.zonelabs.com), and Windows XP comes with its own firewall. Antivirus software is a must for
each workstation on the network; viruses can spread through networks, email and floppy disks, so
each computer needs to be protected.

       For advanced security, the NTFS file system (available with Windows XP, 2000 and NTx)
supports powerful file encryption. Microsoft's next file system, currently known as WinFS, and
which will probably debut with XP's successor (codenamed Longhorn), will have even more
powerful native fine encryption.


        Collaboration
        In office environments with multiple users working toward the same goal, it's important to
collaborate. The latest Microsoft Office product, Office 2003, was designed with collaboration in
mind. Documents and spreadsheets can be shared across a network, other users can add markups,
users can employ NetMeeting to meet in real-time with chat and a whiteboard, and so on.
        Some businesses might require collaboration with people in different parts of the world. A
host of companies have worked to fill this need. For instance, HotOffice (http://www.hotoffice.com),
an online office suite, lets you easily share documents with other users across the globe.


        Small Business Server
        Microsoft has a specific server suite targeted directly at small businesses. Small Business
Server includes a host of goodies like Exchange Server, internet sharing, an intranet server, and more.
Designed with ease of use in mind, it employs a bevy of wizards to help you accomplish your goals.
It comes complete with a backup system, remote access, and other goodies to maximize your
productivity without compromising security or data integrity. Small Business Server 2003 is actually
a fourth-generation product and Microsoft continues to develop the suite, so look for even more
features and conveniences in the future.
        ...And So On...
        SOHO users are treated to a wealth of other delicious gadgets and software, from two-line
cordless phones with headset adapters to mice with side-scrolling capability; from all-in-one
computers that cost hundreds, not thousands, of dollars, to wireless projection devices that let them
share PowerPoint presentations with the rest of the staff in the conference room.

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