Opportunities For IS Improvements - After the visit to the Recycling Consortium we managed to identify several opportunities for improvements in their Information Systems.
Opportunities For IS Improvements
After the visit to the Recycling Consortium we managed to identify several opportunities for improvements in their Information Systems.
1) Remote Access/Teleworking Many of staff often conducted a lot of their work at home rather than in the office. This worked well as it saved on office space and it seems pointless going into the office to do the work when it can just as easily be done at home especially when some of the staff do not live in the nearer enough to the office to make it feasible for them to travel there on a daily basis.
The problem is however that working from home meant it was difficult to get up to date copies of certain documents. Staff would find themselves coming into the office just to get a copy then go home to work on it. Sometimes emailing the documents would work for staff with Internet access in the home but this is not practical for larger files such as picture documents. Another problem was that even when the documents could be accessed at home with ease there is no knowing if someone else is also working on them. When this happens they end up with two copies of a document and would somehow have to put them together. The possible solutions to this problem are to set up a Remote Access Server (RAS) so the teleworkers can have access to the office network from home through a dial up server. Another solution is to improve the organisation's website to include a password access to the office network (this would be similar to the Learning Resource Web or LRW used at UWE). Other solutions could be a remote desktop or a Virtual Private Network (VPN). All of these solutions would have high security issues.
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2) Improve the current office network the office network currently installed in the office is a PeerToPeer system with one main server connecting 16 workstations.
This network works well for its purpose but there are ways to improve it making it more efficient or more reliable. One problem was that the client PC were saving work on to the own hard disk on occasion which creates a problem of having duplicate documents stored in more than one place.
There are many solutions to this problem as there are many different methods of setting up a network. One may to use a Master/Slave method instead of the PeerToPeer method used. This would mean the PCs all connect to the main file server and work off it instead of unloading the file to their own PCs to work on.
3) Security Issues - the current security in the office is firewall software called Zone Alarm. This is freeware software and acts as a reliable firewall.
However with it being free there is more efficient and reliable firewall software out there. This issue would become far more important if the remote access issue were advanced. The solution therefore would be to purchase a more advanced firewall that would offer improved security for the office network.
4) Back-Up System - Currently at the end of each week all the important documents are backed up CD-ROM using CD-RW on the office computers. One copy of the CDs is stored outside the office and one in the office.
At present this takes up 10-12 CDs each week and also takes sometime to bum the CDs and store them.
A solution to this problem would be to use a different storage media. Possible alternatives are DVD-R, which would save space but take just as long, storage on a hard disk either on a desktop computer or a laptop for storage outside the office. Another solution is to store the back up online but this is not feasible due to the large size of the files.
5) Email System - The current email system is on a outdated PC connected to the network which is purely used for email. The PC receives the email through a cable Internet connection then forwards the email to the appropriate inbox.
This system seems to work very efficiently and very rarely has problems. However there are possible improvements such as connecting the main file server directly to the Internet connection to sort with the email therefore saving office space taken up by the out dated PC.
The Recycling Consortium have an impressive IT infractucture, especially considering the size and status of their organisation. In their Office in Bristol, have a basic Local Area Network set up. 16 PCs in all make up the Peer-To-Peer based network system with one PC acting as a file server. The PC connect to the server via 2 Excel * port mini hubs. The printers connected to the network are:
Brother HL-127ON Laser
Epson Colour 640
There are plans to purchase a new colour laser printer in the near future. They have a scanner, Agfa Snap Scanner 20 and a CD Writers with some of the PCs.
Also connected to the network is an outdated PC used for receiving and handling email using Pegasus Mail. This PC also routes the Cable Internet to the network allowing fast Internet access for the network with a download speed of 512kps and uploads speeds of 128kps.
The Email is the main communication facility used in the organisation. Because not all staff are in the office at the same time emailing is a effective way of communicating with them especially with the staff who have internet access at home and therefore can access their emails there. Only a third of the emails received at the Bristol Office are forwarded to inbox in the office with others going to staff mainly in Bath and Yate but also other people and places around the Southwest.
The PCs use either Microsoft Windows 98 or Millennium Edition (ME). The main file server uses Windows 98. The ratio of Windows 98 to Windows ME is 50:50.
The software used on the PCs is Microsoft Office Premium 2000, Internet Explorer 5, CorelDraw with Outlook Express for the email and Zone Alarm is used for a firewall.
The IT support in the Office is limited, Jane Thompson is the main person staff turn to for IT support. Most of her knowledge is self-taught but it is enough to get by without to many problems. When problems cannot be solved this way Jane seeks the help a former college who installed the Network and who she has learn most of her knowledge from in the past. She also uses advise from other friends and colleges outside the organisation when needed however most problems are settled in house. Jane describes the most common problem as one that seems to fix itself,
"By the time 1 have got to the problem it has gone away"
Jane informed us. This is usually when the PCs are overloaded and slow up or freeze and are believed to have "crashed" but usability returns in a short period of time.