Most businesses and organizations use computers on a daily basis. In fact, it is difficult to find an office or store that does not use computer technology to help them with at least one business task. One thing is certain: There are so many different ways in which a business or individual can use computer technology that it would be impossible to count them. The wide variety could translate into big problems for computer companies if they tried to sell identical computer systems to every client. For example, a freelance writer would probably not be interested in math software used for advanced mathematical calculations on personal computers. Likewise, a bank or insurance company has different database needs than a law firm.
In order to meet clients' various needs, many computer manufacturers, retailers, and service centers offer to customize commercial hardware and software for each client. Systems might differ by quantity of random access memory (RAM), speed and type of fax/modem, networking capabilities, and software packages. Systems setup specialists install new computer systems and upgrade existing ones to meet the specifications of the client. The main differences among setup specialists are their clients (individuals or businesses) and the level of systems they are qualified to work on.
Some specialists work in-house for large computer manufacturers, retailers, or service centers. Their clients are typically individuals buying for home use as well as small- to medium-sized businesses with minimal computing needs.
In the setup lab, specialists receive orders that list system specifications. They follow instructions on how to set up the computer properly, and install hardware, such as memory chips, sound cards, fax/modems, fans, microprocessors, and system boards. They also install any software requested by the client. Next, they configure the hard drive so it knows exactly what hardware and software is connected to it. Finally, they run diagnostic tests on the system to make sure everything is running well.
The main goal is to eliminate the need for clients to do any setup work on the computer once they receive it. Clients should be able to plug it in, turn it on, and get it to work right away. In some cases, specialists even at this level will be sent to a client's location to install the system and provide some initial training on how to use it.
Other systems setup specialists work for companies that sell predominately to medium- and large-sized businesses. These specialists split their time between the employer's setup lab and the client's location. In the lab, they make initial preparations for installation. Some of the computer equipment might come from other manufacturers or suppliers, and so they have to verify that it is free of defects. They also check that they have all the necessary hardware parts, software, etc., before going to the client's location.
Depending on the size and complexity of the system to be installed, they might travel to the client's location one or more times before installation in order to map out the required wiring, communications lines, and space. They plan these details carefully. If wires are hard to reach, for example, future repairs and upgrade will be difficult. If the system is large, setup specialists might recommend and build a raised floor in the client's computer center. The paneled floor allows easy access to the complex electrical and communications wiring.
Once thorough preparations have been made, setup specialists move the equipment to the clients' location to begin installation. Their on-site work might include configuring hard drives or network servers. They also connect peripherals: printers, phones, fax machines, modems, and numerous networked terminals. When everything is in place, they run extensive diagnostic tests to ensure that the system is running well. Invariably, they encounter problems. One terminal may not be able to send files to another, for example. Another terminal might be unable to establish fax communications outside the company. Solving problems requires consulting flow charts, other computer professionals, and technical manuals. The next round of testing occurs when the users begin working on the system. Some clients might prefer to simulate normal use while setup specialists stand by to correct problems. Large business installations can take days or even weeks to complete.
Sometimes, setup specialists are involved with technical support in training client users on the new system. They must be well versed in the details of how to use the system properly and be able to explain it to individuals who might not know much about computers.
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