WHAT DO YOU NEED TO USE THE E-COC

Technologies and Resources

Okay, so let's get into the minimum technological requirements you would need to use the E-COC as briefly touched on in Chapter 1. Firstly all of these requirements are equally important save perhaps for output.

Input requirements

Input requirements are those items you would need in the creation process of your E-COC

Computers

Of course in terms of these days having a computer for general office management such as managing your own client base, rendering of invoices, receipts, ordering of stock, internet banking and even research is not uncommon. If you do not yet have one it is perhaps time to get one since it will always serve a purpose.

Desktop Computers vs. Mobile Computers (Laptops and Notebooks)

Choosing the machine for the job don't have to be expensive neither difficult. Although Desktop Computers are perfectly fine I only recommend them if you either already have one or this is how your office environment is setup. The downside is that it's an easy target for theft, parts can be hard to come by and upgrading can be time consuming.

However, if you do not yet have a computer or consider getting a replacement I would recommend that you get a Notebook (Laptop is simply an older terms still used for the same).

Choosing the right Notebook

Of course ideally you would want the latest and greatest but that is most certainly not a must. Instead as an IT Professional I will give you two great options.

  • Intel i3 Notebook with 8Gb of Memory (Dell, Lenovo, ASUS, Samsung). I consider other brands to have sub-par performance, inconsistent hardware support. Of course if you always need to have multiple applications running at the same time then consider an Intel i5 Notebook. Lastly thoroughly test the keyboard before purchase as it is often the most overlooked feature yet it is your primary form of input.

or if you prefer something more tailored to the task

  • Chromebook. Chromebooks are essentially Notebooks but less expensive and offers a good starting point. By all accounts these come in different flavours and it is recommended to go for just above entry level. They are optimized for internet, light and compact.

Choosing the right internet

Although it is great to have a fast connection, it is much more important to have a reliable connection. Some types of Internet Connectivity will succeed in both others might not. So there are several factors to take into account such as type,cost, availability, location and the ISP's (Internet Service Provider) service offerings.

Type and cost

Although the current buzzword is 'fiber' it is for a lot of us still an expensive means to connect to the internet and not yet available everywhere. If you can afford fiber then any solution will be fine as 'fiber' is synonymous with high speed, high availability (up time) and overall reliable. I only recommend this option in an office setup due to cost.

While fiber is normally a physical connection, you also get Broadband Wireless which at its core works similar to fiber but can be equally as expensive as fiber if not more. Similar to fiber I recommend Broadband Wireless in office setups or locations where other technologies are not available or poorly supported.

Although set to be phased out in the next few years for many of us DSL is still a go to solution. Due to DSL being phased out, a common problem might be constant outages but this depends greatly on the Telkom infrastructure in your location. Overall a stable DSL connection is still a good choice at the moment and is cost effective. However if you do not yet have DSL please have Telkom test the quality of your Telkom line first. But it is an option I would recommend for both work and home if the quality of connection is good.

Satellite Internet is an expensive, slow and very unaccommodating solution, but in many remote locations it may be the only means to get on the Internet. It is what can be referred to as a last resort option. At best satellite internet is slow and prone to atmospheric conditions. Those who have DSTV can relate how poor this can be if it is extremely cloudy, raining etc. Satellite Internet is no different. So only consider this option if you absolutely have to.

Mobile Internet remains a popular option for almost all occasions save perhaps for reception but since the E-COC won't consume more data than browsing all day if you are in an area which supports 3G or greater than even a pay as you go prepaid solution would be suitable. I recommend this for smaller businesses and home users, it is also perfect for those on the go. If you have a modern smartphone with internet you can set it up as a mobile hotspot and you are set. Recent surveys reveals that in many countries users still prefer their Mobile Cellular Plan over other Internet Technologies. I would definitely recommend Mobile Internet as an option, at the very least it offers you with a means to connect if your primary line is down and you need to be on the Internet.

There are other technologies and means to connect to the internet but none that I can readily recommend. But none of those are in my opinion consumer ready. I myself use LTE (4G) / 3G whenever I need to build out on the E-COC, fix a problem or assist a member as I can do it virtually from any location. And with plans now in action to reduced mobile data costs in South Africa for most it will remain the go to option.

Availability and Location

Above I outlined the different technologies but you need to consider which to pursue in terms of where you are based. Remote areas and mountainous terrains will prevent you from having DSL, Fiber and depending on Mobile Cell Towers leave you with only Satellite Internet. It is far and few in between but still not having internet can severely taper your internet experience.

In areas where DSL is barely supported it is recommend to stay away from DSL altogether and choose Mobile Internet or Wireless Broadband if it fits your pocket.

Personally I recommend to use the best most affordable technology for your location that have a decent up time and availability. This is ever so important if the functioning of your business depends on this. These days we use software to produce receipts, rely on internet banking to make payments, view statements and make sure bills are paid. We also rely on the internet to keep in touch with out clients. So if you want to do it right, present all of these options to your ISP or IT Professional and ask what is best for you. But in the end you need a reliable connection and not so much a fast connection, not for office use.

Choosing an ISP (Internet Service Provider)

There are many ISP's and asking which is the right one like asking something what your next smartphone should be. It is not an easy answer. But you can easily narrow your choices a bit.

Avoid newer ISP's and disregard their selling point, they need clients so they will often drive the selling point just to get you onboard. Choose an ISP which have been in business for some time which during that time have not dropped the penny on their clients. Sure there are the giants such as MWEB, TelkomSA, but they are using an old and outdated business model thus they work on costly price structures and their service offering is questionable.

Consider award winning ISP's such as Axxess and Afrihost which are like brother and sister, having a similar and modern business model they offer the latest to their clients where the price is inline with modern practices and more often than not have a wider service offering. And unlike older ISP's they do not bind you to a contract. Webafrica is another ISP, one of the older ISP's but with the modern offering and pricing of these mid-level ISP's.

I strongly recommend not to choose startup Internet Service providers as they still have teething problems to sort out, if they are not killed of by competition.

I have omitted corporate service providers since based on research most of our members do not make use of them at this point in time.

If your company are making use of their own Internal IT Department for internet provision then consider providing them with this to make sure your company is using a good ISP. Otherwise use this information in such cases where your IT Department is not involved or in the event where your company do not have a dedicated IT Department

Printers

The E-COC is designed to be printed on A4 paper. Each page will be on a separate A4 page. You are also more than welcome to print on plain white paper (although those whom prefer may print on yellow paper to resemble paper-based CoC but it is completely optional). Furthermore you may also print back to front should you so desire.

If you already have a printer you should be set. Of course due to the complexity of the layout and small spaces such as on the Test Report (page 3) it is worthwhile to print with a LaserJet printer and not an InkJet printer.

InkJet printers use cartridges normally 1 for black and up to three for colour. LaserJet printers use toners. Mono type LaserJet printers use black only toners where as color LaserJet printers user one toner for black and 3 or more toners for color

My main reason for recommending LaserJet over InkJet is because InkJet sprays ink on paper whereas LaserJet essentially burns the into on the paper. For your consideration:

  • InkJet due to spraying ink can cause smudging if ink if touched before dry
  • Inkjet printers produces course quality results.
  • Inkjet printer consumables are more expensive compared to LaserJet.

The following is all consumer grade printers and based on cost, ease of use and durability I recommend these brands

  • HP
  • Lexmark
  • Samsung