Ask Adrian: Our tech editor tackles your trickiest technology problems
Q We have a small family construction business. The office PC is about five years old and extremely slow. The main uses are weekly wages, letters and correspondence, banking, revenue returns, accounts, VAT and emails that may include drawings. It's general office administration. Can you recommend a desktop PC and an A3 colour printer/scanner/photocopier to suit? Also, what backup device would you suggest and what checks and upgrades need to be carried out to keep the PC running and functioning smoothly?
A There's a lot in your question, so I'll try to keep each part simple.
With a PC, you either buy the PC box and hook it up to your existing monitor, keyboard and mouse, or you buy an 'all in one' system. The former is the cheaper option. For example, you'll get a decent Dell Inspiron 3268 PC, with the decent specifications of Intel i5 processor, 8GB of Ram and 1,000GB of storage, for €600 (PC World).
But if you want a similar-powered 'all in one' option, you'll pay a lot more. HP's Pavilion PC, with a 27-inch monitor built in, costs €1,300.
Realistically, it sounds like you'll want at least four or five years out of your PC. That being the case, you should spend the extra money now to get one that has relatively future-proof specifications. (In particular, don't get a PC with a weaker chip or under 8GB of Ram.)
As for an all-in one printer-scanner-copier, there are a couple of serviceable models on the market. You'll pay around €150 to €250 for a decent quality model designed for home office or small office use. Brother's MFC-J5330 (€179 from Harvey Norman) wireless model would probably suit. Epson's EcoTack 4500 model (€279 from Harvey Norman) is a little more robust for a small office.
You're completely right to enquire about a backup device. Not only are these generally useful if your computer goes down, but they're indispensable in the event of common IT security events. For example, in a ransomware attack, there is usually no alternative to paying the ransom unless you have a reliable backup of everything (in which case you can simply reboot from your backup with all of your information intact). Your best option here is probably a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device. This automatically backs everything up on a daily or weekly basis without you having to manually do it. There are lots of options here, but based on what you say your office does, a basic network storage service would probably suffice. Western Digital's My Cloud Home system works pretty well and costs between €200 and €2,000, depending on how much storage you want and how many separate access logins you need. For example, a 6,000GB system with one common login costs €325 from Maplin. An 8,000GB system with multiple logins costs €550 from the same retailer. From what you describe, this amount of backup data should suffice for many years, unless you start introducing videos or a great many high-resolution photos as part of your workflow.
As for the checks and upgrades, third-party anti-virus software is not always a brilliant solution (Windows' own security software is much better now than in previous years) but is still generally effective. This will cost around €50 to €100 per year from reputable vendors such as AVG or Symantec. From time to time, it's also a good idea to 'clean out' your PC. There are some programs that can help such as PC Decrapifier which you can download from pcdecrapifier.com.
RECOMMENDATION: Dell Inspiron 3268 (€599 from PC World, inset) Epson EcoTack 4500 (€279 from Harvey Norman), Western Digital MyCloud 8TB (€550 from Maplin)
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