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Article Last Updated 10/15/2008

How to Overcome Your Fear of Computers

Why do many Innkeepers Fear and Loathe Computers?

C-O-M-P-U-T-E-R spells fear and even betrayal to many innkeepers. Innkeepers proudly offer an old fashion service that is almost extinct in today’s modern age. They run Inns where folks can relax and get away from the busy high-tech city. A place to enjoy homemade food, shop for arts and crafts, enjoy peace and quite, and escape the daily grind.  For these reasons a computer seems to be an intrusion.  Yet a computer dominated economy exists and many of your guests are now demanding in room internet access. 

Most computer and internet fears stems from the wide variety of choices, setup problems, and security issues. And let’s face it; if you did not grow up with computer technology, and fear unknown problems that are sure to happen; then you'll need some answers before you jump in.

To an older generation, computers are very complex and many will need to hire a computer geek just to set things up. Buzz words like “giga byte”, USB, LAN, “antivirus”, etc., intimidate and raise real questions as to how one can make any intelligent or informed choices.  Choices that may impact how you run your business and if made incorrectly could potentially have a negative impact on your income.

The truth is that you are not willing to risk the business that is paying the bills and putting food on the table, unless you know for certain that it will not harm your bottom line. So let’s examine these fears one at a time and see if there are ways to overcome them.

1. Loss of Control

Pencils do not need electricity, nor do they require upgrades, or get viruses. You currently have a good filing system, and thanks to the US mail, pens and paper can communicate all your needs.  If you are over 50 then you know about small paper phone books with blank pages that you can buy at any office supply store. In these phone books you can keep all of your important phone numbers and addresses. They have several pages for each letter of the alphabet and if you were smart, then you always made all your entries in pencil. You also know that these books eventually become so full that you can no longer find room to add more numbers and sooner or later you will have to start another book and transfer active numbers into this phone book by hand. Since you can never be sure which numbers to keep and often have several entries for the same friend, this task can be daunting. 

A computer address book would have kept all of your contacts in order by first name, or last name, or any other order you want. You can add notes to yourself about each contact and keep other information like email address and chat user names. It even has a neat little search feature, that lets you find stuff like 'best wine'. If you put 'best wine' as a description in several of your entries on the computer, then search will list all of them for you.

Here is another example: Say you had a couple that got married at your Inn and loved every moment of their stay. You may want to invite them back on their 10th or 20th anniversary, but wait a minute, although you have files going back 20 years they are all in boxes stored in the attic. What good is that information? With a computer you could have an alarm system that emails you all such important events or even automatically have your computer send an invitation to your customers based on their past visits.  Just think of the room you could free up in your attic not having to store all that paper. 

There are many other examples but the lesson here is that even if you have a way to keep all your data, you cannot efficiently utilize much of it.  A computer gives you vastly more control over your data and can make storing it profitable.

2. Fear of Exposure

There have been a lot of movies and stories written about computer piracy. The word usually evoked is ‘hacking’. Presumable a hacker can gain access to all your records and steal or destroy them.  While this may have been true 10 or 20 years ago, the truth is that your stored information is far safer on your computer than it is in locked file cabinets.

These days, your computer has a built in firewall, anti-spy, anti-virus, malicious software removal tools, and a host of other standard features, which prevent hackers from gaining any access to your computer. Your computer uses 64 or 128 bit encryption, previously only available to top secret government agencies, this makes any private communications over your wireless internet or Ethernet connections, completely secure.

All of your data can be automatically backed up at an off site location; using a secure line.  In case someone steals your computer, there is a password feature that prevents a thief from accessing your private information.

Using a service like Carbonite.Com, you can store all your data using  encryption for about $50 per year and never have to worry about power surges or viruses destroying everything you have collected.  A service like Carbonite has unlimited storage so you can store all your pictures and personal files as well.  It does the backup in the background or at night and requires you to do nothing.

3. Confusion over hardware and software to buy.

With so many different computer brand names available, how can you decide which is the best? The fear of making a wrong choice or not getting some key feature that you will need later but were not aware up at purchase time.  This fear can prevent many shoppers from buying a computer. 

Computers now days are not that expensive, and just like buying any other appliance you can go to a store and shop around. Be sure to keep your expectations realistic, after all, advertising claims and computer salesmen are trying to sale a product. Do not believe anyone that tells you that you can solve all of your problems by just pressing a button. Some training is always required as with any product, and any reputable computer stores will help you buy the right computer to suit your needs.

A good rule of thumb; do not to buy the cheapest computer in the store. The features of the more expensive computers are generally desirable for business purposes. These computers are still relatively inexpensive when compared to most of your other business expenses and you will not have to take them back to the store for upgrades when you discover you are missing some important memory or other necessary feature.  Computers are tax deductible to businesses and can be even be used to do your taxes electronically.

4. Fear of Use

Ok, so you bought a nice computer, now it is sitting in boxes in a corner of your office and you are afraid to do something wrong, or just do not know if you are going to be able to use the thing. Keep in mind, that any fifth grader could easily set it up and be playing games on it within minutes, and this fact leads me to the following suggestions.

Do not set it up in your office but rather on your dining room table or living room coffee table. Anywhere so long as it is easy to see and gain access to the back of the thing.  Then once you have it set up and running it will be a simple matter to take it apart and put it where you want to use it.

Since we are talking about fears, complexity, and a powerful money making device all in the same sentence, let me make some more practical suggestions. Everyone hates wires and computers have a lot of them. Do yourself a favor and be sure and buy a wireless keyboard and wireless optical mouse. Also, get a computer with built in wireless internet access. You will thank me for this advice and will hate yourself if you ignore it. 

Most lap tops have built in microphones and cameras so that you can use skype to save on longdistance calls.  If Skype is not already installed it is free and easy to download and setup. 

Most internet providers offer a modem with wireless access so you can be connected onto the internet with no wires in your garage, living room, bedroom, office or anywhere else you might want access. Just be sure to have the guys, who deliver the modem to your house, help you configure your computer for secure access. Most of them will offer this service and be sure that they test it before they leave.

If you already have a modem and it does not have wireless access you can buy a wireless router for about $50 and it should come with a user manual explaining how to set it up. You can always call a computer geek service which will come out to your home or business to set this up.  It is a very simple process for them and should not cost much. And do not forget that your nephew, niece, son, daughter, or neighbor can probably do this in their sleep. You will too once you see how easy it really is.

What to expect – well all computers, come with the operating system already installed and include enough basic software tools to begin using right away. Most have a word processor and other office software installed as free trials. If you need these features you simply pay for them over the internet when asked. There will also be free trials of virus software that you should activate or replace before the trial expires.

Any software you purchase in the store will be installed by placing a CD, in your CD player on the computer and following the on screen instructions. Just be sure to read the instructions carefully because they try to sneak free stuff on you as trials, and often clutter up your desktop with unwanted icons. Hint, the stuff you really need installed does not require you to make any decisions which you cannot understand easily, so if you are not sure, then just say no or leave the box unchecked and your program will continue to install correctly.

Update - Notebook computer often come now days with no CD drive because all you need is internet access and a security key to download and install any software you need. 

5. What will you need?

This will depend on many factors, some of which can be found in my article explaining the different types of business software available to you. As I explain in the article, you can purchase standalone software that you only run locally on your computer, you can buy a mix of internet and local programs, or you can use programs that are 100% internet based and require you to install nothing. If you choose to buy software to install on your computer you will need to get advice somewhere else as that is beyond the scope of this article.

You will need a good printer and it should be home network compatible so that you can use it from various other computers that you are sure to own in the future. Your computer will find this printer automatically and there is not normally any software to install. For a small business I would suggest that this printer be a scanner, fax machine, copy machine, and printer all in one. You can buy many of these for less than $200.

I hope that this article has in some way helped you overcome your fear of computers and given you a basic understanding of them and how they can help you in the hospitality management business.

We also have a lot of other information on our site including a comparison chart of many popular software companies for taking reservations.  If you have any questions or comments then by all means visit our feed back page.  Or make a facebook comment at the bottom of the home page.

Return to Innkeeping-Made-Easy/FrontDesk where it talks about using computers to organize your B&B or small Inn.

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