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A Compaq Solution to Small Firms' Needs: New Prosignia PC Offers 'One-Stop' Convenience


Hardware is only part of the solution when you buy a PC for your business. You also need software and access to Internet-based services. You can buy a PC from anyone and put it all together yourself, or you can purchase systems that come with just about everything you'll need.

That's the concept behind the new line of Prosignia business PCs that Compaq is to unveil today.

Like many small-business PCs, the new Compaq Prosignia desktop and notebook PCs come with Microsoft Office Small Business Edition. What is interesting about this product line is that it also comes with online services designed to help small businesses back up their systems, access data away from the office, deliver electronic "packages" and sell products or services online.

The hardware, while it's state of the art and reasonably priced, is typical of what you can get from any first-tier PC vendor. All the desktop systems in the line come with a 17-inch monitor, speakers, a 56K modem, Windows 98, Microsoft Office Small Business Edition and Norton AntiVirus. The $1,239 entry-level Prosignia Desktop 310 features an Intel Celeron 300a processor, a 6.4-gigabyte hard drive, 32mb of memory, a 32x CD and a 4mb graphics card. The top-of-the-line Prosignia Desktop 330 costs $2,249 and comes with a 450 MHz Pentium II CPU, a 16.8gb hard drive, 128mb of memory, a 40x CD and an 8mb graphics board. With those components, the high-end machine can't help but be fast, with enough storage for demanding users like me.

If you go to Compaq's Web site (, you can custom configure these machines and get an immediate price quote based on the features you specify.

I'm writing this column using the high-end desktop model and am impressed by the ease of setup and the machine's performance. My system came with a pre-installed optional ethernet card that made it a breeze to connect to my local area network. Getting a machine with a pre-installed network interface card not only saves you the trouble of taking the machine apart and installing the card but also the considerable hassle of getting the card to work properly with Windows.

The new line also includes notebook machines (weighing about 8 pounds) starting with a $1,999 model with a 233 MHz Pentium II CPU, a 12.1-inch active matrix screen, 3.2gb hard drive, 64mb of memory and a 24x CD. For $2,999 you get a system with Intel's fastest (300 MHz) mobile Pentium II processor, a large 14.1-inch active matrix screen and 6gb of storage along with 64mb and a 24x CD. There are all sorts of options, including the ability to add a second 6gb hard drive, an extra battery or a 100mb Zip drive. Each machine has an excellent full-size keyboard and uses the touch-pad pointing device, which some people love and others hate. Never buy any notebook PC without checking out the screen, keyboard and pointing device.

As good as the hardware is, the main selling point for the Prosignia line is a suite of bundled online services. Before you rush out to buy a new Compaq, however, be aware that these services are similar to those that anyone can use--although Compaq has made it easier and, in some cases, cheaper.

The online backup service makes a great deal of sense. With this service--offered for Compaq by Novastor (, Prosignia owners can use the Internet to make online backups of any data on their hard disk. An Internet backup, as opposed to backing up to tape or other removable media, means that the backup copies of your data reside on a remote server rather than on a tape or disk that you have to store. Although backing up via the Net can take a while, it's one of those processes that can run overnight or while you're at lunch.

The two big advantages to Internet backups is that they're easy--so there's no excuse not to do it--and that the data resides away from your premises so it isn't vulnerable to a fire, earthquake or other catastrophe. The service costs $9.99 per month for up to 500mb of storage or $19.99 for 1gb of storage. SafeGuard Interactive ( offers a similar service at $9.95 for unlimited storage.

The Online Briefcase is another clever service. Offered by Visto, the service allows access to your calendar, address book, e-mail and files from any computer with Internet connections. It's especially useful for people who travel or visit remote offices and don't want to go through the hassle of carrying and hooking up a notebook PC when they arrive.

You use the software that comes on the Compaq machines to upload your data to the Briefcase service and, when you get somewhere, you access it by going to a secure Web site. Any changes you make at the Web site can be synchronized to your PC when you get back to the office. Like the backup service, you pay a fee ($9.99 a month with 50mb of storage or $19.99 a month with 100mb of storage) to use the service.

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