UMAX Astra 4950 The Astra 4950 is an entry level flatbed scanner which offers 48 bit colour and a resolution of 1200 by 2400. The device features a 35mm film and negative scanner and comes with a selection of image editing and manipulation software. Although the device is largely designed for imaging work, it is capable of scanning directly to PDF format and should be able to handle basic document scanning with ease. Xerox One Touch/One Touch TA A well specified entry level flatbed scanner with a high scanning resolution of 1200 by 4800 and 48 bit colour. The standard model does not feature a transparency adapter, so if this is important to you go for the TA model which[…]

Visioneer Strobe XP 200 If desk space is at a premium and you need a really tiny document scanner the Strobe XP 200 is about as miniscule as they come. The device is capable of scanning an A4 sheet in about 10 seconds, but since it has no sheet feeder the ppm speed depends largely on how quickly the user can insert new sheets into the machine. It is quite hard to imagine anybody being so short of space that they would require a device like this. The XP 200 uses a mains power supply and is therefore desk-bound, whereas the Strobe XP 100 has is powered by the host PCs USB cable which makes it a more viable mobile[…]

While there are few commercial products competing with Actinic, one product comes close to rivalling its support network. osCommerce ( is a an ‘open source’ ecommerce package which is available to anybody who wants it at absolutely no cost. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of free open source software, do not worry – there is no catch, the software is developed by a large team of skilled volunteers who collaborate over the web to produce high quality software that often rivals commercial products in terms of features and quality. Thousands of ecommerce sites around the world are based on osCommerce, to get an idea of what the software can do, take a look at or, two[…]

These kinds of products provide the tools you need to create an online shop without having to do any programming. In the UK and much of Europe the pre-packaged ecommerce software market is overwhelmingly dominated by a Surrey based company called Actinic. The company’s shop building software is a favourite with small business users who want to set up their own web sites and professional web developers who create sites for multiple clients. Although no independent figures are available for the ecommerce software sector, Actinic claims 56 per cent of the UK market and, as Chris Barling, the company’s chief executive officer puts it, “We are seven times bigger than anybody else in the market, so we do not have[…]

PayPal ( is a well established online payment gateway owned by eBay ( The service was originally designed to allow individuals to securely transfer cash online between each other, but has grown into a professional payment system favoured by smaller businesses which do not have the facility to accept credit card payments directly. PayPal Merchant Tools allow companies to accept credit card payments through their existing websites. The system works quite simply, once users have set up a free business account with the site they only have to insert a few lines of HTML code into their existing web pages to start selling online. For example, if your company has a simple web page containing details of your top product[…]

Like McAfee, Norton is a long standing anti-virus brand name which is now owned by a larger company – in this case, Symantec. The company sells corporate solutions under its own name, but uses the Norton brand for its consumer and small business offerings. Internet Security Professional 2004 is a comprehensive collection of security tools designed to run on the desktop. It offers no centralized management features such as those found in Sophos and McAfee, which means that it’s better suited to very small businesses with a maximum of around 20 PCs. The package includes Antivirus Professional, Personal Firewall, Privacy Control, AntiSpam and Productivity Control. All of these are fairly self explanatory, except perhaps the latter. You can install Productivity[…]

Oxford based Sophos is one of the world leaders in security software and has recently launched Small Business Suite which comprises specially tailored versions of the company’s anti-virus scanner and PureMessage anti-spam software. It is worth noting that the product will not install on older versions of Windows such as 95 or 98, you need 2000 or above. In any case, security conscious organisations would do well to eliminate Windows 95/98 installations from their networks since these systems cannot be considered secure enough for the modern business environment. The anti-virus module sits on your company’s desktop machines. A plain English manual is supplied which explains in step by step terms how you can remotely install the software on systems across[…]

Owned by Network Associates, McAfee is one of the oldest and most trusted brand names in anti-virus software. The Small Business Edition is a relatively new addition to the McAfee line up, but it is essentially a version of the existing Active VirusScan Suite tweaked for the SME market. The package features various bits of software designed to do different jobs. The core system is of course the basic VirusScan programme which sits on your Windows desktops and any servers you may have, and a version designed for Novell NetWare servers is also supplied. VirusScan is one of the most widely used desktop AV products around because, quite simply, it works. What makes this package interesting is the addition of[…]

Produced by Finnish company F-Secure, Internet Security 2004 is a desktop package featuring both an anti-virus element along with a personal firewall system. This double-pronged approach provides protection from conventional email viruses as well as the more advanced viruses which do not need email to propagate themselves. A firewall will also protect against unauthorised intrusion by hackers. Installation is a straightforward enough process and even non-technical users should not encounter any difficulties. Once installed the programme displays a little icon in the Windows system tray to show you that it is running and quick click of this will bring up the management console. All of the package’s features are controlled from this simple interface. From here you can change the[…]

Viewsonic PJ510 A modestly priced entry level device which offers portability and a full complement of inputs, making it a likely proposition for home and business use. No frills, but a bargain basement price-point. Low brightness, but that is to be expected at this price point. Mitsubishi SE1U An entry level device with simple but effective specification that should be good enough for presenting in small meeting rooms. The brightness is not particularly high, so it will not produce good results in rooms with high ambient lighting. NEC VT47 This model offers a fairly standard specification for this price range, with the exception of its brightness level which is noticeably higher than other models in this entry level segment. A[…]