The DIY Guide for Net Cafe Owners

DIY MIS for SMEs
Do it Yourself MIS tips for the Small Medium Enterprise

+++ Skills Required
+++ Basic Toolkit
+++ Other Essentials
+++ Set Policies
+++ Use Checklists
+++ Automate When You Can
+++ Outsourcing your MIS needs

First of all, some definitions are in order: MIS (for Management Information Systems) is a general term for the computer systems in an
enterprise that provide information about its business operations. It’s also used to refer to the people who manage these systems.
Typically in a large corporation, “MIS” or the “MIS department” refers to a central or centrally-coordinated system of computer expertise and management, including by extension the corporation’s entire network of computer resources.

In large enterprise organizations of a thousand or more computer users, you can envision men in white shirts and ties poking around
enormous mainframe computers stored in freezing, cavernous offices. Mid-sized businesses with a thousand or less users would probably be sans mainframes, but would most likely still have at least several servers situated in smaller (but usually still freezing) rooms,
manned by at least five to fifteen personnel.

These are the businesses most IT vendors target, and for good reason, obviously because they have the money. Providing products and
services for MIS departments, unless the rock you’re living under hasn’t budged in years, is and always will be a strong industry.
Hence, there will never be a shortage of advice, tips and all sorts of MIS strategies and techniques for large companies, all provided
for by software and hardware manufacturers. It certainly pays off later when they get their business in return.

But how about for the Small Business Enterprise, typically with around one hundred or less computer users, or even more so those with fifty or less users? These type of businesses comprise a great majority of companies in the Philippines today, and given the general constant state of depression the economy is in, most likely will stay that way for a long time still. However, many continue to hang in there, and require the services of a competent MIS group to aid operations just as much as the large companies do.

But unfortunately again, the price of maintaining a person or group to solely to take care of a small network can take a huge chunk of an already small budget. While undoubtedly essential, maintaining MIS staff just for a small office can usually mean the employment of highly-paid IT staff to perform what is usually easy, maintenance work – work that doesn’t require everyday attention. This situation can easily worsen – not only will the company be spending too much money for relatively repetitive, easy work, but the employee can also feel quickly under-utilized.

One solution: find existing staff to form a mini-MIS group

This solution solves many issues, primarily cost. There are other not so easily realized benefits, such as possible re-assignment of employees whose skills are better suited for such work, or allowing existing employees supplemental income to do this. At any rate, companies would do well to look inside themselves to provide this solution. There are many people who already have the necessary entry-level skills to perform such work, and it’s very likely that a 30 to 50 user company will find one or two capable to do this. Here’s what you could to get started:

+++ Skills Required:

Almost anyone with a general idea of how PCs work can become a DIY MIS. You are qualified to be a DIY MIS person if you:

Have done at least some technician work – First off, IT personnel are far from just technicians – an unfortunate yet common misconception by many companies. However it would help to be able to do some simple technician work. It’s important to know your way around a Personal Computer, and to assemble one if necessary from spare parts. This is very easy to learn and again, most likely there are one or two people within a company that would know how to.

Strong communicator – Many times you will need to bridge the gap between man and machine by explaining things to users in language they can understand. Many are often intimidated by “geek-speak”, which, frankly, is simply words they do not understand. It is important not to leave it at that however. The better you explain a problem the less chance there is for it to happen again. Explaining an issue plainly and reasonably will save you many hours of headaches in the future as well.

Steady, reliable, analytical, systematic, good planner – The organizational skills needed for even a small network is no joke. You will be maintaining not only the PCs themselves but also relationships with vendors or outsourced personnel and even the various paperwork on top of that. Therefore, as in any job, it’s important to be organized and systematic with the way you work things out. A good indication of this is how you take care of your work area.

Formatting, Installing, Printing, Emailing – These are the most common tasks you will find in any typical office. The MIS person therefore will be dealing with these simple tasks the most often, and for that reason should know about every practical thing there is to know about these. While it might be too much to ask for one person to know these immediately, MIS problems are fortunately common and repetitive and one would only need to know what is needed to perform specific tasks, such as backing up and restoring email, or partitioning and formatting a hard disk.

While there can be many variations to those tasks, one really only needs to know only what would be enough to make something function again, and leave the finer points and special modifications and deviations for the future, when they have learned more.

Knows when a situation is beyond your skills – More important than knowing, it’s even more important to know when to say “I don’t know.”, and at that point, call or bring in someone more expert at the task. A tip: Most technical support staff will be asking practical questions before they come over in an effort to troubleshoot by phone. You can make the job more easier for him by making sure you have all the details you need at hand.

Friendly, cooperative, patient – You might say that if a person has all of the skills above and have excellent social skills as well, this employee should probably be doing managerial work instead. These skills are however a great deal necessary due to the fact that in many cases, the only type of interaction any other user will have with them is when things aren’t going well. When a user’s PC breaks down or a file goes missing, that user is sometimes in a state of panic, terror, or in a general state of alarm, causing them to inadvertently be rude, demanding and even offensive and disrespectful. Another example is when in some cases, an MIS decision to change, replace or alter an existing standard such as standardizing email software, or putting a ‘no internet surfing during office hours’ policy in place, can make the MIS function a highly unpopular one. It is therefore important for MIS staff to maintain a good relationship with the people they are there to support, without which the work would just be harder all the more.

+++ Basic Toolkit:

A small toolkit is one of the most important things you will need. It is very cheap to procure and some parts of which is probably in your office already anyway. The following comprise a standard toolkit:
a. Philips and flat non-magnetic screwdriver.
b. Long-nose pliers.
c. Jeweler’s set of screwdrivers.
d. Cutter.
e. Various markers, soft-tip pentel pen.
f. Grounding strap or mat.
g. Static free bags for parts storage. The ones that come free when buying cards will do.
h. Small toolkit to contain all tools. Remember to keep all tools together and bring them all around with you even on small jobs. You never know when you need something and when you do it usually will separate the tools even more.

+++ Other Essentials:

a. Lots of blank CDs.
You will be constantly dealing with backing up files, making copies of installation software, and will generally need to keep copies of all sorts of software and utilities. Therefore you will always be needing CDs, so don’t think you’re saving money by buying as needed. Go ahead and buy 50 or even 100 piece packs. Backing up and making copies of things is never a bad thing, so you shouldn’t have to decide not to do it because you might run out of CDs. Deploying a PC or reinstalling a crashed one are repetitive tasks that can easily become tiresome, but they become that much easier when you have the right CDs with you all the time.

b. CD cases, CD bags and a good felt-tip marker.
Now that you backed up your stuff, you’re going to have to know what it is you just backed up. Believe me anyone who has had to place CD after unmarked CD into their CD player to see what’s in them knows the value of properly marking them. Remember to use a
felt-tip pen to keep from scratching the CD.

Then after marking them, categorize them by using CD cases and bags so you can easily distinguish which are backups, which are installation software, which are the ones you need most often and so on. These all seem very logical and very obvious, but it will surprise you how often system administrators believe that “they won’t forget” the contents of an important CD but a week later will need to go through stacks of them to find it again.

Tips on Marking and naming.
A few more tips on marking and naming CDs.
Avoid putting different types of data inside only one. Merge different types of data depending on, frequency of use or data type. This will allow you to name the CD quickly, such as “office apps” or “antivirus “. Since there isn’t much space on the top of a CD to write details on, placing the same types of data together will help decrease the amount of time you spend searching for it when needed.

Always place the date. The name of the files in a CD is good but the date will surely help the search for an elusive file even more so.

Assume you’ll be going on leave. When on leave, the last thing you want is the office calling you on your vacation or when you’re lying in bed sick to ask where everything is. Labeling properly will allow whoever replaces you for the duration to easily locate things and refrain from bugging you. You have only yourself to blame when the an important office operation siezes to work because they couldn’t locate a backup CD you hid somewhere.

Use the small pockets in the CD bags to list the contents of that bag if you have more than one. You can also use it to contain important information like serial numbers or the telephone number of your vendors.

C. Boot Disk.
A boot disk is an absolute essential for a toolkit. ANd since most SMEs will maintain Windows computers, the Windows 98 boot disk is your best bet for maintaining Windows computers of all types, including Windows ME, 2000 and XP. This is because it contains many of the essential utilities needed such as fdisk to partition and format, scandisk to check a hard disk’s status, and others. Some other highly recommended utilities to add to any standard Windows boot disk are:

xcopy – Xcopy.exe allows you to copy the contents of a computer’s hard drive or CD including directories and subdirectories. This saves a great deal of time when, say, you want to copy the contents of your Windows Installation CDs onto your hard disk so that you can install from disk instead of CD – usually a great time saver. This also allows for quick backups when you wish to save the contents of a hard disk onto another hard disk. Xcopy.exe will not work without xcopy32.mod, both of which you can copy from any installed Windows98 installed computer, in the c:\windows folder. You can learn more about xcopy’s commands by typing xcopy/? at a Windows 98 DOS command prompt.

smartdrv – Smartdrv.exe is another great add-on to your bootdisk. Smartdrv installs and configures the DOS SMARTDrive disk-caching utility, an essential when installing Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Put simply, it will spell the difference between installing these over a matter of hours or a matter of days. Smartdrv will cache files needed for the installation, without which a typical installation even on a fast PC will last up to eight or so hours. To use Smartdrv, you type the line “smartdrv.exe” into the autoexec.bat of your boot disk. Boot the PC you are to install NT/2k/XP in with the bootdisk, and then proceed with the install. Smartdrv.exe can be retrieved from any Windows 98 installation CD and saved onto your boot disk.

D. Seagate’s Discwizard – Downloadable from the Seagate.com website is the Seagate Discwizard, an important utility for servicing all Seagate Hard Disks. Depending on your internet connection, you can either download the 2.4 mb DOS-based Starter Edition for floppy diskettes, the 7.4 mb DiscWizard 2003/2002 which makes you a bootable CD (requires a CD writer, blank CD, and some knowledge on how to boot from a CD), or use the Diskwizard online version, although this will definitely require a fast connection.

I recommend the 2nd option, the CD version instantly detects what kind of Seagate hard disk you are trying to work on, and has an easy to use Graphical User Interface to let you do your thing quickly and as painlessly as possible. You can do the same using DOS’s fdisk, but this utility makes the job a whole lot easier and is highly recommended when you need to work on a malfunctioning hard disk.

+++ Set Policies

Much of what makes the care and feeding of computers difficult is the fact that these do not come in an closed box with a simple On button, that look and work exactly the same as any other. Personal Computers allow for so many different variations and even more so after installation. Every user can learn how to change the way their computer looks, feels, sounds and performs in any number of ways as they see fit. While this may enhance the user experience, it can wreak havoc with how much MIS has to do to make its job easier. And with the advent of networking, email and the internet allowing even more options, the job does not only entail care for their machines but involves security and confidentiality issues as well.

A set of guidelines and procedures is therefore necessary to make sure all users understand exactly what is allowed and not allowed to happen on their computers. It should be imperative for everyone to sit down and make a series of rules to determine how it should be done. Here’s a few suggestions:

E-mail and Internet security policy
An email and internet security should basically contain these items among others:

Company property – Determines strictly for what company owned items the policy involves. This may or may not include email, PCs, servers and other equipment used for internet access, the bandwidth and even fax, telephone and voice mail.

Incidental disclosure – Here a company can discuss for what specific types of incidents it would be appropriate to disclose an employees correspondence, and when it is not.

Authorized usage – States strictly what constitues allowed and disallowed use and abuse. This primarily affects many local companies whose employees use the company computers and network for gaming.

Message forwarding – Employees are made to be aware that forwarding stored messages on other storage devices other than their own computer is limited only to what is necessary for the completion of their duties. Other than that forwarding a large amount of email is disallowed and may be cause for investigation.

Viruses – Companies should also state how it employs anti-virus software, if any, to screen incoming and outgoing email, as well as any possible threats from the internet brought about by surfing, etc., An employee’s work can be affected by this if, say, an anti-virus software automatically deletes or alters files it determines to be containing viruses.

Purging email – Employees are made aware that unimportant messages or those that have exceeded a certain amount of time, usually six months to a year, or are of no more value be removed from their computers to make archiving easier, unless they are needed for special conditions.

User accountability – This usually reminds employees how security must always be a factor in their daily worklives and how items such as sharing passwords, sharing files over the network, or allowing access to one’s computer by another is disallowed or should be done with care.

Respecting privacy rights – This allows for a certain degree of privacy for all employees, with due recognition of the company’s need to safeguard its own interests, and how the company does so.

No guarantee of privacy – Employers clarify here that while it respects user’s privacy, it cannot guarantee all will be private, and that employees should be aware that all electronic communications could be accessed in accordance with the policy.

Default Privileges – Certain operating systems such as Windows NT or Linux allow for administrator, user and other custom settings that allow for different types of privileges on the computer or network. This usually states how users are to be limited to such and for what purpose.

External Representations – This usually states how any representations by staff with outside parties using the internet should be approved first by administration. This is to avoid libelous situations, conflicts with the companies’ image or customer relations and others. It may also include what types of information is prohibited from being discussed such as business policies, prospectus, costing information and the like. Usually, employees who discuss their views over the internet and openly declare their affiliation with their company are enjoined to maintain that their views are their own and not representative of the companies’, and to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner.

Suspect Information – Here it can state how a user should be careful when downloading information or software from the internet, and how it must be deemed unsecure until confirmed by another source, etc.

Regular message monitoring – Here companies state how it can for what motives decide to monitor an employee’s use of email or the internet either for study, maintenance, audits or investigative reasons, and that users being advised of such should maintain their correspondence accordingly.

If the company maintains webservers, users are enjoined not to upload private company memorandums, or other confidential and sensitive material.

Responsible Use of Servers – Should the company maintain web or ftp server facilities, this area of the policy usually states how staff should not use it to, say, store personal material or illegal files such as mp3s, pirated software, pornography, stolen credit card nos., or other items that reflect a conflict of interest from the company’s reason to put up such facilities.

General Responsibilities – Here it is generally stated what the user’s responsibilities are as well as the MIS staff’s and administration’s in making sure security and the upkeep of equipment is observed. It’s just as important to state what the responsibilities of the MIS staff are if certain situations arise, such as for example, a user does all he can to keep a file secure yet a copy still ends up in an outside party’s hands.

If it is also the MIS or company’s administration’s job to make sure that staff are aware of how to properly make use of their equipment, or how to make sure that they don’t get infected with viruses if they surf the internet in the course of doing their everyday jobs, for example. This should also be stated here.

+++ Use Checklists

Checklists are your easy way of making sure the repetitive task of making sure things are running well remain repetitive, and holds no surprises. Here are a few good checklists and some tips:

Here’s a sample of what a Virus Prevention Checklist should contain:
Checking Signature Updates
Daily Scanning Reports
Standardized Security Settings across the network
Proper Care and Management of Diskettes and other removable data.
Proper use of AntiVirus Software
What to do when a virus attacks
Regular backups of your data files.
Enable the virus-detection option in CMOS.
If you have a firewall, make sure only necessary ports are open.
Windows NT administrators, set permissions to the registry and other system files to prevent unauthorized changes.
Scans should Include all file types when scanning, such as exe, dll, and zip files as well as all directories.
If productivity will not be compromised, consider disabling the A drive of high-risk workstations from within a password-protected CMOS. If this is not feasible, disable the option of booting from the A drive.
Set an audible alert when viruses are detected.
Enable all macro virus protection within software packages, such as Word and Excel.
Edit the file-exclusion list so all exe and dll files are included during scanning. Some viruses target these files specifically.
Create and maintain a write-protected emergency boot disk and know how to use it.

A Vendor Checklist should contain details such as:
Warrantees, Claimed Response Time
Payment Terms
Cost
No. of years in business
No. of years providing services / products to your company.
Recommendations / Comments from previous or other MIS staff.
Track record on Repairs and Services.

A Preventive Maintenance Checklist should contain details such as:
Update your OS and applications with the latest service packs or updates – The recent Blaster Worm has made many users suddenly aware of the importance of MS Windows Updates. Previously you could pretty much get by without doing any updating, but the Blaster worm proved this policy wrong. For many it was the first time they ever had to do any updating at all. From now on, though, due to the advent of such type of worms and viruses, it is now important to make sure that this is in any preventive maintenance list of things to do.

Run ScanDisk and defrag the drive as needed – It’s very easy to overlook this basic feature of all Windows computers, yet more often than not a proper Defrag can increase a computer’s performance and make it work as if new. Make your users aware of the importance of a proper Scandisk and defrag.

Check IE’s “Amount of Disk space to use” and Days to Keep Pages In History” Settings to minimum – After setting up a computer with newly installed OS, it’s good policy to set the browser history to and cache file settings to use only a small level of the PC’s resources. 5 mb for disk space and 5 days for history should be enough. Lowering these will help keep the contents of the cache for IE free and will result in faster, less crash-prone surfing.

Clean out Windows temporary Internet files – All those cookies, active X files and other data reside in the temporary internet file folder, so along with setting a small amount of cache for this, occasionally train users to clear out its contents from time to time as well. This by itself will save you a lot of time from users who wonder why surfing is slow or they cannot surf at all.

Empty the Recycle Bin – The recycle bin needs to be explained to many users. There are many, for example, that do not like to clean them out at all fearing that they may eventually need some of them in the future, causing it to fill up more and more. As a result, the recycle bin can increase in size until it becomes unwieldy and actually slow down your PC. Make sure users are aware of this.

Confirm that backups are being done – If you have a set system of backups in place, make sure to check it is working periodically. There have been many situations in companies where it’s discovered that backups really don’t work after all – of course when its too late. Try it out at least once every six months to be sure.

Check the connections – If I had ten pesos for every time someone asks a tech support visit because their modem couldn’t connect or their PC wouldn’t turn on simply because a cable wasn’t plugged all the way, I’d be taking vacations in Hong Kong by now.

Take inventory – A proper inventory sheet should contain the date, user assigned to, function, vendor bought from, location, and other information needed to make sure that each item is properly accounted for. Do this at least once a year.

Make sure the hardware works – The worst time you want to find out a spare PC isn’t working is when you need to swing it into action. Occasionally do a thorough check.

Clean the screens – It’s amazing how a few swipes with a tissue dabbed with alcohol can make that brand-new-monitor feeling comes back all over again.

Change passwords – This must be the most difficult to implement of them all, especially when there appears to be no threat anyway. It’s still important however.

Delete .tmp files, files that begin with a tilde, old .zip files and .chk files – Common power fluctuations cause many PCs to come up with files like these. Delete with vigor. If you come across these files often on particular PCs, however, be aware that these are warning signs that the PC may be suffering from other more serious problems and investigate.

Reboot the server – This is necessary to make sure that if you aren’t around and you need to ask someone to do this, the server will reboot properly. Most Servers and some workstations are usually left to run twenty four hours a day.

Clean the mouse – Another case where a few quick scrapes to remove grime and dirt off the mouse rollers and giving the roller a soap-bath will make a mouse feel as good as new and almost automatically give the user a great feeling. Make sure that the mousepad isn’t as grimy as well otherwise a good cleaning will last only a few days.

Check the power sources – Have an electrician test areas in the office where you think weak or uneven power causes PCs to malfunction. Even a simple lamp with a light bulb plugged in it can give surprising results.

Check the fan – Do you know that even the special fancy-looking fans sold at PC stores only have six month warantees? There’s a good reason why. Fans have moving parts and are used for hours on end – every time the PC is used. If placed in corners and underneath desks fans also have a tendency to accumulate dirt and grime. Check these from time to time to make sure they’re still turning and give them a good brushing when dirty.

Check the network hardware – Hubs, switches and cables, once made to work, are generally left alone for the duration of their lives until something goes wrong. Occasionally give them a check. Look for cobwebs, dirt or damage that may be caused by rats, mice or other insects.

+++ Automate When You Can

a. Learn Unattended Installation of Operating Systems and standard programs.
Installing Windows on a single or multiple PCs is a thrilling activity that rivals watching paint dry. This mind-numbing task can only be topped by the extreme pleasure of setting up the computer after installing Windows. Things like network identification, IP addresses, Computer Name, Display settings, and if you install Microsoft Office, fonts, language settings and other things that need to be standardized across the company.

While learning to perform unattended installation sounds like a daunting task for a part-time MIS staff, the benefits to your schedule by doing so can be very rewarding. Automating installation can significantly lessen the time it takes to do a severely boring task, reducing what usually takes an hour and a half to approximately half or less than that.

An example unattended installation of Windows 98, for example, can automatically set the following settings for you without having to wait for the installation to finish for you to set up:

General Setup Options
Installation information – Windows install/uninstall options
User information – User and network information
Setup prompts – User prompts during Setup
Regional settings – Time zone/International settings
Desktop – desktop icons/Miscellaneous
Printers
MRU locations – Most recently used
User profiles – User profiles settings

Network Options
Protocols – Available protocols
Services – File and Print Sharing service
Clients – Client for Microsoft and NetWare Networks and NetWare Directory Services
Access control – Control access to shared resources
Additional clients – Supported clients/Other clients

Optional Components
The following optional components can be customized:
Accessibility options
Accessories
Communications
Desktop themes
Internet tools
Microsoft Outlook Express
Multilanguage support
Multimedia
Online services
Screen savers
System tools
Microsoft WebTV for Windows

Internet Explorer Options
Desktop – Quick Launch toolbar/Channel Bar
Display – Active desktop/Browse folder as follows/Click items as follows
Browser – Home page URL, post-Setup page, Online Support URL
Security – Zone and zone settings
Proxy settings – Servers/Exceptions

Advanced Options
Additional Files – Add registry file/System policy file
Windows Update – Upgrade options

Related Links:
Windows 2000:
for Windows 98:
search for “batch 98” on http://support.microsoft.com/ or type: http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=214727

for Windows 2000:
http://www.microsoft.com/windows2000/techinfo/planning/management/remotesteps.asp

for Windows XP:
http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/pro/using/itpro/deploying/unattended.asp

b. Install an Anti-Virus Server.
The second biggest time-saving automation task you can do is to install an anti-virus server.

The most crucial part of securing your small network involves protection against viruses. As far as viruses go, you will be spending (read: wasting) a lot of your time either making sure that each computer’s anti-virus software is up-to-date, or securing, reformatting and reinstalling a computer that’s been infected by one.

And as far as virus definition control is concerned, the best solution is to install a centrally-controlled and administered anti-virus system. Again, this sounds daunting. However, again this will save you even more time as you will never have to hop from one PC to another making sure anti-virus systems are up-to-date or configured properly.

A proper anti-virus server should allow you to:
a. Make sure each computer has a properly installed anti-virus software.
b. Make sure each anti-virus software in each computer is configured properly. For example:
– It is configured to scan the PC’s hard disks daily.
– If it is not able to scan at the scheduled time for whatever reason, it will scan at a later time.
– Viruses are either deleted or quarantined (deleted preferred) immediately upon detection.
– That a message is sent to the user, to yourself, and, if coming from an infected email, to the sender of that email. Even the contents of that message can be edited.
– That the client PCs will automatically check for new definitions from the anti-virus server every so often.
– It will provide you a complete Event history, including virus attacks, updates and scans, of each computer at a central interface. This will help you determine which computer gets the most viruses, and give you a way to identify which users are the most likely to require special attention.
– Any other specific instruction you prefer to have it do.
c. Automatically check for anti-virus updates and definitions from the manufacturer’s website via an internet connection.

You will need to check the following sites for more information. Check out their corporate sections, these are usually priced on a ‘per seat’ basis:
www.symantec.com
www.trend-micro.com
www.mcaffee.com
www.avg.com
www.sophos.com
www.drsolomon.com
www.f-secure.com
www.grisoft.com

+++ Outsourcing your MIS needs

After all these tips, it’s still important to remain realistic however, and not forget that, after all, a DIY MIS will ocassionally come up short when certain issues come up.

Networking PCs, for example, is an issue I did not discuss here as it certainly requires knowledge beyond what an average PC user needs to know. I can think of several issues when Outsourcing is the best option for the job:

Setting up a Local Area Network
Setting up a Wide Area Network
Setting up an Email Server
Setting up a WebSite
Setting up a Wireless Network
Setting up a Dial-Up Server

In these cases, using an outsourced contractor to perform these and / or to maintain them is an excellent alternative to trying to do so yourself. After the initial setup and work is finished, these services are usually very low maintenance and need only minor or ocassional checking. Hence, once again, the outsourced contractor is better than hiring full time staff because even if the staff is highly qualified, upkeep is usually high whereas the service required is only temporary. A relationship with an outsourced contractor will last only as long as you prefer it to be.

Look for a contractor which has some experience and lots of expertise at the service you are looking for. Other than that, here are areas to look out for when searching for an outsource group:

Contract – Detailing the following:
Definition of service(s) to be rendered
Compensation and terms of payment – Be aware of taxes and yearly renewal or escalation clauses and discuss these.
Limitation of liability – Expressing any and all types of conditions that may occur and what is to happen to either party.
Support – This must clearly indicate how many hours during the day, and what days support is to be carried out. Look for the qualifications of support personnel. Also look for response time and when and if the contractor makes themselves available for consultation.
Other items such as force majeur, Penalties, nondisclosure, effectivities and terms for termination are contract standards, but important nonetheless. Go through these with a fine tooth comb. A proper contractor or consulting firm should always have these handy and reply to any of your problems with confidence.

Gary Mercado is the General Manager for Gabriel Consulting, a contractor and consulting firm for the past three years. Contact him at gary@exchange.ph. Website: http://gsc.exchange.ph