This paper entitled “I.T. Infrastructure Project Specifications” is a preliminary study aiming to present concise and detailed specifications of the Information Technology requirements of a new solicitors practice firm as a basis for future creation of a project proposal. This paper intends to determine the current technical requirements of the firm, propose an appropriate solution as necessitated by these requirements and enumerate the prerequisites of these requirements in terms of the hardware, software and security measures.
This paper is not intended as a complete project proposal for client’s reference, rather, this paper is intended for the development company in order to assess the client’s requirements and formulate an effective project proposal based on the specifications and recommendations stated herein.
Information is power. The ability of a company to create, process, transmit and store information rapidly and accurately is essential to a company’s survival nowadays. Access to significant information within and without the organization greatly, if not directly, influences the ability of the individuals inside it to determine problems and formulate accurate and feasible solutions, thus, significantly affects not only the productivity of the organization but its success in general. A successful company then, in order to cope up with the current competition must have an effective information system that will enable limitless access to company-owned information as well as to outside resources that may help them enforce their company’s goals. To implement an information system that is boundless in terms of geographical scope, accessible anytime and any day of the week and ensures total reliability of the retrieved information.
While information is being made more available the risk of exposing these information against unauthorized access also increases, not only to individuals outside the company but within users inside it. An effective information system, then, must impose context restricted security access procedure that determines the type of information a certain user has access to. This guarantees privacy of sensitive information and that users can only access information they need to have access to.
Lastly, in order to ensure reliability of information exchange within the organization a reliable storage and data backup system is a must. As in all cases of information systems, hardware and software components are bound to fail indefinitely, therefore, backup procedures must include migration of data replicates auxiliary locations independent of the system itself which must be done on regular basis and must consider a procedure that will easily import back these backups for immediate restoration once needed.
A solicitor practice firm is a type of organization in which information is its core business resource. Depending on the scope of its specialization, its services may include, but not limited to, asset finance, banking & finance, commercial property, construction, corporate tax, defamation & newspaper law, debt management, EU & competition, family law, matrimonial law, divorce, child welfare, dispute resolution, insolvency, IFSC, intellectual property, insurance, maritime & shipping, labour & employment, medical negligence, media & entertainment, probate, wills & trusts, mergers & acquisitions, project finance & PPP, product liability, securitisation and such. Type of information processed on a daily basis are of legal nature, therefore, great consideration in security must be taken into consideration. Also, the system must enable exchange of these information between users depending on the context of their privileges.
In order to fully understand the needs of the project each of these requirements are briefly discussed below:
1. Local connectivity. The company requires a means of data exchange between each user within the vicinity of the organization including the immediate surrounding area. This enables transfer, analysis, processing and storage of information rapidly between terminals.
2. Global connectivity. In addition to local connectivity, users must have a way to access data resources from outside the local network. Global connectivity must impose the same privileges and restrictions to access information the same way when accessed locally. These ensure that security and availability of shared information are made available to users anywhere in the world.
3. Data Sharing. Since shared information are stored and accessed at an indefinite time and at an indefinite number of instances, central data storage is needed. Presence of a central data storage location guarantees that all users are accessing identical information especially when these information need to be updated on a regular basis.
4. Technologies. The type of technologies that will used to implement the project will determine the effectivity and reliability of the system. This encompasses aspects of the hardware, software and manpower to be utilized on the development and deployment of the system.
5. Front End Software. In order to effectively process and manage documents and user access to said documents a front end system is needed. The software shall be used to manage uploading, sharing, report generation and management of gathered information in form of records and digital documents.
6. Management. Proper monitoring and management of the system that will ensure that the system runs smoothly and optimized at all times. This also includes management on the front end level such as user privileges, document management, system limits and manual error corrections.
7. Security. Security can never be overemphasized on this project. Sensitive nature of the information being processed daily necessitates time proven measures to be implemented. This includes physical security of hardware components, network security, operating system, user privileges, antivirus protection and such.
8. Data Backup. Stored data must be protected against corruption and, therefore, must be backed up on a regular basis. In addition, the system must also include as way to retrieve and restore backed up data in case of system restoration.
9. System Backup (Optional). Computer hardware and software fails once in a while, thus, in order to avoid interruption on the operation of the company’s operation a system backup can be implemented. This includes duplicate instances of both the critical hardware and software components of the system.
CRITERIA OF ACCEPTANCE
Completion of the project shall be gauged according to the following criteria:
1. Acquisition of the recommended approved hardware and software requirements;
2. Installation of applicable hardware and software mentioned in the previous item at an acceptable working condition; and
3. Compliance to the terms and conditions stated in the service contract agreed upon by both parties.
Local Area Network (LAN) Server
The LAN server shall host the network server operating system which will direct traffic and manage user privileges in terms of access to resources within the local network. Minimum recommended specifications are stated below:
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz or similar processor
System Board: Any type of mother that supports the recommended processor
Memory: 2 Gb RAM
Hard Disk: 500 Gb, 7200 RPM
Network Card: 100 Ethernet Card or Wireless Adapter
Video: 128 Mb
Monitor: Composite SVGA or LCD monitor
Peripherals: DVD Recorder, mouse, keyboard
Sound card and speakers (Optional)
Workstations refers to the individual terminals, apart from the server, connecting to the network. Access rights of each terminals are controlled and restricted by the server operating system. Minimum recommended hardware specifications are listed below:
Processor: Intel Core Duo 1.8 GHz or similar processor
System Board: Any mother that supports the recommended processor
Memory: 1 Gb RAM
Hard Disk: 250 Gb, 7200 RPM
Network Card: 100 Ethernet Card or Wireless Adapter
Video: 128 Mb
Monitor: Composite SVGA or LCD monitor
Sound card and speakers (Optional)
Wireless Gateway, Network Router and Access point
The network router is a device that routes traffic across the network while the wireless gateway is a devise that connects directly to internet through a DSL line. In case of wireless networks a wireless gateway with built in access point is recommended. Number of available ports must be greater than or equal to the amount of terminals intended to connect to the local network and the internet.
Production and duplication of hardcopies are produced using a document printer. In order to minimize the cost of implementation and to enable monitoring of use, a network printer is recommended. A network printer can be accessed both by the server and individual workstations having the access rights to it. Most network printers can be configured to have its own IP address and connects directly to the hub or wireless network.
Document Scanner and Copier*
Document scanners are devises that make digital copies of printed documents and images such as photos and diagrams.
* Note: Some modern printers also functions as copier and scanner and may be prescribed to lower down cost of implementation.
Server Operating System
As mentioned earlier, the operating system acts as the interface between the network terminals and the network and grants user privileges based on stored user credentials. In terms of stability and cost, Linux or Ubuntu servers are advised. Aside from being a low-cost or even free solution they are also known for proven stability as compared to its contemporary such as Windows based servers. One major downside of Linux servers is the requirement of a highly-specialized administrator to setup and manage it maintenance and operation.
Aside from the server OS itself, certain services must be enabled in order to satisfy the other requirements. Some of these services are listed below:
1. Samba. Enables Linux based systems to access Windows-based network terminals
2. Wine. Enables Linux based systems to run Windows-based executables and application.
Workstation Operating System
Most computer users are comfortable using the Windows operating system. Although priced much higher than open source OS, Windows is known for its user-friendly interface and supports a much wider range of devices and software.
Office Automation Software
In terms of the office automation software, Microsoft Office 2007 is recommended. MS Office includes Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Some packages also includes Access, a database application used in creating simple database applications. Aside from these main applications, version 2007 also includes the ability to print documents in PDF format which can be a very useful in transporting and storing documents that can be opened in most number of computers regardless of applications installed.
Information System Software
An information system software is a system that is custom built for specific use of the company. The system will have the ability to store client profile, organize case information, attach documents and upload photos and share these information to other users. Proposed information system must be web based, that is, an application that can be accessed anywhere even outside the company’s local area network.
For practical reasons, the company need not to host its own web server locally. Instead, a dedicated managed server is recommended. Dedicated managed servers are managed and hosted by international hosting providers. The hosting provider is usually paid on annual terms and is responsible for keeping the server up and running at all time. This cuts down hardware cost, maintenance cost and the need to hire a full-time web server administrator.
BACKUP AND SECURITY
To protect data the integrity of stored information such as database records and uploaded documents, a complete backup procedure must be implemented. The backup utility will be responsible in keeping a copy of the said information and storing them to an auxiliary separate from the main storage location. The backup utility should also be capable of restoring these information in case data truncation or corruption is detected.
Operating System Backup
The process of installing operating system and the needed software packages takes considerable amount of time. Keeping a fresh backup image of a terminal’s operating system, registry and installed software simplifies this task. Several utilities in the market exists, such Norton Ghost, that is able to take a snapshot of operating system and stores these information into an file which can be restored in minutes using the same utility. Hours of installing or reinstalling a terminal’s OS and programs can then be done from 20-40 minutes.
Probably, the most important information that must be taken with great importance is the information stored on the database. The database is the actual copy of the information gathered and processed by the information system software and there is no probation for rollback in case of data loss. Therefore, a proper regular database backup must be implemented. This procedure can be automated using server scripts that automatically create SQL backups which can then be written to another media, such as record DVD/CD or a mapped network drive, for archiving.
Documents described in this section refer to digital copy of files uploaded to the server. Similar to database backup procedure, regular document backups must be implemented. Although, unlike database records, documents can be re-uploaded to the server for restoration, the process of sorting each documents relative to its entry on the database is time consuming and requires a lot of effort especially when the database has already accumulated a significant number of records. Keeping a copy of these stored documents eliminates the need to sort and re-upload corrupted documents, thus, avoiding interruption to the company’s operation.
Aside from regular system and data backup procedure, one great concern is the system’s security. Security pertains to the safety of the system against truncation and unauthorized use. Several aspects related to security must be dealt with, namely:
1. Hardware security. Physical components of the system must be safeguarded from accidental and intentional harm. This can be done by limiting access to hardware components, specially the network server, from users except to those who are authorized to do so. Installed hardware such as cables, router, etc. must be located in a place where accidents such as spills, tripping, etc. can be avoided.
2. Network security. All terminal users must be authenticated by the server by setting up all user access through domain authentication. Users account must be stored and authenticated by the server before enabling access to all terminals.
3. Information System Security. Developers of the proposed information system must pay careful consideration of the security of this application. Since the information system is a web-based EDP, the possibility of being hacked is high which may lead to data theft and even sabotage (vandalism, file deletion, fake login, SQL injection, etc.) Analysis of security issues, possible security holes and proper testing must be carried out in the development and testing phase before the system is put online must be done.
4. Security of Backups. Media containing the data backups must be stored and locked in a secure storage area in order to avoid accidental importing of old information into the system or data theft.
5. Miscellaneous security issues. These issues include installation of reliable antivirus and network security software as safeguard for viruses, worms, Trojans, etc. that may harm the system.
We have discussed the nature of the project’s technical requirements in line with the type of the client’s business as well as the recommended solutions to these needs. Although we limited our discussion to specific technologies deemed appropriate for the said needs we have gathered enough information significant to the completion of the entire project starting from the planning to the actual development. It is therefore suggested that further consultations with technical people including the client themselves if the solutions mentioned herein suits the client’s preference. Further revisions and amendments are, therefore, encouraged.