You pose an interesting question one that many business have asked
and solved in many different ways. Having worked for a large computer
company and owned my own software and web design business I have
seen it done many ways in both large corporations, small businesses
and personal use.
IMHO the internet is much safer place to be if you are not running
the Windows operation system. I recommend using an Apple Macintosh
because of the ease of setup, resistance to virus attack and overall
quality. The types of programs that you are talking about running are
all available on Mac as well as Windows systems.
One computer or two? This really depends on how you want to keep in
touch with your clients. If you are only going to send them
via postal mail then having their on a stand
alone computer. You can then type them letters and mail them. If on
the other hand they you want to send the client you will need to have
their address in your email program on the computer that in on the
net. This means that some personal is on the computer
that is connected to the internet. You also have the problem of
having to update the on two machines when it changes. I
currently have three computers hooked up to the network in my house.
One is used only for web site testing, is my wife's and the last is
the one I use for both business and personal use.
The reason that gets stolen by hackers from computers on
the internet is that the user does something stupid like not
deleting a users login when they leave the company or
allow weak passwords to be used in the system, or not setting up
their wireless networks and firewalls correctly. Firewalls keep other
computers from accessing your computer. The home systems that I set
up are scaled down versions of what corporations use. First there is
the cable modem that is connected directly to the internet. After
that comes the fire wall with a ten to 12 letter/number/character
password. Firewalls are useless if you do not change the password.
The firewall is also configured so that it prevents unauthorized
incoming access from another computer. After that is the router that
the computers plug into. The router password is also changed and
configured correctly. The computers are all set up with the password
enabled. This means that a person using another computer need to
login to my computer to view any files. My last line of defense is
that I do not have the computer running if I am not using it. My home
system is wired not wireless. Why? Lets just say that I can surf the
web using two of my neighbors internet connections.
The defenses I talked about so far will not prevent virus from
coming into your machine. Virus' get loaded onto a machine from two
main sources, a contaminated disk, or as an infected email, or
attachment that comes in from the internet. As I stated above the
Windows operating system is very vulnerable to attack. I am always
amazed how much junk get sucked into Windows machines as you surf the
web. I have started with a clean Windows machine, surfed the web for
a couple of hours, run the antivirus / antispyware software and wound
up with several hundred suspect files. I have not seen this same type
of harassment while using a Mac. If you decide to use a Windows based
system make sure you purchase antivirus / antispyware software and
update it and use it daily.
Just remember that when your computer is connected to the internet
the odds of being attacked by a hacker are very small. This is
especially true if you only turn on your modem when you want to
connect to the internet. When a modem is turned off it is invisible
to the internet. Each time you turn it on it requests an IP address
your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The IP address that gets
assigned is different each time you turn it on so a hacker is very
unlikely to find you in the millions of IP addresses out there. Even
if you leave the modem on all the time your ISP will change the
address every few days so your chances are small that they will find
As a point of reference, my delightful wife keeps her Mac PowerBook
computer on all the time. She is connected to the internet through
the setup I have described above. She has two email addresses, one on
Yahoo and the other on my system. She keeps her personal emails on
the PowerBook and uses the Yahoo account when she is purchasing
items, responding to advertisements, and filling out web forms. The
Yahoo account gets tons of junk mail. Her other account gets very
little. Her activities make me nervous but her system has not been
infected in the past four or five years.
BTY - I also do enameling.
Hope this helps.