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All your computer questions answered

All components needed for a PC


The main circuit board; the motherboard is where all other components and devices connect. You need the motherboard to allow for communication between all other hardware. It is seen as the backbone of every computer, smartphone, server, and many other devices. There are different things to consider when purchasing a motherboard, such as the type of processor you are using, and the socket it fits.  


The Central Processing Unit acts as the central hub for every component installed on the motherboard. The main purpose of the CPU is to take information stored in the RAM, understand what to do with it, and send the information to the relevant components. Which is why the CPU is often referred to as the “brain of the computer”. CPU’s can make billions of calculations every second, depending on the clock speed. The higher the Gigahertz, GHz, the more processes are completed. For instance, a 3GHz processor can perform 3 billion processes a second.


Core i3 

The entry level core processors, i3 are designed for well-rounded performance, for light users. They are the most cost-effective processors in the range and will deal with most light word processing and web browsing. The main benefit for a core i3 processor, is they keep costs down and can do most day-to-day operations.  

Core i5 

If you need to be able to effectively multitask, or do some light photo and video editing, the i5 would be a necessary upgrade. The performance is not far and away from the core i7, and costs considerably less; very potent midrange option.  

Core i7 

Entering the upper echelons of processing power, the core i7 is a mighty performer with more demanding applications. Graphic design, web design, and video editing are virtually seamless with the core i7 range.  

Core i9 

At the top of the commercial processing unit, the core i9 is most likely more power than most businesses will need. Predominantly being used in industries requiring computer-aided design, known as CAD, and working with 3D software. 


Ryzen 3 

Starting with the entry level, the Ryzen 3 is the most cost-effective processor in this series. These chips are even capable of running games. They are good for light multitasking, and basic office management. They have 4 cores, which are separated into two threads per core. Giving 8 threads. The more cores and threads, the better at multitasking.  

Ryzen 5 

With up to 6 cores and 12 threads, the Ryzen 5 is a very powerful midrange chipset. It will easily deal with multitasking, and light graphics and video editing. A great all-rounder solution that isn’t far off the performance of the Intel Core i5, at a more competitive price.  

Ryzen 7 

Moving into the realms of digital asset creation, animation and video editing, the Ryzen 7 offers 8 cores and 6 threads. Predominantly made to be used as a gaming processor, the Ryzen 7 can also effectively deal with 3D modelling.

Ryzen 9 

This core processing unit is reserved for the ultimate in performance, most companies will never need the power from the Ryzen 9. Housing 16 cores, 32 threads, there is very little the Ryzen 9 cannot do. A great option for CAD software, 3DS MAX, Cinema 4D, and many other 3D modelling software applications.  


RAM can make or break the speed of a computer; Random Access Memory is where information is temporarily stored in order for the CPU to access it. The key benefit is that the CPU doesn’t need to go looking for the information elsewhere, and can execute commands efficiently. RAM is designed to allocate resources while using applications, and discarding them when the application is closed.  

RAM size 

The simple calculation is; the more RAM you have, the more you can store in the temporary memory; the more projects you can work on at the same time. If you don’t have an adequate amount of RAM, then switching between applications will slow the computer down. Most everyday users can comfortably work with 8GB of RAM, if you are using the computer for image and video editing, it is recommended to opt for 16GB or more.  

RAM speed 

The speed of the RAM is measured in Megahertz, MHz, which relates to the number of processing cycles per second. The higher the number, the more processes the RAM can do. When choosing RAM, you need to make sure that the motherboard can support the speeds, otherwise it will bottleneck the performance, or not work at all.  


Double Data Rate RAM is the most common form of RAM on the market today. Synchronous Dynamic RAM, SDRAM, means that the RAM can perform both read and write operations at the same time, essentially doubling the speed of older RAM. Not every motherboard supports the latest DDR iterations, so you need to make sure the RAM and the motherboard are compatible. The newer the RAM version, the more up-to-date motherboard you will need. They range from DDR1 to DDR5, with the higher numbers being capable of faster speeds, and larger storage. 


The Graphics Processing Unit, more commonly known as a graphics card, is the component that deals with processing lots of data quickly, and displays it accordingly. Often associated with gaming, the graphics card is also used for more efficient video editing, and even machine learning. The GPU can be integrated into the CPU, or a completely separate card.  


Not every computer needs a discrete graphics card, many users could easily use the integrated graphics from the processing unit. Some processors come with the capability to do the graphical processes; Intel refer to their graphic technology as either HD, UHD or Iris. AMD refer to theirs as the APU. 

Intel HD 

The older version of the integrated graphics series, the HD stands for High-Definition. Each year up until 2017, Intel made improvements to performance with each generation. They aren’t as common as the newer UHD series, but still are capable enough with smaller productivity requirements.  

Intel UHD  

In 2017, Intel announced their 8th generation of the Core processor range. This replaced the HD series, and adopted the name UHD. Which stood for ultra-high definition. The UHD processors can be in laptops and lower powered machines.  

Intel Iris 

The best performance Intel offer in regards to integrated graphics, the Iris is mainly seen in Apple MacBooks. The Iris also has variations, such as the Iris Plus, and the Iris Pro. The Pro offers the best performance out all Intel’s integrated graphics.  


APU stands for accelerated processing unit, and are regarded as the best integrated graphics option on the market. AMDs name for all their graphical options come under the Radeon brand. With the latest iterations running on their Vega architecture. They have the capabilities to even run video games. They are good for light photo and video editing, and productivity applications. 


Dedicated GPUs are components that are connected via a PCI slot, and is used to deal with all the graphical demands you have. The prices range dramatically, with the most powerful workstation GPUs being almost £7,000. There are very few reasons to buy a card that expensive, and they are usually reserved for high demanding applications such as 3DS max, Blender, and several other 3D modelling software applications. There are two types of GPUs for computers, they are Nvidia and AMD.  


The same company that manufactures CPUs, AMD have a range of dedicated graphics cards, which fall under the Radeon banner. Within the Radeon range, AMD’s Radeon range includes low powered and low-profile cards, the top end gaming cards, and the PRO range for workstations. The Radeon Pro series are predominantly used for 3D software.  


Up until recently, Nvidia were known as the best option for graphics cards. The gap between AMD and Nvidia has closed, but Nvidia are still the more powerful option. The RTX range is more suitable for gaming, but does add additional resources for ray tracing. Which is crucial for creating realistic images of how light bounces and reflects off surfaces. This is a very important aspect of CGI in films.  

Intel Arc 

Very recently, Intel have decided to enter the graphics card market with their own solution. They are roughly the same price per performance as the other two manufacturers, but aren’t competing at the top end. There are only 2 options and the most expensive A770 is comparable to the NVIDIA RTX 3060. 


The place where all your documents are stored, the type of storage you need will be dependent on the speed required, the amount of storage, and the mobility of that storage. Solid State Drives and Hard Disk Drives can both come as internal and external storage, so make sure you know what the storage device is being used for.


The Hard disk drive, more commonly referred to as the HDD, is the most common type of internal storage. They are the most cost-effective storage device, and can either replace or be added in addition to existing storage devices in your PC. They use spinning magnetised disk that is written to using a ‘head’. The data is stored in binary, zeros and ones, with some disks spinning up to 7,200 RPM. The slower, but cheaper HDD spins at 5,400 RPM. As more data is stored, removed, overwritten and deleted; the data stored becomes fragmented across the disk. This causes your computer to spend more time finding documents and programs; slowing it down. 


The storage device that is growing in popularity, the Solid-State Drive is a faster, more stable device than the HDD. As there are no moving parts, and the data is stored using flash memory instead of disks, it could easily speed up a slow computer. They cost more than traditional HDDs, and not everyone requires the speed increase. SSDs aren’t as universal in speeds either; they can range from 100MB/s to 500MB/s. 


The Non-Volatile Memory Express, NVME refers to how the SSD is connected. Instead of using SATA, it uses PCIe, which lowers the latency between the components. In theory, NVMe can deal with speeds up to GB/s instead of MB/s. With the maximum throughput being 32GB. 

Cooling systems 

One of the major issues regarding PCs and other devices, is that they run very hot. Without proper cooling, a CPU can easily exceed 100oC at heavy workloads, which will usually trigger the safety features in your PC to shut down immediately. Cooling has two primary functions; to draw fresh, cooler air in; to push hot air out. Cooling needs to be set up to create a flow of air instead of pumping all the air into the case. 

Heat Sink 

Probably the most important cooling device in your PC, the heat sink is installed tightly, and directly on, the CPU. With a layer of thermal paste, the heat sink is built to transfer the heat generated on the CPU, and move it into the grills. The heat sink is designed to have a large surface area, to dissipate heat more effectively. Most heat sinks now also require a fan installed directly on to them. 


The most common, and simple way to move air around, is to use fans. Most PC cases have several 12cm diameter fans on the front and back. The idea is to create a current of air that constantly brings in cold air, and removes hot air. Most motherboards have some form of temperature measuring systems at can automatically control when the fans turn on. Fans are cheaper, and affective, but they can also be very load. 

Liquid Cooling 

Although seen as the next generation of PC cooling, liquid cooling has been around awhile, well before computers were fitted with them. The way a car radiator works is similar to a liquid cooling system in a PC. The liquid is cooled in the water block, passes over the component, usually the processor, drawing the heat away, then takes it back to the water block to start again. Due to the effectivity of liquid cooling, fans will turn on less, keeping your PC running quieter.  


After all the components are installed, you will need a power supply to turn it on. These are built into the back of the case, or as a power brick for laptops. PSU stands for power supply unit and its key purpose is to deliver the right amount of power to the right components. The power is based on watts and most common PSUs are in the range of 400-1,000 watts. They come in two main designs, modular and nonmodular. Modular PSUs allow for unneeded cables to be unplugged, which helps with cable management, and nonmodular come with the cables hardwired in, which are cheaper.


Cases are usually an afterthought for most businesses, as they are seen as just the housing for all the components. The case has a crucial role in protection and cooling; depending on the usage. Most business computers have a small form factor, with a couple of fans to aid with cooling. You ideally need a minimum of one fan drawing cool air into the machine, and another fan removing the hot air, like an exhaust. For design, editing, and CAD, you will need a dedicated graphics card, which will also produce more heat. The cooling will at least need bigger, higher quality fans, or even a water-cooling solution. This is why it is important to build the internals before making any decisions on a case. 


Now all your computer components are connected to the motherboard, and installed in the case, you are almost ready to start using the machine. To see the software and operating system, you need at least one monitor. All modern computers will support at least one monitor connection, usually using HDMI. These can either be on the motherboard using the integrated graphics chip, or on the graphics card. More expensive graphics cards can support 4 or more monitors at a time and will most likely use a display port connection. The type of monitor you need will also be subject to what you use the computer for.  

Square shaped 

The first monitors used were almost square shaped, with an aspect ratio of either 5:4, or more commonly 4:3. This shape was the standard for many years but has fallen out of favour since widescreen came to prevalence.  

Wide screen 

The most common form factor, you can get widescreen monitors in several sizes and screen resolutions. They mostly come in a 16:9 aspect ratio, and use different display technologies, depending on what you need it to do. Some screens are better for eye care, and others are necessary for graphic design. 


A Liquid Crystal Display is a type of display technology used in electronic devices such as televisions, computer monitors, and mobile phones. Using a layer of liquid crystals sandwiched between two sheets of polarising material, the liquid crystals can control the amount of light that passes through them by rotating the polarisation of the light. This allows the LCD to display images by selectively blocking or allowing light to pass through specific areas of the screen. They are thin, lightweight, and consume less power, while displaying at higher resolutions than older screens such as CRT. 


Thin Film Transistor monitors are a type of LCD monitor which controls the display of images. In a TFT monitor, each individual pixel on the screen is controlled by its own transistor. This allows for faster and more precise control of the pixels, resulting in a clearer and more detailed image. TFT monitors are popular due to their low power consumption, sharp image quality, and fast response times. 


In-plane switching monitors are another form of LCD display. The liquid crystal molecules in an IPS panel are aligned horizontally instead of vertically, which allows for more light to pass through the display and produce more vibrant and accurate colours. IPS monitors are also known for having a wider viewing angle, meaning the colours and brightness of the display remain consistent even when viewed from off-centre angles. 


These monitors use Light Emitting Diodes as their primary light source. LED monitors are energy-efficient, retain a longer lifespan, while produce brighter and more vibrant colours. As LEDs do not require heat to emit light, they also will never burn out. This is also why they are more energy-efficient, as they do not produce wasted energy in the form of heat.   


Organic Light-Emitting Diode monitors are similar to LED, but uses organic materials to emit light when an electric current is applied. Each pixel in an OLED display is made up of an organic material that emits light when a current is passed through it, so OLED displays do not require a backlight like traditional LCD displays. OLED displays can produce deep blacks and vibrant colours because each individual pixel can be turned on or off independently, allowing for more precise control of brightness and contrast. This also reduces the latency between your computer sending the information, and your monitor displaying it correctly. This faster response time can help with anything from gaming, to video editing. 


Every computer user will need a way to interact with their machine. The most common free movement peripheral is the mouse. The design has changed dramatically over the years, but the most common layout is to have 2 buttons, and a scroll wheel. The more expensive mouse devices will give more flexibility and functionality, with programmable buttons for shortcuts or button presses you use often. 


The easiest way to complete word processing tasks and internet searches, the keyboard is a crucial usability device. The right keyboard offers more than just functionality, you need to make sure it is comfortable to use. Well-designed keyboards will reduce wrist strain over prolonged usage. There are several types of keys that will feel different to type on. Mechanical switches are more expensive, but last longer, and are more efficient to type with. They are raised, and require more force to press each key. The standard keyboard most offices use have a rubber membrane underneath the keys, which makes them quieter, and offer more usability across a wider range of users.  

Operating System 

When you turn on your computer, phone, or tablet, you need something to interact with. They way your device looks and acts is down to the operating system. Take Windows as an example, it allows you to use all the apps you need, and you can add third-party software to customise your experience. The operating system does all the complicated processes, so you can interact how you want to. You can’t use a device without some form of operating system installed.

Optional Devices  

The following are not necessary devices for using your computer, but they offer further functionality tailored to your specific needs. You can add these at a later date, as and when you need them. Some of these optional devices have become necessary for the increase of working from home.

Web Cam 

From conference calls and business meetings; to education and family reunions; web cams add an extra level or personality to communications. Most people want to see who they are talking to, and the shift to working from home has opened more up to using web cams. Using software like Microsoft Teams or Zoom, you can conveniently host team meetings without the disruption of travel. 


Many web cams and laptops will come with a built-in microphone, but they are usually more basic and lower quality. A poor mic can make the overall communication experience difficult, so if you are using one often, it is wise to invest in something more substantial. The costs for microphones have dropped in recent years, so it is a smaller investment for a better experience.  

Headphones and Speakers 

To watch videos, listen to music, or hear another person on a call, you will need some form of audio device. Headphones allow for a more private experience, whereas speakers are more convenient. There is no right or wrong choice for which one you choose, but take into account factors such as colleagues, background noise, etc. You can get audio devices of varying quality from a seemingly endless scale of prices. If you are editing video and audio, you need to spend more to get the better sound a frequency ranges. Using it to make Teams calls? A basic set of headphones could see you through.


Mainly seen on laptops, but can be bought for computers, the touchpad is used as an alternative to the mouse, and some prefer to use it for accessibility reasons. Depending on the touchpad, they can have multiple finger inputs to make navigation easier. 

Graphics tablets 

A niche peripheral, graphics tablets are used for design an illustration work. Graphics tablets allow artists to directly draw onto their preferred software in order to create digital art. Most people won’t need one, but if you are in a creative field, this device could be invaluable.

Optical Drives 

There was a time optical drives were a necessity for installing software applications. They have decreased in popularity due to most apps being executable from a file you can download off the internet. They still have a function for businesses who wish to create a physical back up of important data.  

Networking Devices 


A switch is a networking device that connects devices together on a Local Area Network, LAN. It receives incoming data packets from one device and forwards them to the destination device based on the Media Access Control, MAC, address of the devices. Switches are different from hubs, which simply broadcast data packets to all connected devices, regardless of whether the packet is intended for that device or not. Switches, on the other hand, use MAC addresses to identify the destination device and only forward the packet to that device. This makes switches more efficient than hubs, as they can reduce unnecessary network traffic and improve network performance. 


A router is a networking device that forwards data packets between computer networks. It is often used to connect multiple devices to the Internet or to each other in a local network. A router uses routing tables to determine the best path for forwarding data packets. Routers can be used in homes, businesses, and large organisations to provide network connectivity and to manage traffic on the network. 

POE injector 

A Power over Ethernet injector is a device that allows a network cable to carry both data and electrical power to a PoE-enabled device, such as a wireless access point, IP camera, or VoIP phone. It is often used in situations where it is not practical or possible to provide a separate power source to the device. The PoE injector is typically connected to a power outlet and a network switch, and it injects DC power into the Ethernet cable. This allows the device at the other end of the cable to receive both data and power over a single cable, eliminating the need for a separate power supply. 

How to connect up a PC 


Before you can setup a PC, you will need to purchase one. The specification of the hardware you need comes down to what you are going to use the PC for. The more demanding applications will require better hardware, so make sure you check the minimum requirements for each program you will be using.  Check out the building the best PC for your needs section for more information.  


Before you start plugging in all the cables and booting it up, decide where it is going to live. You want it to be close to your monitor and desk, in order to easily connect everything. Some desks will have a designated space for the PC, but most office desks are open plan. Ensure the space allows for adequate airflow, and access to the front ports. 

Plug in devices 

Now the PC is in the right place, you can start plugging in the essentials. In order to get the PC started and interactable, you will need a PC, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. There are other devices and cables you will need to set up things like internet access, and video calling.  


The mouse is the main device you use for interacting with your PC. Newer devices connect via the USB ports. Older devices may have a 6 pin PS/2 connection. Although rare, if you are using this connection, then make sure it is plugged into the green slot. A wireless mouse has a receiver that is connected via USB, offering more convenience. Youl will need to change the batteries or charge the mouse periodically. 


The quickest way of entering information into your personal computer, the keyboard is commonly plugged into the PC via USB. Older devices may be using the 6 pin PS/2 connector, coloured in purple. Wireless keyboards, like wireless mouses, uses a receiver plugged into a USB slot.  

Ethernet cable and Wi-Fi devices 

Depending on the device, you may have a Wi-Fi adapter installed already. If you are using an external adapter, you will need to need to install the drivers before it will work. To get on the internet immediately, plug in an ethernet cable into the ethernet port. This will make the initial Windows setup quick and easy.  


PC to screen connection 

There are multiple ways you can link your PC to the monitor, each option requires a different cable and connector.  VGA is the older connection type that uses a 15-pin connection.  DVI is similar, but able to support higher resolutions. DVI is less common and uses 24 pins to form a connection. The most used connection is HDMI, which is also used for connecting devices to your TV at home. The connection is universal, and both sides of the connection are the same.  


All that I left to do is plug in the power supply into the monitor. You should see a standby light on the front of the monitor, or the display will brighten. This will indicate the power cable is working.  

Power cable 

The final core connection you need is the power cable to the PC itself. The base unit has a large socket that takes a 3-pin cable, known as a kettle lead, and is plugged directly into the mains. There are additional peripherals you may wish to connect at this time, but can also be added later. 

Optional Connections 

Speakers or headphones 

If you need sound, and your monitor does not have built-in speakers, then you can plug a set of headphones or external speakers into the audio jack or USB. You don’t need sound to get started, but is a common addition. 


With the shift of more businesses conducting video calls, you may need to connect an external webcam. Most monitors don’t come with a preinstalled camera. The web cam is also not an essential device to get started.  

Printers and scanners 

Although most of these machines work on the wireless network, some older printers will require a connection via USB. It will also require drivers and software to be installed in order to work.  

Power the machine on 

Now that everything is installed, press the power button, that is located either on the front, or top of the PC unit. If everything is connected properly, you will see the start-up screen, and will be able to move the mouse and type on the keyboard.  

How different is the set up for an Apple Mac? 

Depending on the particular Apple, the cabling is either similar or exactly the same. The iMac is an all-in-one solution, so all you need is the power cable. The keyboard and mouse are wirelessly connected, and won’t connect until you turn on the device.   

How to choose the best business computer 

Different businesses; across different industries; at different stages of development; will have different needs from their technology. Buying a PC for business can be challenging, especially if you aren’t familiar with the different components and terms used. Then there is the comparison of Mac vs PC for business use. What are the key benefits of one over the other? 

Why are you looking at a SME computer? 

The most important question to ask yourself before even exploring options. Why do you need to get a new business computer? You may be replacing an old one, or growing your business and need computers for the new employees.  

What features and software will you require? 

You can’t find the right solution for you, without knowing what you are going to use the computer for. Does your business utilise creative software? Do you need a high specification computer for precision machining? Maybe it the main office computer for emails and accounting. Whatever the purpose, you want to get it right the first time, in order to save time and money. 

How many business computers do you need? 

The quantity you need may affect how you get them. Buying several machines, and then maintaining them can be a costly expense to your business. If you are looking to replace a whole suite of machines, it may be better to rent them on a service agreement.  

Who is going to use these business computers? 

Are these computers for designers, marketing executives, or monitoring email inquiries? Which software does the main user use? Are they more used to MacOS or Windows 11? Make sure you take into consideration the skill level of your employees, and what is going to benefit them the most. 

Understanding your computer requirements 

Each industry is different, and your business is uniquely yours. Only you will know exactly what you require from your IT services. Starting from the software you want to use; you can make more informed decisions on the hardware you need. The more demanding the work, the more resources the computer will need. 

Manufacturing and Machining 

Business management 

Different departments will have different requirements. Managing the running and financial side of the business will allow the use of a lower specification of computer. The more documents and software you have open at once, the more of an effect they will have on the performance. The most important component to consider is the type of storage you use. The faster the storage can be accessed, the lower the impact on task switching. An SSD allows for almost instantaneous data access. Every component needs to work together, in order to not cause a bottleneck. Meaning you will want to match a decent storage device, with a good CPU and RAM. 

CIM and CAD  

The systems used for designing and automating the manufacturing process, require power machines to operate. CIM, Computer Integrated Manufacturing, is a closed loop system, that uses sensors and other input methods to automate the manufacturing process. The information needs to be exchanged as efficiently as possible, as each step of the production line is relying on the information that comes before it. With CAD, Computer Aided Design, you are going to need a dedicated graphics card installed. CAD is a powerful range of tools allowing for precision design and modelling.  

Transport and Logistics 

Transport encompasses a large array of industries, each with different needs. Smaller taxi companies may rely on one or two operators to book and manage the fleet of cars they have. Larger scale operations may install tracking devices on each car to know where they are and when they should be available. Using data to get an accurate representation of waiting times. Most of these systems won’t require the highest specifications to operate effectively, and could run on a CPU that has integrated graphics. Saving money on one of the most expensive components in a PC, the graphics card. A mid-range processing unit would be ample for most transport companies, given how far integrated graphics chips have come.  

Food Production 

Technology has helped automate a lot of the food production sector. Utilising CIM, Computer integrated Manufacturing, tools to increase production. Some of the computers may require a GPU in order to run the more complex pieces of software. The PC unit will also need to contained in an easy to clean housing, that is also food safe certified.  


Farming, agriculture, and horticulture, are some of the oldest professions. Farming has completely changed over thousands of years, whereby most people can get any fruit or vegetables, all year round. Farming software has now become an important part of running each and every stage of a crop’s lifecycle. Due to how these programs work, you don’t necessarily need the latest hardware. There are software options available that work on tablets and iPads. Which are more versatile, cheaper, and connect all growers to the main data storage. See LiveFarmer farm management software for more information.  


High street 

Most high street stores have had to adapt with modern technology; needing to offer a secure way to take card payments. These systems should then link to an accounting software that tracks payments. The computer that runs Xero, for example, would need a relatively decent CPU and RAM. In contrast the ePOS computers would require the very basics to operate. 


Moving your business online has never been easier. Even the smallest business can get set up in seconds using any popular sales eCommerce platform, such as Shopify. If you are using a third-party platform to sell your products, then all you need is a device with access to the internet. If you are hosting a bespoke eCommerce platform, then you will need a server, better security protection, and surge protection.  

Property and letting 

When dealing with rental properties, you can have tenants moving in or out at any time. Looking after properties requires a lot of care with data. Documenting work that has been done, reporting on the condition of a property after a tenant leaves, and securely storing their details. Many property management software solution will have a minimum computer specification requirement. Others will be based online. Ideally you want to have a decent amount of RAM, 8GB or more, and a decent midrange CPU, like the Intel i3 series. 


Similar to how a retail shop would operate, the key features for a charity shop would be inventory management. Which can be run on a basic computer with an excel spreadsheet. If you want to take online donations, you will need some form of ecommerce platform. Charities can use any number of online based funding platforms, that can also incorporate gift aid. For this, you only need a place to host your donation page, and an internet connection.