Selecting the Right Technology for Your New Home-Based Business

We live in an age when, as a function of the downturn in world economy and the relative dearth of available employment, more and more people are taking the route of setting up a home-based business.

Depending on the type of business, some technical devices (electronics) are apt to be necessary. Many people foraying into their own business at home have never had to purchase technology for their own use: Employers have provided what was necessary in the past. The considerations mentioned here are helpful in considering five of the basic pieces of technological equipment most often needed to make a home business/office entirely functional.

The five most rudimentary and generally necessary pieces of electronic equipment for a home-based business, more commonly than not, include 1) A computer to produce and save information and with which to maintain an online presence; 2) The necessary accessories with which to maximize the usefulness of that machine (or machines); 3) A multifunction machine (combination printer, copy machine, fax and scanner); 4) A phone and voice-mail system and 5) A digital camera.

1. A Computer

This has become a ubiquitous need for businesses whether based at home or not. The fundamental choices begin with a decision about portability. If it is to be used ONLY in the office and there is adequate space for it, a traditional tower Desktop is probably the way to go. For the money, they offer more power and capacity than do Laptops, Netbooks or Tablets that may be necessary for people who are on the road some of the time or whose offices are more limited in available space.

Consider the range of functions you think you will need the computer for. The most portable varieties (Netbooks) have the more limited capacities but may be entirely adequate for your purposes. The key variables within each type of computer involve the amounts of Hard Drive capacity (the component that stores programs and information) and Random Access Memory (RAM, DRAM, DDRAM, etc.) This is the ‘working’ memory that you use while you are actually doing something. Some programs and activities require a lot of it (Video viewing or creation work, for example while others, like word processing, require very little.)

A useful rule of thumb is to buy a computer that gives you about 50% more RAM and Hard Drive capacity than you think you really need, thus allowing for growth and discovery. Price-wise, the most expensive may be tempting but might be an unnecessary extravagance. Always buy known brands with good warranties and well rated customer service departments. The work life of a new desktop computer is about five years assuming appropriate care and maintenance. You can always upgrade as you need to.

2. Necessary Computer Accessories

Basic accessories for a desktop computer (sometimes included as a ‘package’ with a computer) include a keyboard, mouse and monitor. A laptop has a built-in touch-pad that can replace the need for a mouse and the screen is, of course, built right into laptops and netbooks.

The essential choice when considering keyboards and mice is whether they are going to be of the ‘wired’ variety or one of several available types of ‘wireless’ types (USB dongle, Bluetooth or 3/4G connections are currently available.) Wireless devices are more versatile and mobile than those connected to the computer by wires, their technology is more sophisticated and they cost more. Many users consider wireless devices a good investment, even with a stay-in-place office desktop computer because of the flexibility of movement they offer the user.

There are literally thousands of computer accessories on the market. No matter how broad one’s resources, it is advised to buy only the accessories you are pretty sure you will really need and use. It requires very little effort to add something you need later on but too many unused accessories can slow down your computer and make simple tasks more complex than they really need to be.

Accessories often outlive the computers they are acquired to use with and frequently see continued usage when the computer itself needs to be replaced.

3. A Multifunction Machine

The days of buying separate machines to perform the basic and necessary functions that can be well done by a multifunction machine have passed for most of us. Copying, faxing, printing and scanning are rudimentary requirements for most businesses. A good multifunction machine does them all!

The range of costs is wide. There are perfectly adequate multifunction machines available for around $100. It is also possible to spend thousands of dollars on one. To be considered are, as always, anticipated need and utilization. The less expensive machines have ink jet printers, the more expensive, laser printers.

The most basic function, the one most heavily used, is apt to be the printer. Consequently, the ongoing cost of using the machine is tied directly to the cost of replacement ink or toner cartridges. A well built multifunction machine has a realistic lifespan of at least five years.

4. A Phone and Voice-mail System

Telephones are an important technological element for any home-based business and one often overlooked in the planning and initial equipment purchasing. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer or potential customer than not being able to reach you, or at least to leave you a message, when they need to. Poor communication and inadequate communication planning and devices are what kills many potentially successful businesses.

Again, the need for portability needs be carefully considered. Many home-based businesses find a combination of a traditional land-line or internet based VoIP service in tandem with a cell phone from and to which messages can be forwarded to be a good solution.

A telephone and voice messaging system is one of the least costly elements of your home office. This is definitely NOT the place to skimp. Risk of losing messages or of ‘down time’ need to be reduced as much as possible to support the needs of a developing business of any kind, whether home-based or not.

Phones and phone systems need be upgraded infrequently and rarely fail. The right system can serve you well for many years.

5. A Digital Camera

Many people starting up a home-based business already own a digital camera and it may be perfectly adequate for their business needs. Most people find, however, that having a separate camera designated specifically and exclusively for business use is a worthwhile investment. It certainly makes the business of depreciating the camera more straightforward at tax time!

Unless your business relies on high quality photography of things, a small, pocket-size camera may be entirely well suited for the occasional need for images. Currently, small point-and-shoot digital cameras with optical zooms of up to 6X are relatively inexpensive. Don’t waste your money on a cheap camera with very little optical zoom but a lot of what is called ‘digital’ zoom. Digital zoom is not really zoom at all. It is, rather, an electronic manipulation and distortion of the pixels which results in … you guessed it … distorted images. It was and is a terrible idea.

Even if you are unsure about whether or not a camera will be necessary, it is a good idea to have one so the first time you need it you don’t miss the opportunity and walk away thinking, “Darn it! I should have picked up a small digital camera.” The lifespan of a digital camera can be ten years or longer. Most people buy a new one not because the old one has failed but because they want more/better features as time goes on.

A Final Note

No doubt many businesses require other basic technology from the outset and there are certainly others that do not need the five I have mentioned right ‘out of the gate.’ However, more often than not, they do. When it comes to technology, as with so many other things, if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not over buy but get good mid-priced equipment to support your business efforts. It will pay off, even in the short run.

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