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It’s Monday morning and your alarm clock goes off at the crack of dawn. After rolling out of bed, you put on your fuzzy slippers and make a pot of coffee. What happens next is almost every office worker’s dream. You make the trek across your living room to your desk, “wake up” your computer and start working. Just another typical day at “the office”!
Thanks to recent developments in technology, more and more entrepreneurs are finding that they can make this dream a reality. Sure there are drawbacks, but with the right equipment, software and services, working from home can be a snap.
Of course, it helps if you have a good space to work, some nice office furniture and a little peace and quiet. After that, it’s all about your technology. So what do you need to get started?
Every business is different, but here are a few ideas to consider.
Bandwidth: One of the most critical tools in your home office tool chest is internet bandwidth. If you are lucky, you might already have fiber optic connectivity in your neighborhood. If not, be sure to explore all of the internet service options in your area and select the one that is the fastest and most reliable. Cable service typically offers more bandwidth than DSL. If you are going to splurge anywhere on your home office, this is probably the place to do it.
Personal Computers & Devices: I know…it almost sounds passé to talk about personal computers in this new age of smart phones and tablets. However, for most businesses, the reality is that you still need a decent PC in your home office. You will probably need Microsoft Office as well. Fortunately, both desktop and laptop PCs continue to improve and there are a lot of cool new features available:
- Solid state drives have dropped in price. These are convenient because they enable you to boot up your computer more quickly.
- Touch screens are finally hitting the mainstream, particularly with the introduction of Windows 8. If you’re using Windows 8, get a touch screen!
- Go wireless. Wires are fast disappearing from the office landscape. Keyboards, mice, printers, routers, monitors, drives, speakers, etc. are all fair game for the wireless revolution. Some small devices can now even be charged wirelessly.
- Monitors keep getting bigger, thinner and cheaper. If it will aid your workflow, consider using two or three. Start with a 24-inch LCD screen and add more as needed. A wide selection of monitor arms and stands are available to accommodate just about any monitor and configuration.
- Webcams to facilitate video conferencing are a must. OK…so sometimes you still need to look presentable at home!
- Multifunction printers for scanning, faxing and printing are getting better all the time. They are faster, more reliable and have more features. Color laser printers have come down in price and might now be an option for some small businesses.
- If you have large data storage requirements, Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are a good option for a home office network. They offer a lot of flexibility if you need to access data from multiple devices or provide backup capacity.
The Cloud: Rapid advancements in cloud computing technology are revolutionizing how we work from home. If you can host your business software or website in the cloud, there is little need for large servers or storage devices in your home office. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.
Even if you maintain these systems locally, you can still take advantage of some of the other cloud services that are available. They will reduce the technology burden at home and also provide some mobility if you choose to migrate to …say…the local café!
- Cloud services like Dropbox, eFax, GoToMeeting and QuickBooks are essential to running a small business from home.
- You will also want to utilize a bank that offers easy and comprehensive online banking.
- If you take credit card payments, sign up for a service like Square to mobilize your transactions.
Phone Service: Most individuals already have a land line and cell phone at home. However, many business owners opt for a VOIP plan (Voice Over Internet Protocol) for their primary business phone service. It’s generally inexpensive, segregated from your other phone services and can easily interface with e-mail and other devices.
Along with your standard internet connection, you may want to get a good cell phone data plan with either a tethering or a mobile hotspot feature. In the event of an internet service disruption in your home, you can use your phone as a backup to access the internet from your computer. Naturally, this can provide you with mobile internet access in other locations as well.
If the cell phone connection in your home is inadequate, you may be able to purchase a cell signal booster for your office. Check with your service provider for availability.
Working from home can provide needed flexibility on a budget. Having the right technology to support your business will substantially increase your chances for success. Just be sure to take a break and get out of the house once in a while!
Norman Fong is The Chief and Co-Founder of BuyVia, an online and iOS App smart shopping service that uncovers great deals on popular products. BuyVia makes it easy for consumers to get price alerts from both online and local retailers for best cheap laptops and other electronics products.