The Ultimate Office Equipment Cheat Sheet: What You Need, What You Don’t
Making your small office work for you means finding the right office equipment. You must select essential devices and leaving other, obsolete ones behind. Here’s a quick rundown on what equipment every small office must have to effectively meet today’s small business needs.
You need a dedicated voice line, especially in a home office. You don’t want your kids answering your business phone. These days, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services can suit your voice communication needs perfectly. You can even use a traditional phone with many VoIP services.
You’ll want a quality telephone with a speakerphone for hands-free talking. For long phone calls, or long spells of sales cold calling, a Bluetooth headset is a necessity. You’ll be able to walk around the room freely, which typically helps people have a more natural conversational style. A base station can connect your headset to your VoIP system and to your computer, if your computer doesn’t already have Bluetooth integration. You also have the option of using purely web-based VoIP services, such as Skype and Google Voice, which will interface directly with a computer and Bluetooth headset.
If video conferencing is important in your business, you’ll need a webcam. You’ll use it with your web-based VoIP service and Bluetooth headset.
To recap, for voice communication, you’ll need the following:
- VoIP service
- Telephone with speakerphone
- Bluetooth headset
- Webcam (optional)
Copy, Print, and Fax
These days, many small business offices are almost entirely paperless. But you still need some equipment to interface with the world of paper documentation. Your most important investment will be an all-in-one unit that combines the functions of a copier, printer, and fax machine.
If faxing is an important part of your communications, a web-based fax service such as eFax or FaxZero allows you to send digital documents to hardware fax machines for either a per-document or subscription fee. You can also receive faxes for viewing or printing and retrieve old documents. Specific features and functions vary from service to service. There is usually a free option, but the ad-free functionality and extra features of the paid services are usually worth the fees.
If you deal with contracts, you may find an eSignature service, such as DocuSign, to be a useful alternative to fax. It’s entirely web-based, secure, and radically streamlines the process of getting documents to and from parties for signing.
So, for print, copy, and fax, you’ll need the following:
- All-in-one printer/copier/fax machine
- Web-based fax service
- An eSignature service (optional)
Many small business owners are able to work efficiently and comfortably with a laptop. This choice brings the added convenience of being able to move your workplace anywhere, including cafés and libraries. A useful addition to any computer, whether laptop or desktop, is a quality, widescreen LCD monitor. Used with a laptop, it gives you a second workspace, and it can dramatically reduce eye strain.
Choose a well-made and ergonomic mouse to make clicking and dragging comfortable. Trackballs are among the most hand-friendly input devices. Both mice and trackballs are available as wireless devices.
A full-sized, quality keyboard makes long periods of typing more bearable. It also helps prevent strain. If you’re using a laptop as your main PC, be sure the keyboard is comfortable. Don’t ever choose your keyboard on the basis of price alone. You’ll pay for it with the health of your hands.
For mobile computing, you may find a netbook to be handy. While falling out of favor compared to tablets, as discussed in this article in Biztech, netbooks still have much to offer. Long battery life and easy portability make netbooks the ultimate take-them-anywhere computers. However, their processing power is weak, so don’t expect to use them for much more than writing, email, web use, and organizational tasks.
If you do large amounts of writing and are easily distracted by the web, consider purchasing an AlphaSmart Neo. It has a cult following among writers and journalists. Originally designed for educational settings, this looks like a keyboard with a small LCD screen attached. It offers minimal text formatting and no web browser, making it perfect for writing first drafts fast and without distraction. Then, you can upload files to your PC and edit freely. It’s light, durable, and runs for 700+ hours on three AA batteries.
For computing, you must have the following:
- Laptop or desktop PC
- Widescreen LCD monitor
- Ergonomic mouse or trackball
- Quality, ergonomic keyboard
You may also find these useful:
- AlphaSmart Neo
Never keep your essential files on just one drive. Always back up to a second drive; either local or cloud-based options are good options.
A local backup drive or server gives you immediate access to your backed-up data and the security of knowing where your data is. Remember, however, to keep your drive connected for scheduled backups. Also, if disaster strikes your office, whether by theft, flood, or fire, your drive goes, too.
Cloud-based data backup is secure and has the advantage of automatic backup without extra hardware attached. With cloud, there’s no need to find extra space for another device, but you typically have to pay a subscription fee. While a backup drive has a one-time, upfront cost, a cloud-based service is an ongoing expense.
Finding office equipment can be an enjoyable process. You may not find your perfect piece of equipment the first time, so buy equipment with a return policy and use services with a free trial period or money-back guarantee. That way, you won’t spend money on something you don’t end up liking or that doesn’t work for your business.