Equipping Your Home Office - Part 2
© Vishal P. Rao
Choosing Home Office Equipment
In Part 1 of this article we discussed how to select office
furnishings and why making the right choices were crucial to your
comfort and ability to remain organized. In Part 2 we will take
a look at your basic home office equipment needs.
The type of computer that's best for you depends upon the type
of work that you do, and whether you spend all of your time in
your home office, or go out on the road to meet clients. While
there are a seemingly endless choice of makes and models, there
are essentially only three basic choices.
For most home office situations, the desktop computer reigns
supreme. However, if you are on the road a lot then you can find
notebook computers with nearly the same horsepower as the best
desktop. If you do choose a notebook, the consider one that has
an available docking station. That way, when you are in your home
office, you can easily use a standard keyboard, mouse, and monitor.
Even if you have a desktop or notebook, you might have room
in your life for a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). PDAs, such
as those from Palm Computing, can be a very valuable personal
productivity tool especially if you need real-time access to your
appointments, to-do lists, and phone numbers. With the growing
popularity of wireless Internet access you can even use your PDA
to connect to your home office computer no matter where you are.
Your first decision is what type of technology to go with --laser
or ink jet. Laser printers use a toner cartridge/drum assembly
while ink jets accept ink tank cartridges. Lasers are generally
better for high-volume printing and have higher duty cycles--the
manufacturer's rating for the unit's recommended monthly workload.
Lasers also produce better-quality black text than most ink jets,
though some ink-jet models rival low-end lasers.
Lasers are also faster than ink jets, but ink jets offer a lower
cost model if you need to print in color. Color laser printers
are still very expensive. Since the prices for laser and ink jets
are so low, you could consider buying one of each.
Another important item to consider is resolution. A printer's
resolution determines the overall print quality of your documents.
Resolution means the number of dots per inch that appear on the
page as a horizontal and vertical measurement such as 600 x 600
dots-per-inch or dpi. A 600 x 600 dpi resolution produces adequate
quality for most projects.
Your final deciding factor is speed. While printers rarely perform
up to the manufacturer's claims, you should still use the printer's
posted performance specifications as a guideline. An acceptable
speed for personal laser printers is around 6 to 10 pages per
minute. An acceptable range for ink jet printers is 4 ppm or above.
There are printers that do double, triple, or even quadruple
duty as a fax, copier, and scanner as well. You should consider
buying one of these models if you have a need for all of this
3. Internet access
Today you have a wide choice of Internet access protocols. If
you access the Internet only to check your email, and browse the
web a bit, then you might be able to get by with an inexpensive
dial-up account. This type of access generally runs around $9.95
per month and up.
If constant, high-speed Internet access is a requirement for
your home office business, then you need to step up to either
Digital subscriber lines (DSL), or a cable modem. Both provide
sufficient speed for any type of business that you are likely
to run out of a home office.
DSL utilizes unused bandwidth on your existing telephone lines
to provide a constant connection, while cable modems use your
existing cable television network. DSL may not be available in
your area. It depends upon your telephone company's technology
and how far you are from a DSL access point.
Cable, on the other hand, is available in all but the most remote
markets. Still, if you can't get either, then there is always
the possibility of a satellite uplink. While this was considered
extravagant only a few years ago, it's affordable and no more
trouble than installing a small dish antenna on your home and
signing up for the service.
No matter how high-tech your home office is, the telephone is
still the most basic and essential of your business tools. Available
features are at an all-time high and prices are at an all time
low. Almost any home office phone on the market comes equipped
with programmable speed-dial numbers, multiple-line capability,
speakerphone operation, conference call capability, and headset
jacks. In addition, your local phone company offers a wide array
of add-on services such as called id, voice mail, flat-rate long
distance and more.
If your work keeps you up and around your home office, or if
you like to take business calls while out on your patio or while
walking around your home, then a cordless phone is a joy to have.
There are so many makes and models to choose from that it almost
seems like you need a consultant to help you make the right choice.
It's not really that hard. Just keep the following in mind:
a) Choose the right technology
Avoid analog phones at all costs. Analog phones are susceptible
to interference from other devices and range is very limited.
Also, analog phones permit eavesdropping through baby monitors
and other cordless phones.
Digital phones have greater range than analog phones plus they
offer better call privacy through the use of random codes that
scramble communications between handset and base unit.
Digital Spread Spectrum (DSS) is the best of breed for right
now. The Spread Spectrum technology uses multiple channels and
frequency hopping to thoroughly scramble communicate between the
handset and base unit. You also get increased range due to decreased
electrical interference, plus DSS phones are permitted to use
more powerful transmitters.
The range of your cordless phone also depends upon its assigned
radio frequency. Most home office phones fall into three frequencies.
900 MHz: This is by far the worst choice. This frequency is
crowded with devices such as baby monitors, pagers, and cell phones,
and is subject to maximum interference. A 900-MHz phone has a
range of around 1,500 feet and prices start at $20.
2.4 GHz: While once the best choice available, the 2.4-GHz spectrum
is overrun with wireless networking, microwaves, and other devices.
A 2.4-GHz phone has a range of 2,200 feet and pricing starts around
5.8 GHz: This is the latest unlicensed spectrum available for
wireless devices. Very few devices operate in this spectrum so
there is a marked reduction in interference. A 5.8-GHz phone also
boasts a range of around 2,200 feet and start at about $150.
c) Other considerations
Make sure that any phone you select has a headset jack, and
then invest in a headset. There is nothing worse than cradling
your phone on your shoulder while you consult your files or try
to type something on your keyboard. A headset frees both hands
while you talk.
Don't forget to take a look at your potential phone's battery
life as well. Most cordless phones offer at least four hours of
talk time and seven days of standby. Make sure that your phone
uses replaceable battery packs, and that the battery packs are
One last thought. Cordless phones are useless without power,
so always keep a regular corded phone handy for blackout emergencies.
There is a lot more to equipping an efficient home office than
first meets the eye. Hopefully this two-part series gets you going
in the right direction. Chances are everything that you buy for
your home office is tax deductible. Check with your accountant
to be sure.
Vishal P. Rao is the editor of Home Based Business Opportunities
- A web site dedicated to opportunities, ideas and resources to
help you start and run a home based business. Visit his site at:
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