There are plenty of technology solutions available for small businesses, and most of these are suitable for home use. The list below details the basic equipment that you will need to get most businesses off the ground.
Computer. Even if you do not plan to have a Web presence, a computer is necessary to keep better records, to organize your time, and to function more efficiently. Computers have become quite reasonable in recent years. Both Dell and Gateway offer solutions targeted toward small businesses. If you are looking for bargains, try your local Costco warehouse store or even eBay for bargains.
All-in-One. Instead of purchasing a scanner, printer, fax machine, and copier separately, you can save a great deal of money by purchasing a multipurpose machine that combines all of these features in one unit. If you are limited in space for your home office, this is a great way to maximize your equipment and save space with a single purchase.
Laser printer. If you plan to do a lot of printing, it is a good idea to have a dedicated laser printer — even if you chose to buy an all-in-one as well. These printers are available for under $200 and do not take up much desk space. If you anticipate several large print jobs a year, weigh the cost of a laser printer against the cost of doing a similar job at a print shop.
Quality phone and voice mail. Make sure you have a phone with a hold function, caller-ID, and transfer capabilities, especially if you are working in an office with more than one person. While you may be tempted to use your regular answering machine for your business, it is a good idea to go with a professional voice mail system. In addition to voice mail, your local phone company often offers packages specifically for small businesses. These may include conference calling, call-forwarding, and similar productivity-enhancing features.
Dedicated phone lines. You will need a minimum of two phone lines in your home to operate your business. A dedicated fax line is also helpful if you send and receive faxes on a regular basis.
Internet access. High-speed Internet access is essential. In most areas you should be able to connect to the Internet via DSL, a cable modem, or satellite. If you absolutely have to use a dial-up Internet connection, make sure you have a dedicated phone line for your computer or you run the risk of losing customers to a busy signal.
An email account. It is important to give your customers as many ways to contact you as possible. You will need to set up a dedicated email account that will be used only for your business. This makes it easier to separate your personal email from your business email and gives a better impression to your clients. Yahoo’s Small Business site offers a variety of reasonable packages.
These are just a few of the necessities in running your own home office. Each business may have different needs. Make a list of the things you need now and things you will need six months from now and equip your home-based business based on that list. You will then be able to get exactly what you need, when you need it, instead of falling short.
For more information, please read “The Best Software for Your Home-Based Business.”