© 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
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
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 equipment.
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
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
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
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
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 $50.
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 widely available.
One last thought. Cordless phones are useless without power,
so always keep a regular corded phone handy for blackout
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.