Having the right office equipment is importnat for an effective home office. Equipment dedicated to your business needs is important, especially if others in the family need computer time or to use other equipment for school or work projects. You may not find that sharing is a good idea if you have an important project or a deadline to meet.

Chosing a good computer and a printer is number one. Laser printers have come way down in price over the last few years. If your business relies on printed reports, or business correspondence, a laser printer may be a good choice. Laser printers have come way down in price over the last few years. You will also want to have a good back up system for your computer data. A scanner is a must if you will use your computer instead of a dedicated FAX machine. CD and DVD compatibility is a must these days. You can backup your data to CD or DVD.

You will want to be sure you have sufficient electrical outlets for the equipment you will use. Computer equipment doesn't require much power but it sure seems to gobble up outlets! You can purchase multi-outlet surge protectors to add extra outlets but do not overload your electrical system. An electrical circuit should not carry more than 15 amps. You can determine how many amps your equipment will likely draw by consulting the owner's manuals. The power usage may be listed in watts (W) or volt-amps (VA). To calculate amps divide that number by 120. This will give you the approximate number of amps of power that unit will consume. If you hire an electrician to install new electrical outlets be sure to add a few extra for future expansion. It is always more cost effective to do all electrical work at the same time.

Having enough dedicated phone lines for your business needs is important for a home office. Initially you may choose to work with your existing home line but eventually you will need a dedicated line for your calls, especially if normal family needs tie up the house phone. Your business may require you to use the phone, a FAX, and the Internet, all at the same time. Depending on the equipment you use this may require three separate phone lines. There are alternatives to expensive business lines. Consider Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) services.

Voice mail or an answering maching is a critical component of telephone service in order to prevent missed calls. Most VOIP services include this at no addtional charge. Your regular phone line can also be passed through your computer (modem) where digital answering machine software can handle this for you.

A cordless phone provides mobility while in the office or if you need to move about the house. A headset, wired or portable, is a good idea if you will frequently be using the computer and the phone at the same time. These items increase flexability, efficiency, and comfort, and they reduce help fatigue.

You may think you need a FAX machine for your business. In some cases you will, but you should also think about whether e-mail or FAX software can do what you need. If you need to send or receive documents that cannot be sent from your computer you will need a separate stand-alone FAX machine. Many FAX machines can also be used as a copier. Machines that combine several functions, such as printing, scanning, faxing, and copying, are a good idea if your space is limited. Do think first about the tasks you will need to perform and then look at all your options before commiting to the expense of buying these machines.

If you need a larger volume of good quality copies you may find it more economical to use a local copy service. Some will pick up and deliver. The cost of a suitable, larger, copy machine plus the paper and toner, to have your own may be as much as, or more than, the copy service.

Getting the equipment you need is important. Choosing the right machines for the job is even more important. Be sure you know what you need and what you are buing. Most salesmen work on some form of commission. That is, they are rewarded not for selling you what you need but, rather, for selling you as much as they can.


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