Home Office – IT Networking & Computer Tips

The wider availability of high speed broadband across Australia over the last 5 years has meant that real office IT functionality can be achieved by offices based in homes. The building of the NBN with Fibre & wireless over the next few years will only makes this opportunity more accessible to a wider audience. So if you are an existing SOHO operation, or you are looking to set up your own business or even an existing business looking to reduce costs you might want to consider being home based to reduce travel times, increase work hours flexibility, or just to be more efficient.

Some businesses don’t need the presence of a formal office building to be successful. If your services are primarily delivered at your client’s place (e.g. for trades like electricians, plumbers or even professional services like bookkeeping) or if you are a sole trader or small family partnership, there are benefits and disadvantages to running your business from home. This month we take a look at 5 technology considerations for home-based businesses.

The computer:
We’ll ignore comparing brands and the Apple versus PC debate, but let’s look at ‘workstation versus laptop’. If your computer really doesn’t need to move from your home office, you’ll get more computing power for your money with a workstation. Consider investing those savings in a dual-monitor setup if your work involves a lot of data entry, writing or graphic design. But remember, there’s nothing stopping you using a laptop if you want to sit outside in the sun occasionally!

The printer:
As with any office, the key consideration for a printer is how much do you print and how often, and is that printing primarily text or pictures? Home offices also may have to consider how much space they have, so a printer with a smaller ‘footprint’ would be better. It’s also handy to have the ability to send faxes, especially when dealing with signed documents, so either look at software for faxing and a document scanner, or consider a multi-function printer with a built in fax. If you occasionally need to print large volumes, it may be cheaper to use a printing service at a store for large volumes, instead of buying a fast, high-volume laser printer that hardly ever prints more than 5 pages at a time. Remember to also compare replacement ink costs before you commit to a printer purchase.

The Internet:
A home office can feel quite isolated, so your internet connection is an important gateway to the outside world. Out of all of your technology components, this one will drive you the craziest if it’s slow or if it drops out. Use a reputable internet provider and invest in the fastest internet speed you can afford with a monthly data limit that matches your needs.

Email:
Without a corporate email system, you still have a few choices for email services. Don’t think that you have to resort to using @hotmail.com or @gmail.com for your business email communication, when you can have @yourbusinessname.com without the expense of your own email server.

File sharing:
Do you need to share files with anyone outside of your home office? Instead of just emailing attachments, consider other file sharing methods if you collaborate with others on large documents or if you regularly need to send large picture files. Your options vary from USB storage with security mechanisms (e.g. encryption & passwords) to secure internet file sharing services or even direct file transfer between computers.

Next month, we’ll look at backups, security and other considerations for your home office. If you are thinking of starting a business from home, or moving back home, or if you’d just like some advice on your current home office setup, talk to your local Computer Troubleshooter.