When setting up a small business, people will know the details of the business they are in – amount of stock required, the type of service they want to provide, how they want to present their business to the public, the market they are targeting (niche or general), whether an office or shop presence and many more factors.
But many self-employed people are unsure what technology they should be using. This article will endeavour to give a basic outline of the technology that is needed by a self-employed person.
Hardware – basic requirements
Computer – PC or laptop
The price of desktop PCs and laptops has gone down drastically in recent years, which is good news for the consumer. The market for PCs is still strong and they are suitable for those that are working from the same place all the time, ie, home users or those working from the same office every day.
My recommendation to self-employed people would be to buy a laptop, as the base models being offered by the likes of Dell, Advent, Sony, etc. will more than satisfy the requirements of most people. The laptop allows for portability and flexibility – you will be able to bring it to clients’ offices or work on the road. Some people say, “But I don’t like the mouse pad or keyboard on the laptop.” Simple solution is to buy a keyboard, mouse and monitor to use in your regular office and connect to the laptop as needed. This will give you the benefit of your laptop working like a typical desktop PC but with the portability of a laptop. Docking stations can be purchased that you can connect your laptop on return to the office – talk to your supplier about what is best for you.
With regard to the actual hardware on the PC or laptop:
- RAM/Physical memory – for most standard uses the following will be sufficient, these are guidelines for smooth running but if there is money in the budget I would add more RAM as it helps with a fast response time and smooth running of applications:
– 512MB for computers running Microsoft operating system
– 1GB for computers running Microsoft Vista operating system
For memory-intensive work, such as music and/or image-based materials – engineer drawings, photographic material (as your work, not home user) – I would double these requirements.
- Processor – Anything above 2.0GHz on a single processor and 1.7 GHz on duo processors (as in an Intel duo processor where there are two processors instead of one) should meet your requirements. If available, go for the duo processor.
- Hard disk space – It has become a lot cheaper, so most PCs and laptops have more than enough. A quick check shows most have more than 80GB of hard disk space which should meet the most demanding of needs with the exception of those working with image-based and/or music materials.
- Network connectivity – Ensure that there is a network card and in the case of a laptop a wireless network connection, to allow internet connection on the road (hotels, cafes, etc). These may be needed for broadband access and possibly connecting to your own network if your business expands.
This is naturally dependant on how much printing you will need to do, for example if your business is consultative then you may be printing a lot of reports or documents, in which case it would be prudent to spend that little bit extra on a laser printer as it gives a good quality finish.
If you are just printing off the odd letter and invoice then you could make do with an inkjet printer. Personally, I would be in that category and I use an Epson DX4850 laser which suits my requirements fine though the next time I would go for one with an input drawer to hold the paper.
It is better to get one that has multiple cartridges, usually four – cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The reason for this is that if you run out of one colour, eg, cyan, then you only have to buy that one cartridge. When you run out of one colour with a single cartridge that holds all colours then you have to make do with a lesser quality printout where colours don’t match well or replace the cartridge which still has good ink from the other three colours in it.
There is definitely a gain in overall value for money with an inkjet printer as it possible to get an all–in-one printer that also includes a scanner, a copier and a fax which encompasses the range of requirements for a small business. This comes with the caveat that the amount of scanning, printing and copying is on a small scale. If need to print off a hundred or more copies it would be more economical to go to a printer.
Again the price of these have come down, so €100 to €250 gives a good range of inkjet printers and €200 to €400 a good range of low-end colour laser printers are available to meet the requirements of a small business.
While the initial cost of a printer has come down in recent years, the ongoing cost of paper, and in particular ink, is where the expense can mount up. For inkjet printers, the cartridges for each colour can be purchased separately and are usually cheaper especially if you use generic cartridges as provided by suppliers like www.inkjet.ie, though please note the printer manufacturer can claim using these generic cartridges and not the manufacturer’s own brand can nullify the warranty. The cost of laser printer toner cartridges is more expensive than inkjet so this needs to be part of the overall consideration when purchasing a printer.
Will your business need a fax? There is less of a requirement for a fax machine since email has become the norm for exchanging documents. Normally, documents can just be attached to an email and the recipient can either view onscreen or print it off if needs be. If a document has to be signed and sent back, then normally it can be printed off, signed, scanned back in and returned via email.
Unless it is an inherent part of the business, I wouldn’t recommend buying a fax machine to start with – possibly later on when the business has grown or if you identify a specific need for it.
If you have decided that an inkjet printer will suffice for your office then purchase an all-in-one printer that will have a scanner, copier and fax machine all included in the one machine which will meet all your requirements.
Power Surge Protector
A definite requirement – for €20 or €30 it provides your first line of defence as a surge in power can destroy a computer and all the information on it.
The above are the basics I believe are required for a start-up office but are by no means written in stone and just reflect my experience so pick and choose what best suits yourself and your business.
Tuesday 12th October 2010, 12:05 pm