The essential office equipment you'll need to start your small business.
Office equipment has come a long way since the days of finicky photocopiers and dysfunctional fax machines. When starting a small business, it's important to assess which equipment will do the jobs you need efficiently and effectively.
We took a look at traditional office equipment and offered modern alternatives that should save you money while making your job easier.
Traditional office: Desktop computer
Remember your first office computer? The giant tower and monitor that weighed 100 pounds, took up most of the real estate on your desk and had about 30 cords connected to who knows what coming out the back? These days, desktop computers have slimmed down quite a bit. Depending on how data-heavy your business is (do you do a lot of graphics/video-heavy computing?) and how much work you'll be doing on a computer, a desktop with greater storage capacity would be a good pick for your business.
Modern office: Laptops
In the past, laptops might not have had sufficient memory for more sophisticated software applications, but these days a lot can come in a little package. If you or your employees travel frequently or work offsite, opting for laptops instead of a traditional desktops will give your business greater flexibility on the go. Plus, their compact size means you won't have to invest in large desks to hold them.
Traditional office: Phone service
Most businesses still rely on a traditional PBX phone system that allows multiple users to communicate via multiple lines on a traditional phone line. These systems are reliable and well-known, but they're also expensive, require extensive setup, and come with long-term contracts and limited extras when compared with digital services.
Modern office: VoIP
Many businesses are now switching to super-affordable VoIP (Voice Over Internet) services. There are a myriad of service providers that offer a variety of features (everything from video conferencing to voicemail transcription), but their biggest draw is the easy setup and low rates for long-distance and international calls. The biggest drawback to VoIP is that they need a reliable internet connection - if the Web is down or the power is out, so are phones.
Traditional office: Fax machine
Fax machines used to be essential for businesses needing to send and receive documents instantly. While it still might be wise to have one in the office -- in case you work with clients who rely on a traditional fax machine -- there are plenty of alternatives that can save you money on the machine, phone line and paper, and won't spew out hard-to-read documents.
Modern office: Online fax
There are several online services that bridge the gap between traditional fax machines and e-mail. Online fax (ie: digital fax, e-mail fax, internet fax) will convert documents sent to your assigned fax number into e-mail attachments and allow you to send e-mail attachments to a traditional fax machine. Companies that offer this service include eFax, RingCentral and Nextiva. Services like EchoSign allow you to request and receive signatures on necessary documents all via e-mail (or traditional fax if the signer prefers).
Traditional office: Copy machine
The bane of administrative assistants everywhere, the photocopier is quickly becoming another relic of a bygone era. As businesses turn to digital means for sharing information rather than wasting paper, there's just not as much need for one.
Modern office: Scanner
Ditch the giant photocopier and invest in a scanner instead. By creating digital copies, you'll save money on paper and create documents that are easier to store (say goodbye to those bulky file cabinets!). If you need a paper copy of a document for whatever reason, simply use a printer. Let your colleagues, clients and business partners decide for themselves whether they need physical copies.
Traditional office: Dial up
While connecting to the web via a dial-up modem and phone line is affordable, it's also incredibly slow by today's standards and it ties up your phone lines. And no matter how cheap it might be, you'll lose out in productivity and efficiency if you rely on it to run your business.
Modern office: Cable modem or T-1 line
With more and more of your daily functions going digital (everything from e-mail to fax to phones), it's important for a business to invest in a reliable internet connection with plenty of bandwidth to allow for the speedy transmission of data and to aid productivity.
Traditional office: Bulky furniture
Giant desktop computers and endless stacks of paper required lots of space in the form of big desks and giant file cabinets. As offices go digital, the need for extra storage for paper has decreased. Consider the size of your computer and how much paper you think you'll generate before rushing to buy an executive desk and 10 filing cabinets.
Modern office: Minimalist
When everything you need to do business can be stored on a laptop, jump drive or "the cloud," who needs a big desk? You might be able to save money on furniture and rented space by investing in smaller tables and by allowing employees to work off-site, taking advantage of mobile technology.
- If you're worried about not having a fax machine on hand, purchase an inexpensive, multifunctional model that also copies and scans - that way you'll have the equipment on hand if needed, but you don't have to blow your budget.
- Even though modern offices are going paperless, you'll probably still need to have some 8 1/2 x 11 floating around. Make sure to buy an affordable paper shredder to dispose of sensitive documents.