1.1: Basic Office equipment for your business
There are many technology solutions available for small businesses, most of which are also suitable for home use. The list below details the basic equipment that you will need to get most businesses off the ground:
Even if you do not plan to have a website, a computer is necessary to keep better records, organise your time, and function more efficiently. Computers have become quite reasonable in recent years. If your business is not online, it doesn’t mean that you will get no benefit from a computer. You may find that you do have a sufficient amount of paperwork, invoices, and databases etc. that need to be completed and updated regularly. If so, using a computer will give them a more professional look and can be completed with more accuracy and speed. It will also reduce the need for filing as the data can be stored on the computer.
Personal Computer (PC)
Computers are advancing so quickly that almost every area of your business can be covered by their software range available. You need to ask yourself if you really need a computer as they can be quite expensive (although they are getting much cheaper). If you have little paperwork, databases, etc. to assist your business operations, you may not feel that it is necessary: a typewriter could be the solution. Compare the costs before you buy as a computer might be cheaper than a typewriter. It is vital to protect your PC and data against viruses and malicious intrusions.
A recent wave of viruses has been estimated to cost billions in disruption and lost data for businesses around the world. A virus killer scans your PC and emails for viruses, allowing you to fix or delete files that are infected. A firewall acts as a block against people trying to get into your computer over the internet. This is particularly important if you are on broadband, as the connection is always on and will make attacking your PC easier.
You can protect your business computers against damage by purchasing virus killer and firewall software. It is also essential to make a backup copy of your important data on disk or CD, and then if a virus damages your computer you can at least get back most of your data.
Instead of purchasing a scanner, printer, fax machine, and copier separately, you can save money by purchasing a multipurpose machine that combines all of these features in one unit. If you are limited in space for your home office, this is a great way to maximise your equipment and save space at the same time.
If you plan to do a lot of printing, it is a good idea to have a dedicated laser printer even if you chose to buy an all-in-one as well. These printers do not take up much deskspace. If you anticipate several large print jobs a year, weigh the cost of a laser printer against the cost of doing a similar job at a print shop.
Quality phone and voice mail
Make sure you have a phone with hold, caller-ID, and transfer capabilities, especially if you are working in an office with more than one person. While you may be tempted to use your regular answering machine for your business, it is a good idea to go with a professional voice mail system. In addition to voicemail,Telkom often offers packages specifically for small businesses. These may include conference calling, call-forwarding, and similar productivity-enhancing features.
Dedicated phone lines
You will need a minimum of two phone lines in your business to operate your business. A dedicated fax line is also helpful if you send and receive faxes on a regular basis.
High-speed internet access is important. In most areas you should be able to connect to the internet via the telephone, in some via wireless. If you absolutely have to use a dial-up internet connection, make sure you have a dedicated phone line for your computer or you run the risk of losing customers to a busy signal.
An email account
It is important to give your customers as many ways to contact you as possible. You will need to set up an email account that will be used only for your business. This makes it easier to separate your personal email from your business email and gives a better impression to your clients.
There are two ways to buy office furniture, as ready-made boxed units, or as custom made products designed to exactly match the needs of your business. Furniture that is ready-made is considerably cheaper than custom made furniture, and can be purchased quickly and easily from many different companies.
Custom made furniture involves not only the cost of the materials, but also of the planning and manufacturing. As the items are not mass produced, the construction of each unit is normally expensive. There is little reason for most small businesses to look at custom-made furniture unless they either have a specific need which is not catered for by ready-made products (e.g. a reception desk that needs to fit in a specific oddly shaped space) or are looking for branded or distinctive matching furniture to convey a professional, ‘big business’ look to their office.
These are just a few of the necessities in running your own small business office. Each business may have different needs. Make a list of the things you need now and things you will need six months from now and equip your small business based on that list. You will then be able to get exactly what you need, when you need it, instead of falling short.