When you're on the hunt for business technology products for your company, you've got a lot of choices to consider. I've outlined six tech products that every business needs, and highlighted the two most important features of each--things you'll need to keep in mind when you start shopping.
A notebook computer is a powerful tool for professionals on the go, but how much it weighs can affect your productivity on the road. Weight is a critical factor to consider when buying a notebook computer. If the only commute you have is going from your desk to your car, a heavier desktop replacement notebook will do you just fine. But for all you road warriors out there, you'll want to look for a five- to seven-pound notebook--it's lightweight enough to travel comfortably with but won't skimp on important features like screen and keyboard size, battery life and processor speed.
The warranty on your notebook computer is also important. If you take your notebook everywhere you go, you want to ensure that if there's a problem (you drop it or the hard disk crashes just before an important presentation), your technology vendor can provide fast support.
Your desktop computer is much like a smoke detector--you probably don't think about it until there's a problem. There are two things that will make your desktop computer run most effectively--hard disk space and RAM. Ten years ago, creating videos, downloading software and storing pictures weren't things many businesses did. Today, however, we're doing this more and more, so you should really have a large hard disk on your computer. RAM is important because as hardware evolves, software does, too. The more software you're running on your computer, the more RAM you need to run the programs without crashing your computer.
Color Laser Printer
Color laser printers are coming down in price, and you can easily buy one for around $500. When shopping for a color laser printer, the two important things to consider are the speed of the printer and the quality of the print. You don't want to have to wait 30 minutes for color prints of your latest brochure, and you want clients to have as high a quality print as possible. Having a color laser printer on site allows you to print in your office instead of having to go to your local copy shop for high-price color copies.
Black-and-White Laser Printer
Your basic black-and-white laser printer is most likely one of the most used and abused devices in your office. So it's important to make sure it offers quick print times, easy-to-replace parts (including frequent consumables like ink), and a good warranty.
Quick printing is important because having to wait several minutes for your documents to print adds up after awhile. And what if you need to replace a basic part on the printer? You'll want to find out how easy it is to replace and how much it'll cost so you can decide the cost of the printer is justified.
I'm not sure how many of you used the Casio B.O.S.S or Sharp Wizard electronic organizers of the 1990s--those were the days! Today any self-respecting business professional has a smartphone that blends a PDA and cell phone (most also come with a camera and other neat features). These mobile wonders also let you check your e-mail and surf the web.
There are two main things to keep in mind when shopping for a smartphone: Do you want a Windows-based PDA, or something else, like a Palm or BlackBerry, for instance? And how heavy is your e-mail use? If your life revolves around Microsoft Outlook and other Microsoft-centric tools, a Windows-based PDA is probably best for you. If you want to read and respond to a lot of e-mails on the road, it's best to get a PDA that facilitates the best use of typing e-mail messages and managing your inbox.
High-Speed Internet Connection
Every high-speed internet connection is not the same, and you'll quickly discover this if you're not careful about which service you subscribe to. The two things to keep in mind are the quality of the service and whether the speed is asynchronous or synchronous. (Asynchronous means your upload speed is going to be slower than your download speed. Synchronous means your upload and download speed will be the same.) If your internet connection is absolutely critical to your business, then make sure your provider can guarantee you a certain quality of service (QoS)--99% is about the best you can get. You don't want to have to call your ISP every other day or have to reset your router once a week because the connection isn't good. If download speed is the most important thing to you but you're mainly browsing the internet and checking e-mail, then you can save money by getting an internet connection with a slower download speed.
Ramon Ray is Entrepreneur.com's "Tech Basics" columnist and editor of Smallbiztechnology.com. He's the author ofTechnology Solutions for Growing Businesses and has helped thousands of small businesses use technology as a tool to grow. Ray currently serves on the board of directors and the technology committee for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce.