Despite popular mythology, a computer system is no longer that expensive. Costs can run from $1,500 to $4,200, depending on how powerful a system you need. Think about what software programs you plan to use, and this will determine how powerful a system you will need. Although newspapers advertise personal computers for less than $1,000, most of these computers are extremely limited and can't run many of the programs you'll probably want to use.
Whether you choose a Macintosh or a PC, you will need to purchase stand-alone software (programs dedicated to performing a single task). For DOS, Windows and Macintosh systems, examples of powerful stand-alone software packages include: Microsoft Word (word processing); Microsoft Excel (spreadsheet functions); Microsoft Access (for database files and records); and Intuit Quicken and Quickbooks or Microsoft Money (for accounting and bookkeeping). In addition to these programs, you may need telecommunication software for sending and receiving electronic information. For more in-depth information about buying a computer, see "Start-Up Mart" in the June 1997 issue of Business Start-Ups. The following guidelines will also help you when shopping for a computer for your business needs: