The holidays are less than a month away. Do you know what to get your favorite homebased business person-even if that person is you?
At-home workers are an eclectic lot. No two jobs are exactly the same, and no two workers see themselves in quite the same light. Still, they share some common attributes: the need for efficiency, productivity, comfort and style.
With that in mind, we've amassed the 10 Must-Have Toys & Tools for any homebased worker in our 2nd Annual HomeOfficeMag.com Holiday Shopping Guide. Whether it's for a homebased business owners you know-or something for yourself-these gadgets can boost morale, esteem, productivity, mobility, and ultimately, satisfaction.
1. Whether you want to surf the Net from your laptop, or let your kids use the only Internet connection without tying up your business computer, home networking tools bring corporate-style network functionality and ease to your home. 3Com's HomeConnect, NetGear's Phoneline 10X and Intel's AnyPoint Wireless Home Network each link multiple computers with plug-and-play ease. Intel's AnyPoint system, which uses radio frequency transmission to link hardware, even allows laptop users to work up to 100 feet from their primary computer. Prices vary by brand, but products average around $200 for two computers and about $100 for each additional unit connected to the network.
2. DSL service. How about lightning-fast Internet access-and no more fax lines tied up with Internet connections? Local digital subscriber line (DSL) service providers are offering free modems, installation and setup to lure customers to the emerging service. At about $40 per month, DSL allows you to surf while talking on the phone without having to purchase a second telephone line, and the speed can be more than 100 times faster than traditional 56k service. Service availability varies by market. Check DSLReports.com for a list of providers by ZIP code.
3. Imagine you're on the road and need a phone number that's back in the office Rolodex or the PC database. You need a personal digital assistant or organizer, like the Palm Pilot, Handspring Visor, Linux-based Agenda VR3. These tools include a calendar, address book, to-do list and calculator, and can link with your office PC to sync all the stored data. Some products include pop-in modules to allow networking, dialing and Internet access, and most are compatible with contact management software like Outlook and Act!. Costs start at around $150 and rise to about $700, depending on features.
4. It's evening. You're doing some light reading, proofing a new proposal or tapping away on the laptop. Wouldn't you be much more comfortable doing this from your favorite armchair? The Levenger Laptopper can help you out. This cushion-bottomed worktable fits across the arms of a chair or across your lap. It comes in cherry veneer ($69.95) and features a handle, a strap for pencils and a case for glasses, pens or other small items.
5. We all get tense. We all have to write. How about a tool that lets you massage away your knotted nerves between scribblings on a page? The Discovery Channel Store Logo Massage Pen ($15) features a battery-operated massager on one end, and a pen on the other. The carrying case even comes complete with an acupressure guide to pressure points. Batteries are even included.
Journalist and author Jeff Zbar has worked from home since the 1980s. He writes about home business, teleworking, marketing, communications and other SOHO issues.
More Goodies For Under The Tree
6. You're traveling on business, browsing through magazines, and you come across a quote you want to archive to memory. You tear it out. Then you come across another. You tear it out, too. Pretty soon, your pocket is full of scraps. Enter the QuickLink Pen Personal Scanner ($150). This "digital highlighter" fits in a breast pocket and will scan and copy up to 1,000 pages of printed text. Then, using a USB, serial or infrared dataport connection, you can transfer it to your computer, PDA or text-enabled cell phone. For a list of retail locations, click on www.wizcomtech.com.
7. With the dropping price of laptop and notebook computers, portable PCs are becoming many homebased workers' computer of choice. But along with that comes laptop theft. Protect your laptop at home or while on the road with Kryptonite Lock laptop security hardware. The key or combination cable locks ($39 for 5mm cable thickness; $49 for 8mm) wrap around any stationary object and lock the unit using the locking slot in the back of most laptops. When activated, the company's Motion Sensor Alarm ($59.95) emits an audible alarm if the laptop is moved or disturbed. For those who use a laptop at home or in a remote office, the KryptoVault ($79.95) bolts into the desktop, and its three steel "arms" secure a laptop by wrapping around the device when closed. This also protects your floppy drive and data.
8. Whether you're at your desk, brainstorming at the dining room table or outside on a break playing with the kids, using a cordless phones means no more missed calls. Casio's got a host of products that suit this purpose. Its MA-240 product line is a two-line, digital 900 MHz phone system. The base supports up to 12 compact cordless handsets. The MA-240 features a call waiting/caller ID display, a 60-name and number caller ID memory and a 20-number autodial. Cost: Base with one handset, $199; additional handsets are $99.
9. For the ergonomist out there, the new Plantronics CT10 Cordless Headset Telephone ($129) is a pocket-sized powertool that lets users roam around the house or home office, while going about their daily tasks. The unit features a keypad with flash, volume control and redial; a mobile headset with a noise-canceling microphone; and a 150-foot range for hands-free mobility with six hours of talk time and 80 hours standby.
10. Just one more "appliance" to plug into your life. The new VTech Connect e-mail PostBox Companion plugs into a standard phone jack to allow simple e-mailing functions. Subscribers to the service can have up to five e-mail accounts, and the system will store more than 400 messages (attachments can be viewed online through Yahoo!). The unit includes a printer port, a memory expansion slot and a full-sized keyboard, and runs on two C batteries. Cost: $99.99. A pocket-sized version, the e-mail PostBox Express, can be had for $79.99. A flat-fee monthly service varies by contract duration but averages about $30 per quarter.