From the June 2001 issue of Startups

So you've decided to launch your very own homebased business. Now you have to deal with the little matter of equipping the whole thing. You don't know where to start or what you'll need, and furthermore, you're on a limited budget. Never fear: We've put together a list of basic office equipment and services for you, and all of it can be had for less than $4,000.

More than likely, your space is limited, so it's important to choose products with space-saving designs. One thing to keep in mind when choosing any piece of equipment is whether you'll really need all the fancy functions that are built in to some products. We're betting that, in general, basic is better. And remember, you'll be spending a lot of time in your home office, so making yourself as efficient and comfortable as possible is key.

 
: : [ Intro ]
: : Ergonomic Furniture
: : Desktop PC and Peripherals
: : Antivirus Software
: : Printer/Scanner/Copier/Fax Machine
: : Surge Protector
: : Paper Shredder
: : DSL
: : Cable Internet Access
: : Digital Camera
: : Just for Fun

Ergonomic Furniture

Many people don't put much thought into the way they sit in a chair, nor do they realize ergonomic furniture can actually reduce fatigue and even repetitive stress injuries. Choosing the right chair at the right price should be your first step in furnishing your office. The @Work chair by SitOnIt, made from a flexible, breathable material, offers a custom fit and adjustable height. It's good-looking, priced starting at $400 (all prices street), and available in seven models and 200 fabrics.

Next comes your desk. Bush Industries offers several options. The Citizen model ($349), featuring a compartment for your CPU as well as a keyboard tray, should suit you, and you can always add credenzas ($199 each) as needed. There's also a hutch available ($199), with all the shelf space you need to stay organized.

Desktop PC, Peripherals and Software

Desktop PC and Peripherals

The next most important piece of equipment is your computer. Fortunately, prices for computers have plummeted in the past few months, even on faster systems. Take the Sony Vaio J Series desktop. Starting at $600, it features up to 320MB RAM and a 30GB hard drive. Bundle that with a CD-RW drive and Windows Me, and you've got a robust system in a thin design, at a price that's hard to beat.

In case you do run out of storage (and you're not ready to invest in a server just yet), or if you simply want to back up your files, the external Jaz 2GB Ultra SCSI drive ($350) by Iomega can help you store and transfer files reliably. Disks are available in 1GB ($99.95) and 2GB ($125).

With the money you're saving on your computer, you'll be able to treat yourself to a flat-panel monitor. Prices for flat panels have also been on the decline, with a 15-inch running a little less than $500. CRTs might still be cheaper, but they don't offer the same clarity, dot pitch and space-saving design of a flat panel. The AOC LM-500 (about $450) by Envision Peripherals has a contrast ratio of 200:1 and a native resolution of 1,024 x 768, and it only weighs about 11 pounds. Working from home means you'll probably spend a lot of time in front of that monitor, so invest the money, and save your eyes.

Two other pieces of equipment you won't want to skimp on are your keyboard and mouse. Logitech offers wireless versions of both that are also ergonomic. The Cordless iTouch Keyboard ($59.95) even comes with a curved, supportive palm rest. And the Cordless MouseMan Optical Mouse ($69.95) won't need to be cleaned like a typical trackball mouse because it has no moving parts. Both products are battery-powered and offer energy-saving modes, so you won't have to worry about changing the batteries for up to six months.

Antivirus Software

Protect your files from viruses with Norton AntiVirus 2001 software ($39.95). A LiveUpdate feature downloads virus updates every time you connect to the Internet, so you're covered if any new viruses are discovered. The software also features SmartScan Technology that finds all files with executable code and only scans those files, so virus scans are much faster.

Office Equipment

Printer/Scanner/Copier/Fax Machine

Depending on your needs, a good multifunction machine can be a smart buy for your home office. Sharp 's AJ-5030 ($299) combines the abilities of a printer, a scanner, a copier and a fax machine in one machine that prints and copies in color. Send a job to copy or print at 7 ppm in black and 3.5 ppm in color, and use the other functions while you wait; the fax function features 10 speed-dial buttons and 512KB of memory. Its scan function allows you to scan directly to e-mail.

If you just need a printer, check out Samsung 's NL-4500 ($199). This laser printer features print speeds of 8 ppm, with a resolution of 600 dpi and a toner-save button that adds life to your toner cartridges by printing at a lower resolution. And if you're interested in an inexpensive stand-alone scanner, the Visioneer Photoport 7700 USB model ($150) features built-in CompactFlash and SmartMedia readers, which will allow you to upload images to your Web site in a snap. With 600 x 1,200 resolution and 42-bit color, it's well-worth the $150 price tag.

Surge Protector

When plugging in all your new equipment, you don't want to have to think about it getting fried if there's a hiccup in the power lines. Tripp Lite 's Protect It! Series 8 TLP810NET surge protector ($39.95) features eight outlets (it accommodates up to three bulky transformers without blocking the others), so you'll be able to plug in your desktop and monitor as well as all your peripherals. Diagnostic lights will let you know if your surge protector needs to be replaced, and Tripp Lite offers a lifetime replacement warranty.

Paper Shredder

Want to protect confidential files you're disposing of? The Shredmaster 950 Series ($329) by GBC is a heavy-duty paper shredder with a slim design that belies its 9-gallon capacity. Its 9-inch throat accommodates just about any paper size. Its reverse function allows you to clear overloads, and an indicator light lets you know when the machine needs attention.

Communications

DSL

Now that you've equipped your office, you can plan how you'll communicate with the rest of the world. Internet access via DSL is getting increasingly affordable, and having DSL access will make working from your home office more efficient. Companies like Earthlink can not only get you connected, but also offer solutions for building and hosting your Web site. You can get e-commerce capabilities for an initial $25 to $175 and $15 to $80 monthly (prices vary depending on the services you need), and Earthlink also offers domain registration and e-mail hosting services.

Cable Internet Access

Cable is another broadband option that's increasingly available. Cable access is provided by a set-top box that connects to the Internet over your TV's coaxial cable. Providers of cable access include Comcast , Cox and AT&T Broadband ; fees typically range from $30 to $50 monthly, with a $50 to $150 set-up fee that covers wiring, an Ethernet card for your PC and software to configure your system. That's a small price to pay for connection speeds that are about 20 times faster than a dial-up modem. For more information on cable Internet access, visit www.cable-modem-internet-access.com .

Built for Broadband
Broadband access from home is becoming more pervasive. According to a recent NetRatings study, high-speed Internet access jumped 148 percent from December 1999 to December 2000. As more employees begin to telecommute and more entrepreneurs set up shop from home, having a home office that's wired for broadband access is becoming increasingly important.

Many homebuilders are catching on to the trend and building homes that are pre-wired, thanks to support from PATH (Partnership for Advancing Technology in Housing), established in 1998 as part of the National Science Foundation. With tech industry heavyweights like Lucent and IBM as members, PATH's chief aim is to promote the use of technology in the home.

The Yankee Group projects that by 2003, there will be 10 million internally networked homes in the United States. If yours is an older home, the cheaper route is to purchase local area networking products that take advantage of the house's phone or electrical outlets. Wireless networks based on the 802.11b standard are also growing in popularity. Check out www.wiring.com for the lowdown on every type of wired and wireless network.

Digital Camera and Extras

Digital Camera

Once you get your site up and running, you can use the Camedia D-100 digital camera ($299) by Olympus to add photos to your site. The D-100 features a 5.5mm f2.8-f11 auto-focus lens and can transfer photos to your PC easily via a standard USB connection-you won't even have to install drivers or load additional software if you're running Windows 2000 or Me. The D-100 ships with an 8MB SmartMedia card and USB cable.

Just for Fun

With all the money you've saved, you'll be able to splurge on a gadget that will help set the mood in your new office-and give you the opportunity to showcase your latest work. The Kodak Smart Picture frame ($350) holds up to 36 digital picture files, which can be rotated as often as every five seconds or as infrequently as once a day. The frame features a CompactFlash slot for additional memory.

So there you have it-virtually everything you need to get your home office up and running. Of course, you'll want to figure in additional costs for things like office supplies and any additional equipment you need for your particular business, but in general, this list will help you transform that spare bedroom into a fully functional home office in no time.