From the June 2003 issue of Startups

Power tools make your job easier. You can sit there with a screwdriver and twist and twist until the screw is in place, or you can whip out your cordless drill and get it done in a jiffy. We're going to look at a variety of handy computer tools that can make your business life run more smoothly. Let's pass on the big standard hardware like desktops, printers and monitors and instead take a look at some lesser-known gadgets. Remember, big help sometimes comes in small packages.

Before you even create your first office document, you need to think about (and have plans for) backing up your data. Start-up entrepreneurs often overlook this vital task, especially if they're mobile warriors to boot. You don't always have easy access to a Zip drive or CD burner when you're sitting in Starbucks. For laptop owners, Toshiba) offers a low-hassle solution in the form of its $249 5GB PCI hard drive. This tiny wonder slides out of the way into an empty Type II PC card slot and works with the included Iomega QuikSync software to back up your important files while you're working. Setup is simple, and backup is seamless. You can also choose to save a number of revisions you can go back to later. If you don't use this system, be sure you use some kind of backup device.

Meanwhile, back at the office: CD-Rs and CD-RWs are a popular way to back up and store your data and share the files. If you're like many businesspeople, you'll soon end up with a stack of unidentified disks hanging around your desk. Either that, or you'll be squinting and guessing as you try to make out what you scribbled with that black Sharpie marker.

The $129 CasioCW-50 CD label writer offers a nifty way to wrangle your burned CDs. Hook it up to your computer via USB, install the software, and you're on your way to printing clean text labels. This thermal printer doesn't do anything too fancy, and only smooth-surfaced CDs work best, but it does the job with minimal hassle.

Check out the Kingston.comData Traveler for quick, low-price and low-capacity data exchange. This little USB flash memory device will run you from $35 for 32MB of storage up to $85 for 128MB of storage. It plugs into any open USB port and appears to your PC or Mac as an added hard drive. It's hot swappable, so you can move files from one computer to another with ease. You can't fit heaps of gigantic files on it, but it's a convenient way to get data around in a non-networked environment.

If $699 sounds kind of pricey for a mobile phone, it's not so bad when you also get a PDA. The Kyocera7135 SmartPhone is a Palm handheld and phone rolled up together.

You may be thinking "Oh no, not yet another chunky, brick-sized all-in-one PDA/phone." Don't worry. Though the 7135 is bigger than most of the svelte flip-up phones on the market, it still squeezes down into a comfortably appealing size and form. A clean color screen and familiar Palm interface are well-integrated into the 6.6 oz. clamshell device. Other companies such as Samsung have introduced similarly styled devices, so look for prices to eventually improve and incentives to kick in.

Speaking of PDAs, if you already have one in your arsenal and are looking for a better way to input text, scope out the compact BenQG7R0 wireless foldable keyboard (manufacturer's suggested retail price of $120). It works with any Palm or PocketPC handheld with an infrared port (which is most of them). PDA users who use their devices for e-mail or note-taking will find it handy. There are various other types of thumb pads and portable keyboards available in the $40 to $100 price range for just about any PDA.

Now that you're stocking up on all sorts of peripherals, you may find yourself short a port or two. You need places to plug everything in, and you don't want to open up your computer to install a few cards. You also want to be able to take advantage of the fastest transfer technologies available. IOGEARhas you covered with the $79 MiniHub GUF420. This portable device is Mac- and Windows-compatible and features two Fire-Wire ports and four USB 2.0 ports. You plug it in to an existing USB or FireWire port. It's also backward compatible, so it can handle your older USB hardware.

Starting a business is hard enough, and technology should be there to help the process go smoothly. Not everybody will need all these devices. The trick is to assess your business demands and make things easier by investing in the right gadgets. You don't have to spend a fortune. A few judicious purchases will pay off in better productivity. And best of all, you won't have to sweat the small stuff.