15 Useful Tech Tools for Your Business
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Outfitting your new business with technology that fits your needs can be daunting -- especially when there's no revenue coming through the door. You may start with whatever hardware you can get your hands on for free, but for long-term growth, you'll need specific tools, and those tools are going to vary depending on what you do.
We've set up five business types -- a creative shop, a retail store, a restaurant, a consulting business and a software-development team -- with our top picks for computers, displays, tablets and tech accessories to get the job done.
Camera for Creative Shops
Sony Cyber-shot RX1 ($2,800)
This fixed-lens digital camera features a 35 mm full-frame sensor and high-quality Carl Zeiss lenses, allowing users to capture eye-popping 24.3-megapixel photos, pure 14-bit RAW image files and HD video at up to 60 frames per second.
As a result, users with even a basic knowledge of Photoshop can tweak the RX1's images to near-pro standards.
Monitor for Creative Shops
Lenovo ThinkVision LT2323z ($400)
Lenovo has a fascinating new take on collaboration: a touch-activated monitor that thinks it's a phone.
With a 1920 x 1080 HD display and not one, but two digital microphones, it's ideal for video and voice calls over the web. Think giant iPhone, but optimized for the desktop. Plus, it's a nifty presentation tool.
Desktop Computer for Creative Shops
Apple iMac ($1,299)
At one time, high-end graphics power was limited to top-shelf Apple products, but no more. Recently redesigned and upgraded, this entry-level, slim, all-in-one desktop with a 21.5-inch screen and 2.7 GHz processor offers a hefty 1 TB of storage (plenty for most small businesses) plus 8 GB of active memory, as well as a reasonable amount of expansion slots for peripherals and customization options.
iPhone Gadget For Creative Shops
olloclip 3-in-1 photo lens ($70)
Perhaps the coolest iPhone photo gadget under $100, the olloclip is a snap-on tool that turns the smartphone's camera into a powerful fisheye, wide-angle or macro lens. The image quality isn't print-worthy, but the results are surprisingly distinctive, especially for creating quick, on-the-fly social media or web content. Your business will have the best-looking news feed around.
QR Code Alternative for Retailers
Samsung TecTiles ($15)
Samsung's wireless division has a way to reach customers whose heads are buried in their devices: a short, near-field communication (NFC) sticker that allows you to broadcast messages to their smartphones. Only devices with NFC chips are supported (sorry, iPhone users), but credit Samsung for devising a hip alternative to those ugly QR codes.
Store Display for Retailers
Samsung NL22B LED/LCD Transparent Display ($2,806)
This 22-inch beauty from Samsung renders 1680 x 1050 resolution images while still allowing viewers to see objects behind the screen. Install it effectively, and your store will have a shop window or product counter like none other. Be warned: Setup will require some trial and error.
Security Camera for Retailers
Netgear VueZone ($200)
It is a sad fact of retailing life, but people who work in stores sometimes steal. Netgear's near idiot-proof video camera can help keep that from happening. Its VueZone plug-and-play module broadcasts multichannel video to any web-connected smartphone, PC, Mac or tablet--no power cord necessary.
Keyboard for Restaurants
Logitech Washable Keyboard K310 ($40)
Go ahead and use the computer in the kitchen or behind the counter; when the keyboard gets gross, simply clean it with soap and water. Bonus: The K310's laser-printed letters won't fade quickly from use by greasy fingers.
Tablet Case for Restaurants
LifeProof nuud apple iPad case (starting at $100)
iPads are replacing menus and order tickets in restaurants every day, and protecting the tablet is a must. Our pick: the nüüd, which is tough, elegant and completely washable--an iPad secured in one can stay submerged in liquid for up to 30 minutes.
Printer for Consultants and Salespeople
HP Envy 120 e-All-in-One ($250)
Anyone in sales knows that top-shelf paper brochures, reports and memos still matter, and the HP Envy can produce them. It's a first-rate printer that spits out photo-lab-quality pictures and black-and-white pages at a rate of 28 per minute (23 per minute for color). At roughly 17 pounds, it's no featherweight, but it's still slim enough to take anywhere.
Stylus for Consultants and Salespeople
Pogo Connect ($80)
This stylus from Ten One Design turns just about any tablet into a bona fide notebook. Tap the tip, and the pressure-sensitive device allows you to scribble notes or save images and data more quickly than if you were typing on a tablet's virtual--or separate--keyboard.
Speakerphone for Consultants and Salespeople
Plantronics Calisto 620 Speakerphone ($150)
When in doubt, get everyone on the phone, stat. The new Calisto 620 makes that kind of instant group conference call ridiculously easy thanks to its small size and portability. It boasts simple volume controls and plug-and-play setup. Best of all, it can host a conference call with high-quality audio nearly anywhere, be it a borrowed office or the quiet corner of an airport lounge.
Desktop Computer for Software Developers
Dell PowerEdge T620 (Starting at $1,149)
If you develop software, you need a serious computer--one that's tough, customizable and easily upgraded.
In this category, Dell takes the ribbon for the PowerEdge T620, a desktop tower PC with the stones to stand up to the brutal developer life. It features metal enclosures, a Xeon processor and plenty of expansion slots. Think of it as a rack-mounted server that happens to sit on your desk.
Back Up Drive for Software Developers
Seagate Backup Plus Portable Driven($130 for 1 TB of storage)
This Seagate drive backs up not only your work, but also every social link, website and video you associate with a particular job. Which means if you're looking for that Facebook or Tumblr image you came across weeks ago, you'll quickly find it. Clever.
Workstation for Software Developers
OmniMount WORK20 ($400)
The biggest determinant in the quality of your work is you. Help improve that quality with the Work20, a workstation that lets you fine-tune the height and tilt of your monitor and the distance of your keyboard from your body. It's a reasonably priced alternative to hunching over a laptop all day, every day, for months on end.