Office Technology for Every Stage of Your Business
Whether you're a sole proprietor operating out of a studio apartment or a newly minted LLC with a small office and staff, technology -- smartphones, computers, printers, servers and more -- is going to play a critical role in how efficiently you operate. But instead of cobbling together your arsenal as you need it, take time now to consider what your startup's technological present and future looks like.
Our handy guide can help. It'll show you what the leap from a one-person startup to a 10-person team looks like, help you minimize the potential headaches ahead, budget for future expansion and understand how such tools can contribute to the growth of your business.
Smartphone for the Solopreneur
Samsung Rugby Smart Android Smartphone
($50 with new contract from AT&T)
As its name implies, the Rugby is stout enough to stand up to drops, spills and accidents that would likely pulverize its better-looking competitors; it even withstands temperatures ranging from 160 degrees to 60 below zero. A 3.7-inch touchscreen makes it easy to access and operate any of the Android Marketplace's thousands of productivity apps, including task lists, voice memos and e-mail widgets.
Laptop for the Solopreneur
Portégé Z930 Ultrabook by Toshiba
Ultrabooks--a family of superthin, light laptop computers--are sleek, highly portable and need not break the bank. Case in point: the Portégé, a 0.63-inch thick, 2.5-pound featherweight Windows machine with a 13-inch screen wrapped in a durable, magnesium alloy case and spill-resistant keyboard. Tip: The base model with 128 GB of solid-state memory is plenty fast and big enough for most any startup.
Printer for the Solopreneur
HP Officejet 150 Mobile All-in-One Printer
For high-quality printing, copying and scanning capability in a portable machine, the 6.5-pound Officejet 150 delivers. It's slim enough to shove into a suitcase or tuck away in a desk drawer, and it can plug into a car adapter and link to your laptop through a wireless Bluetooth connection.
Smartphone for the Small Office
(Free with two-year contract from AT&T)
The older-model iPhone 3GS is still a fabulous work tool that costs nothing more than monthly voice, data and text charges. That makes it easy to outfit the whole staff with a phone. Drawback: The phone can't run all the latest apps, but it's still plenty capable for web browsing, e-mail, viewing documents and, oh yeah, phone calls.
Desktop computer for the Small Office
The 21.5-inch iMac desktop is arguably the best deal in Apple's entire product line. Its Core i5 2.5 GHz processor and gigantic 500 GB hard drive are blazingly fast, and it'll work seamlessly with your staff's iPhones. After years of making do with your laptop, working on a big-screen desktop will make you feel like you've arrived.
Tablet for the Small Office
($399 for 16 GB model, no 3G service)
The latest iPad's Retina screen looks amazing, but the thinner iPad 2 is still fantastic for mobile sales presentations and for joining video conferences wherever Wi-Fi is available.
Keyboard Case for the Small Office
Logitech Keyboard Case by Zagg
A keyboard embedded into an aircraft-grade aluminum iPad case will allow you to edit documents, send e-mail and manage the basics of your business with an iPad when you're on the road. With your desktop iMac handling the bulk of your work, this solution becomes the company laptop.
Computer platform for the Growing Business
Pano System Starter Kit
If you want a computer platform that can expand with your business, explore something known as a "zero client" computer. These devices don't run full operating systems within each machine like a laptop or desktop. Rather, they share software through an Ethernet connection to a larger central server. The upside: All software can be managed--and upgraded--from a single computer, which can save costly IT time. The zero-client desktop boxes use significantly less power than traditional computers and take up as much space as a coffee cup. Note: You will still need to spring for monitors, keyboards and mouses for each workstation.
Printer for the Growing Business
Lexmark OfficeEdge Pro4000 Printer
This multifunction color printer, copier and scanner offers the right balance of technology, value and durability, including wireless networking, whichis a snap to set up. The inkjet prints quickly, including two-sided documents. Tip: Spring for the Lexmark high-yield ink cartridges, which will cut the cost per page almost in half.
Phone for the Growing Business
SIP IP Expandable Cordless Phone System by Panasonic
($300 per handset)
Move your business phone to the internet and you can take advantage of plans that start at $40 per month. Panasonic makes the switch easy with handsets that are ready to go, right out of the box. You'll enjoy high-quality connections, call waiting and forwarding, three-way calling, plus the ability to add vanity numbers and on-hold music. By setting up your phone service through Panasonic, it'll be easy to add new handsets as your business expands.
POS System for the Growing Business
($895 software; $30 per month hosting)
The POSLavu puts your cash register, inventory management and timecards all on one iPad (or iPod) at a fraction of the cost charged by dedicated POS stations. It's easy to set up, and expansion is as simple as adding another tablet. One downside: Because the system runs through the web, when the internet's out, so is your POS.
Projector for the Growing Business
Dell 4220 Projector
Dell's 6.4-pound portable projector throws off a bright, 720p HD image that works as brilliantly in your client's conference room as it does in your own. Wireless connectivity and dual speakers reduce the need for cables and accessories.
Chairs for the Growing Business
Liberty Chair by Humanscale
(starting at $945)
Let's face it: The office chair is the most overlooked element in the tech-to-user interface; without a supportive seat, those hours in front of the screen can be brutal. That's why we like the stylish Liberty Chair. Its ability to adjust to any body type and size can make those 12-hour days just a little bit more bearable.