How to set up a home office
By Anthony Caruana
What do you need in order to set up a home office that will help you along the road to achieving your business goals?
Many small businesses start out as home businesses, so what do you need in order to set up? Pull a few desks together, arrange your files, buy a printer - sounds easy, right? But once you start to scratch the surface, it becomes clear there are lots of things to think about. Here are four of the biggies.
Setting up a comfortable, functional workspace needs to be a high priority. Even if your space is limited, setting aside a dedicated space is important.
Ideally, you'll have a place where you can leave your office intact at the end of a workday. That means the lounge room floor or kitchen table probably aren't your best options. Aside from cluttering up your living space, you need to be able to separate your work and home lives.
Make sure your workspace has adequate power outlets so you can plug your computer, printer and other peripherals in easily without having to crawl under tables. Think about lighting and decorations too - it should be a nice environment that makes you happy.
Choosing a computer
The discussion about Macs versus Windows is a moot point these days. But there are plenty of other decisions to think about. PCs running Windows come in a massive variety of sizes, specifications and prices. That can make choosing one complex. However, unless you're into lots of video editing or image manipulation, pretty much any computer on the market will have enough power to do what you want. The main elements you'll want to make sure of are storage space and memory.
With Macs, the variety is greatly reduced so you'll largely be buying on screen size and weight (if you're looking at notebooks) and price.
Then, you'll need to decide between a desktop or notebook. That's an entirely personal call. People who travel quite often have both - notebooks are better for accessing the office when you're out, but lots of people prefer to use a full keyboard and large screens when they can. If this is your approach, be sure to keep your files synchronised across both computers using a cloud service like Dropbox, Google Drive or Microsoft SkyDrive. If you don’t travel much then it's likely you'll be able to get a higher specification desktop computer than notebook for the same price.
A reliable internet connection is essential for your office. When you're starting out, it's likely that you'll be watching your costs very closely. If your internet use is limited to some web browsing and email then look at the low-cost plans offered by various ISPs. You can always upgrade plans if the volume of downloads they offer is inadequate.
With phones you'll need to think about both fixed line and mobile. In this day and age, you can potentially get by with a mobile as your main phone service.
If you need to make lots of international calls, consider services such as Skype that allow you to call phones all over the world at very low rates using your computer or an app on a smartphone. You can also consider using a VoIP service. This looks like a traditional telephone but connects to the phone system via an internet connection. If you choose VoIP, ask your provider about phone number portability so you're not locked into a provider in order to keep your number if you move.
These are only the basics elements you need to consider for a home office, well before you start thinking about printers and faxes or any decorative or organisational aspects. Check out the world's coolest offices for more inspiration.