|Do your home `work`|
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 02:00
Are you thinking of setting up a business, but can`t afford the office space? Do you have a spare room at home? Theo Boshoff offers advice on setting up a home office quickly and easily.
If you want to start your own business, work remotely from home, or simply need a space to catch up on work that you did not have time for at the office, you can easily set up an office at home for much less than you think. So there`s no need to take over the kitchen or dining room table, creating clutter and disturbing everyone else in the household.Instead, take that spare room that nobody ever uses and with very little effort turn it into a perfectly adequate home office to rival the cubicle you have at work.
It goes without saying that you will need a desk and a chair, so make sure the desk is large enough and the chair comfortable enough.
Now that the furniture is sorted, let`s look at the hardware you`ll need to get started. Obviously, a PC is essential. We suggest a laptop with a docking station. Not only does this allow for more freedom of movement, fitting in with the whole mobility trend, but it also allows for later additions of an extra monitor or keyboard when the business starts taking off. If you prefer a desktop, then go that route. However, make sure the PC has the following minimum specs or frustration will be your daily friend.
You will also need a printer, a multifunctional device (MFD), to be precise. This is an all-in-one printer which will enable you to scan, print and copy - all the things that need to be done in an office. We suggest you invest in an inkjet printer, as laser printers are much more expensive. It is always advisable to get a printer that can also do colour prints. You never know when you might have to put together a slick, professional-looking presentation.
Nowadays, the need for a dedicated fax machine is minimal and with fax-to-e-mail programmes, all that is needed is a scanner.
Next up is the all-important internet connection. There is simply no way a professional person can get by without an internet connection to send and receive e-mail and do research on the web. Depending on the amount of e-mails and the size of attachments you will send, as well as what content you will be downloading from the net, we suggest a minimum of 500MB a month. We also think that coupled with a laptop, a mobile or 3G internet solution would be more beneficial, or get an ADSL line from Telkom. We advise you search around for the best deal to suit your pocket.
Together with an internet connection you will need a proper internet browser and an e-mail client. Internet Explorer is usually included in your software and operating system when buying a PC, but we deem Mozilla Firefox (3.5) a better and faster option. It`s a free browser, downloadable at www.mozilla.com. Or opt for the new Google Chrome free browser downloadable from www.google.com/chrome.
Being without e-mail in this day and age is almost unthinkable.
You can create an e-mail account through your Internet Service Provider (ISP), but you will still need some sort of an desktop e-mail client (software) to be able to use the account. Microsoft`s Outlook is possibly the most common and well-known client, but a rising favourite among techies is Thunderbird. Or sign up for a free Gmail account from Google and configure Thunderbird 3 as your desktop e-mail client. You can get it at www.mozillamessaging.com.
There is no point in setting up a home office and having all the hardware if you do not have the correct software to enable you to do the work that needs to be done. Software is paramount.
Starting with the operating system, we would suggest you stay away from Microsoft`s Vista and rather opt for the new Windows 7 operating system.
The bare minimum software you would need is something that does word processing, such as what the Microsoft Office suite does, which includes Word for creating basic documents and letters, Excel for spreadsheets, and PowerPoint to easily produce presentations that the corporate world so adores. The free open source option would be OpenOffice, allowing you to do the same as the rather expensive Microsoft Office suite. OpenOffice also supports Microsoft Office formats. OpenOffice is available for download at www.openoffice.org.
These days, Adobe Acrobat reader is also a must-have, to read the myriad PDF documents doing the rounds. This is, luckily, also a free download from the internet and not a huge programme that will eat up lots of internet bandwidth. Get it at www.adobe.com.
For communicating with colleagues through instant messaging (IM), we recommend you download Skype at www.skype.com. This will allow for free calls over the internet to others also using Skype. Another free IM is Google Talk, which can be downloaded from www.google.com/talk.
On the subject of communication, it is also advisable to register with an online business network, to stay in contact with others and make more business contacts. Popular networks are Plaxo and LinkedIn.
It is also necessary to have a media player of some sort to watch video clips and play other multimedia or music files. Windows Media Player is free, although proprietary, from www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player and plays most media formats.
Remember that these are the bare necessities for starting a home office and getting connected to colleagues and other business people. There are thousands of other cool gadgets and hardware, as well as software, available to further enhance a home office.
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