Eight office extras every small business needs:
Even if your business is in a backwater left behind by the telecommunications revolution there’s no excuse not to swap your dial-up connection for a fast link to the Internet. You’ll probably need an ADSL or Cable modem. These are usually included in the start-up kits offered by ISPs.
If you can’t get conventional broadband choose a wireless, satellite service or a 3G mobile phone.
The moment your computer connects to the Internet, it is open to attack by viruses, hackers and other online nasties. Buy an all-in-one suite of security software that includes antivirus tools and a firewall.
Some packages also have spam filtering software and other security applications. There are free packages, but they can be troublesome.
Computer security primer
Computer security: What are the main threats?
Computer security: Defensive software
Computer security: How to buy security tools
Computer security: What to buy or download for free
Small business web presence
If you sell products or services in the real world, even a modest web site will help you sell online – create an online brochure to promote your business. You don’t need to be a technical expert to set up a simple site, some ISPs include free Internet hosting with their accounts. Otherwise, you can choose one of the free online web hosts to get started.
A missed call is a missed opportunity – avoid losing business by installing a phone answering machine or signing up for voicemail. Alternatively, forward your business calls to your mobile or home number when the office is empty. You do have a mobile phone, don’t you?
Book-keeping or accounting software
Don’t wait until you visit the accountant to know whether you’re making a dollar. There are low-cost packages from companies like MYOB and Quicken that will allow you to create invoices, fill out tax forms and track the flow of money through your business – some are even simple to use. Alternatively, choose an online service like Xero.
Reliable power supply
While mains electricity is usually reliable and safe, there are times when it can damage sensitive electronic equipment. Invest in anti-surge devices that prevent power spikes from wrecking your hardware. Better still, get an uninterrupted power supply so you can save important files and conduct an orderly computer shut down when there’s a power outage.
Backup important data and store it off-line
Sooner or later your computers will fail. So make regular copies of all important documents and keep them away from your office in case of fire. It may also pay to have two or three external hard drives to keep multiple back-ups. Make sure you get decent software to automate your back-ups.
A lot of important documents arrive at your business on sheets of paper. Eventually, you’ll want to get rid of some of them, but crooks have been known to dive through waste bins in the hope of gleaning valuable information to help them commit fraud. Get a shredder and destroy every document before throwing them out.
Better still, get a scanner and make electronic copies of every document that comes through your business.