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COMMENTARY

Putting Together an Ideal Home Office, Part 2


By Rob Kay & Jeff Bloom

This is the second of a two part series on setting up an ideal home office. It’s meant for both the home office user and the small business person. Last week we looked at the following elements: computer, monitor, printer, phone, data backup and voice mail. We’ve spent about $2300 but our office is far from complete. This column we’ll finish the task of purchasing what other products and services it will take.


Broadband Connectivity to the Internet

If you’re online a lot and you value your time, you should not hesitate to get a broadband connection to the Internet offered by local companies such as Oceanic’s Road Runner or ADSL, which can be had from any number of local Internet Service Providers. Road Runner connects you via television cable whereas ADSL is a new technology that pumps data across conventional phone lines albeit much faster than a regular 56kps modem. Road Runner has the definite price advantage (an extra $40 per month if you already have cable or $50 per month if you don’t) whereas ADSL starts at $77 per month for residential users and $150 per month for business users.

Modem

If you can’t afford or don’t need Road Runner or ADSL, a conventional V.90 modem will do fine. Modem’s are dirt cheap nowadays but you want something that is going to hold onto the that phone line with a vise-grip. For this we’d suggest the 3Com U.S. Robotics Courier V.Everything Modem which we’ve tested and really like. You can pick one up for around $200.

Fax

You’ve got two options. Option one is to purchase a fax machine from Office Max, Costco or one of the other ubiquitous office stores. A decent machine will set you back around $150. Option number two is to speak to a Honolulu company called ComTel, which may eliminate the need for a fax machine at all. ComTel (along with a slew of mainland companies) provide a service so that faxes can now be sent directly to your email address. ComTel, which calls their system "fax2email", issues you a private local fax number and special software. Faxes are thus sent to ComTel’s number instead of your fax machine. ComTel then turns your fax message into an email document and sends it directly to you. The price is $8 month for the service.

So what good is that? Well, for one thing, it eliminates your having to pay GTE for an extra phone line. It also allows you to receive your fax anywhere in the world—not just at your office. We experimented with their service and it worked just fine. For a home office that’s trying to save money this is an excellent option.

So you ask, "how about sending faxes "with fax2email"? It’s frankly not as easy simply faxing from a regular fax machine but in the interest of saving money, it’s entirely do-able. If you are intending to fax a computer file (say a word processing document) you’ll simply fax it via the computer. (Windows 98 provides the software to do this). If it’s a newspaper article you’ll have to first scan it. That brings us to the world of scanners.


Scanners

If you do want to eliminate paying for the extra fax line you’re going to have to purchase a flatbed or sheetfeed scanner. Visioneer (www.visioneer.com) offers a very small footprint device for $200 that will allow you to scan documents and then easily fax them from your computer. It has a special button that allows you fax a document as easily as doing it from a regular fax machine. The sheet feed scanner doesn’t take a lot of room on the desk top and it’s handy to have for tasks other than sending faxes. In fact, if you have plenty of room in your office you might consider getting a larger (but less expensive) flatbed scanner for about $150. The bottom line: There’s some investment involved for a scanning device if you want to eliminate that extra phone line but you will quickly pay back your investment after only a few months.

Power Protection

Power fluctuations are more common at home than in an office building and you’ll want to protect your computer with a surge suppressor or an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). I would recommend a unit from APC (http://www.apcc.com/). You can pick up a surge protector from Costco, Office Max or the like for under $50 or less whereas a good UPS will cost around $100-$200.


Cost

So where to we stand? Let’s look at what we’ve purchased for our ideal home office: computer, monitor, phone, tape backup (or another method of storage) and a printer, modem (or broadband connection) power protection, and fax (or scanner). The total cost is approximately $3100. We believe an outlay for this amount will cover just about everything that a business person could possibly need. Now, all you need are customers! Happy hunting.


Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who works with technology companies in Hawaii and Silicon Valley. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Jeff Bloom is the founder of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, a computer education/consulting firm based in Honolulu. His contact is jeffb@cta.net or 839-1200.

Pacific Business News - Friday, August 13, 1999

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