When I was in the corporate world, I had the perfect assistant. She was never late, took care of the tasks I didn’t have time to do, and was always in a good mood.
When I started my first business I couldn’t take her with me, but since then I’ve relied on a few other assistants, my home office equipment. The cost of equipment and the size of anything with an on and off switch (to borrow a phrase from flight attendants) drops all of the time. So having access to the equipment you need to help you stay productive is easy. Knowing what to buy can be tougher, but it doesn’t have to be.
Your Computer…A Virtual Assistant
Keeping up with the latest computer is as easy as changing the tires on a moving car. You can either wait until you think the time is right to buy – which unfortunately is never – or you can buy what you need. Better yet, buy more than you need. A rule of thumb is that a computer can’t be too fast or have enough memory. Make sure that you buy a computer from a reliable source and that support is available if something goes wrong with it.
Finding the Right All-in-One Machine
Anything that leaves your home office reflects you and your company. Considering how much the price of all-in-ones (printer, scanner, copier and fax) has dropped, there’s no reason to give clients poor quality copies or crappy sales materials.
When you’re looking for an all-in-one, find out the paper capacity. The more paper a printer holds, the less time you’ll spend refilling the paper tray. Find out what the largest size print is that you can make. At times, 8 1/2″ x 11″ prints may not be large enough. Also, look at the “footprint” or the amount of desktop space it needs including the paper tray, and make sure you have room for it. The Brother MFC-J615W is a great option because it has a compact, modern design that doesn’t take up a lot of space, and it looks great in any home office. The smaller footprint (and often low price) of these machines makes them ideal for space-challenged home offices. Look for features such as mobile printing that allow users to print from smart phones.
Backup, Backup, Backup
You can replace hardware, but data, not so much. One of the best investments you can make is in a reliable backup system. You can choose between a removable media drive (a thumb drive) or an external hard drive. Remember to test your backup system often to make sure you’ve actually saved your information.
Also, keep three copies of your backed up data in different places (especially somewhere other than in your home office).
Power is Everything
You can’t predict when your power is going to go out or when you’ll have a power surge, but a surge protector can protect your equipment. One step further is to invest in an Uninterruptible Power Source (UPS). A UPS gives you at least five minutes to backup what you’re doing before the power goes out.
Be Safe and Shred
A shredder is one of the best ways to protect important information including credit card numbers, your social security number and any other information someone could use to steal your identity. You can buy a small shredder that rests on top of your trash can or a larger one for bigger jobs.
Voice Mail Matters
You’ll need a separate phone line (your cell phone will work too) that only you answer and a reliable voice mail system (family members aren’t always the best at taking messages). Test your outgoing message to make sure there aren’t any noises in the background that you didn’t notice while you recorded your message.
Keeping up with the latest piece of technology is challenging, and at times, frustrating. By finding the right equipment to meet your needs, you’ll be able to keep up with technology and with all of the other demands on your time, with or without an assistant.