Buying for the mobile office

On January 4th VAT increases to 20%, making office equipment that bit more expensive. So if you are working from home or considering doing so, now is the perfect time to get all the equipment you need in the sales to beat the price increase.

But what kind of equipment is suitable for a home office? Your basic staples are:

– a computer with a good broadband connection
– a back-up laptop in case your computer breaks down and for mobile working
– back-up internet connection
– a phone with internet access
– a fax/scanner/printer
– a WiFi router so you can access the Internet from laptop and computer
– a separate landline for taking office calls so you don’t mix up home and office calls
– an external hard drive for backing up files.

Once you’ve got the basics there are specific technology packages and applications which can help out. Many of the big technology companies cater specifically for homeworkers and home businesses.

For instance, Microsoft’s Windows Live Messenger service is great for keeping in touch with office or other remote colleagues. Microsoft also has Windows Mobile which extends the Windows and Microsoft Office experience to mobile devices so you can stay in touch with colleagues, customers, and important information when you are away from the office. You can send and receive emails, view and edit calendars and contacts, work on mobile versions of familiar Office software, including Word and Excel, and browse the Internet as well as view maps, download business software, use GPS technology and run many other applications. Windows Mobile has, however, been losing market share in recent months due to stiff competition from the likes of theiPhone  and Google Android.

Orange offers UMA technology which boosts your phone’s signal and gives enhanced network coverage at home. If you have a compatible phone you don’t need to invest in any extra equipment.

Blackberry has a large range of equipment for working on the move. Upvise, for instance, provides a mobile cloud computing platform for mobile and web use. Users can access the same applications on their computer using any web browser and data is always in synch between the mobile and web account. Upvise also allows users to keep track of who their business talks to, link addresses on Google maps, manage all ongoing projects within the company and even store and share company data. It is available from BlackBerry App World for free.

Other Blackberry applications include:

VNC+: this allows you to access and control your desktop computer remotely from your BlackBerry smartphone.

WiFiCaféSpots: this helps you find a Café or restaurant with a free WiFi hotspot. It lists more than 14,000 cafes and restaurants with free WiFi in Europe, the US, Canada and Australia.

PowerBOSS Battery Manager: this extends battery life by cutting down on signal searches when you’re off the grid and lets you make those last important calls, send those last texts or listen to that download one more time.

There are also an increasing range of collaborative online tools which allow workers at home and in the office to work together on projects. These include Office Medium which provides a wide variety of collaborative features such as live chat, user profiles, polls and calendars and Basecamp.

Whatever your needs, it is worth keeping abreast of the latest technology. As homeworking becomes more common, more and more applications will be available to make it easier to do everything from video conferencing to working on collaborative projects.

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