If you are a small business owner looking to introduce home working or a start-up business owner seeking to work from home, there are many considerations when it comes to setting up a home office network.
There are many advantages to working from home. While others are tolerating workplace annoyances and time consuming commutes, you have your office readily available at any time while you enjoy reduced stress and a better quality of life.The key to becoming more productive using a home office is proper planning and careful organisation. This ensures a home office will enhance your productivity instead of impeding it.
TAKE THE TIME TO PROPERLY ASSESS YOUR NEEDS.
The appropriate setup for your home office will depend upon your occupation and personal requirements. Comfort and functionality are important from a productivity standpoint and includes the type of equipment you choose as well as the quality.
Many people who setup a home office can usually get by with a desk and chair, a computer and printer, and a telephone with voicemail functionality. However, you may also require additional functionality such as multiple monitors, a fax machine, or more than one telephone line depending upon your type of business or occupation.
Therefore, you should take the time to assess your needs and requirements before investing in equipment, software, storage and organisation.
Why not use the below information as a starting point to create your own home office setup checklist?
FOCUS ON THE FOLLOWING 3 ASPECTS.
When setting up a home office your focus should be on three things:
- 1. The Three Cs, which include physical technology such as Computers, Connectivity, and Communication.
- 2. Software
- 3. Workspace and Organisation
The following home office setup guide will help you to optimise your space to accommodate your needs.
LAPTOP, PC, TABLET OR COMBINATION?
There was a time when the desktop PC was replaced by a laptop as the device of choice for working from home. In recent years, smartphones and tablets have taken over as the preferred device over a laptop PC.
Although mobility is convenient, you may find you get better performance from a desktop PC at a reduced cost. Then you can choose to add mobile devices such as a laptop or tablet to provide yourself with some flexibility.
Additionally, there are more options in terms of upgrades when you use a desktop PC. For instance, it is very easy to upgrade the RAM (Random Access Memory) plus, you can add a lot more RAM than you can on a laptop. You can also easily upgrade the graphics, expand the hard drive, and perform many other upgrades on a desktop PC.
In terms of repair, a desktop is fairly easy to maintain and repair simply by popping the side of the console off. A laptop PC takes a little more effort when something malfunctions. Plus, the replacement parts are often specific to the make and model of the device.
On the other hand, a laptop PC is more energy efficient and lends more portability to your work routine. Plus, you can always add a full-sized keyboard and monitor for improved functionality.
Finally, you should decide if you want to work with a Mac or the Windows operating system. Depending upon your work purpose, there may be some compatibility considerations such as software, applications and peripherals.
WIRED OR WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY?
Regardless of your business type or occupation, connectivity has become an essential in a home office. But, should you choose a wired or wireless Internet connection?
With a wireless connection, there is no need to run an Ethernet cable from your wireless router to the device you want to connect to the Internet. The main reason for the use of a wireless connection is convenience and mobility. If you have devices you must move around, a wireless connection can offer more flexibility.
On the other hand, if you have devices such as a desktop PC that you do not have to move around, a wired connection is typically faster and more reliable.
Choosing a wired or wireless connection is usually a matter of personal choice and your requirements for connectivity speed. Additionally, you must exercise caution when it comes to choosing an Internet service provider. You want to be sure you are going to receive reliable connectivity and great customer service. An Internet outage that lasts for several hours can have a negative impact on your business and your income.
Also, be sure to test the connection speed using speed test websites or a pinging tool. This can also help you decide whether a wired or wireless connection is best for your needs.
If you’d like to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of wired and wireless networking then see our separate article – Wired vs. wireless networking.
Most modern home offices are equipped with a high-speed broadband connection which allows you to transfer large amounts of data over a short period. Fortunately, internet connectivity speeds have come a long way in recent times and most residential areas now have access to cable broadband connectivity, which guarantees a consistent (and usually very fast) internet connectivity speed. ADSL internet connectivity can be less reliable and speeds can be inconsistent depending on how far you are from your nearest telephone exchange.
VOIP (VOICE OVER INTERNET PROTOCOL).
A high-speed broadband connection is also a necessity if you are considering VoIP. VoIP is telephone communication that is transmitted over the Internet. Many home office workers choose this method of communication because it is very cost effective when compared with landline telephone communications.
You will find that many VoIP plans are generous in terms of unlimited calling, call forwarding services, and other advanced telephone functions. Many of the plans are inexpensive and offer unlimited free calling for international and long distance calls. Some Internet service providers (ISPs) offer VoIP plans with your broadband Internet connection subscription.
WHAT PERIPHERALS SHOULD YOU USE?
If you are going to spend a significant amount of time in your home office, take inventory of your requirements and then decide on what peripherals will be necessary. Peripherals include monitors, printers, scanners, fax machines, keyboards, an ergonomic mouse, device docks, external storage devices, and more.
When you choose peripherals, avoid going for the cheapest devices. Remember you are going to be using them on a daily basis so you will need peripherals that are reliable. Devices such as a high quality ergonomic keyboard and mouse can provide you with many hours of productivity and improved comfort.
If you are limited on space, a high-quality printer that provides a combination of functions may be more suitable. A combination printer can provide you with scanning, copying, and faxing services without having to purchase each device separately. Most of them are also equipped with wireless connectivity which expands your options when considering your printing, copying, scanning, and faxing requirements.
WHAT TYPES OF SOFTWARE SHOULD YOU CONSIDER?
Depending upon your type of business or occupation, your software requirements can vary. However, there are two main software requirements that almost every business needs which includes an office productivity suite and an email system.
Many home office users choose to subscribe to Microsoft Office 365 for Business because it provides you with access to an advanced set of functions without the exorbitant price tag and license fees for upgrades. Instead, you pay an affordable monthly fee for access to enterprise level applications and email.
For example, the Premium Office 365 subscription provides access to the following capabilities:
- Exchange Online
- Business class email, calendar, and contacts with a 50GB (gigabyte) inbox per user
- Skype VoIP for Business
- Microsoft Publisher
- OneDrive for Business with 1TB (terabyte) of file storage and sharing
- Unlimited online meetings
- IM and HD videoconferencing with Skype for Business
- Access to work management tools for team collaboration and multi-tasking
- Access to a social network to make collaboration with your clients easier
- Professional digital storytelling tools to create interactive presentations, projects, reports, and more
- Access to Office apps on tablets and phones for the fully installed mobile Office experience on up to 5 tablets and 5 phones per user
- Access to online versions of Office in the cloud including Excel, PowerPoint, and Word
Small businesses have access to enterprise level tools and applications all at a very affordable price of £7.80 per user/per month.
Microsoft Office 365 is cloud-based which means it can be accessed from anywhere and on any device. You can choose what applications you want to download on your computer or mobile device which enables you to complete work tasks even when you are not working in your home office.
Additionally, Office 365 is scalable allowing you to add or subtract capabilities as your business needs change. You only pay for what you use and there is no IT infrastructure to implement at home.
Microsoft oversees all security using a team of IT professionals at each of its data centers. Each data center is required to meet ISO certification standards to ensure data security and compliance.
Office 365 also provides you with specialized user controls that allow you to set privacy rules and access permissions. This provides you with a way to secure files and documents minus the cost of maintaining data security.
Check out our separate article that presents a business case for switching to Office 365 Business.
WHAT ABOUT DATA STORAGE NEEDS?
Storing files and data is critical to your business. And, depending upon your industry, you may face specific compliance requirements for storing and archiving data.
The good news is you have a lot of options when it comes to data backup and storage. The first place to start is by assessing exactly what your storage needs are. Then you can proceed to use a combination of backup and storage options to ensure you always have access to your data.
Some of the questions you should ask yourself include:
- Which applications produce the largest files?
- How much of your data has been duplicated over time?
- How far back in time are you required to store data?
- What amount of data is not relevant to your business?
- From what location, do you plan to access your files and documents?
- How quickly do you need access to your files and documents?
Once you have an idea on how much data you are working with, you can decide on storage requirements.
With new peripherals, such as flash memory and cloud storage solutions, home office users now have more options than ever when it comes to data backup and storage. The abundance of options make storage very affordable and range from small thumb drives to cloud storage, network attached storage, and more.
EXTERNAL HARD DRIVES.
External hard drives connect to your device via a USB port. Modern external hard drives are capable of offering a large amount of storage space. It is also important to remember that external drives are technology and technology can fail. However, an external hard drive is a cost effective way to implement one type of strategy in to your combination of storage methods.
Many home office users choose cloud storage which is remote backup and storage that is transmitted over your Internet connection to a secure location. The cloud storage provider is responsible for securing the infrastructure in its data centers using encryption and redundancy practices. You can share and access files using your web browser using a high-speed broadband Internet connection. Recovery of data is fast and easy in the event of a disaster.
A flash drive is also known as a thumb drive and is a small portable device that you can carry with you on your key chain. The flash drive connects to the USB port on your device and allows you to backup and store files while on the go.
If you choose a quality flash drive, many of the devices are equipped with encryption in the event you lose the device or it is stolen. Other flash memory devices allow you to store Microsoft Outlook files, web browser bookmarks, and other files. Then all you need to do is plug the flash drive into any device to view your files when you are traveling.
NETWORK ATTACHED STORAGE (NAS).
Network attached storage provides easy and reliable access your files and documents on a network infrastructure. This type of storage can be as simple as a hard drive connected with an Ethernet cable.
NAS solutions can also offer more advanced storage by providing multiple FireWire or USB ports. This allows you to connect multiple hard drives to expand your storage capacity.
If you prefer to keep things simple and cost effective, you may want to consider a hosted storage service by a qualified provider. You pay a simple monthly fee while the service provider maintains and secures the NAS infrastructure.
TIPS ON WORKSPACE AND ORGANISATION.
CHOOSE THE RIGHT LOCATION.
Choose the right location in your home where you can separate your work life from family life. It should be a space with enough room for furniture and equipment and good ventilation. It should also be a space that fuels inspiration while being comfortable and functional.
ESTABLISH CREATIVE SPACE.
Establish a creative space you can use for project creation. The space should be a separate work area from your desk and capable of providing you with an area where you can set goals and create visions. It may include a whiteboard or an idea wall where you can record ideas and goals as they come to mind.
CREATE A SYSTEM OF ORGANISATION.
An organized office makes a good impression and prevents you from feeling mentally overwhelmed. Perhaps you require a specific number of file drawers or additional shelving for keeping things readily accessible.
Maybe you require a closet for storage or an extra workstation for an assistant. Whatever your requirements, come up with a system of organization that is tailored to meet your daily workplace needs.
And…. don’t forget your cherished furry friends that are happy you are home more! A soft comfortable bed will be much appreciated by your beloved office assistant.
Finally, it is important to have a backup plan in place in the event of technology failure. Ask yourself where you will go if the Internet goes down or your computer crashes. This will ensure your daily business activity is not vulnerable to IT failure. It is better to over prepare for IT issues than to be totally unprepared when disaster strikes.
Our IT Department has helped numerous businesses to setup virtual working solutions for their staff. We also work closely with small business owners and start-ups that with to setup a small office network at home without the overheads of maintaining an external office. Click below and speak directly with a professional about our virtual working solutions and home/small office cabling and infrastructure services.