Networking

10 essential tools and services for work-at-home IT pros

You can't work out of your home effectively without the right setup. Justin James shares what he's discovered about equipping the IT home office.

I have been working out of my home office for more than three years now, with job functions that cover a wide variety of IT roles, such as software developer, network engineer, and system administrator. Over this period of time, I have learned that the office equipment, software, and services needs of remote workers are different from those of someone on site in a number of ways. Today, I'm going to share what I've found to be 10 must-have tools and services for remote IT workers.

1: Quality Internet service

If you are working from home, it is obvious that you will need the Internet all day long to do your job. Where a lot of people go wrong on this is by getting cheap Internet service, such as a consumer grade DSL or cable modem line. The problem is, these services are aimed at providing fast downloads, sometimes with a "burst" of bandwidth for a big item. But they have slow upload speeds, no static IP address, and no guarantees of service quality.

Instead, I recommend a business class account. While it is more expensive, the benefits for a home worker are huge. Having a static IP address lets the home office feel more comfortable in opening services to you, for example, and host services yourself if needed. Business class accounts come with bandwidth and technical support response time guarantees, as opposed to the "best effort" you get with consumer accounts. And many times, the bandwidth is segregated from the residential access so your access does not get jumbled up with the mass of BitTorrent, Xbox Live, and Netflix from the house next door.

2: A real phone

Cell phones are great, but when it comes to call quality, nothing can replace a true desk phone. Even if that phone is connected to VOIP, the quality of the call is far superior. You will be on the phone a lot more than you would be if you were in the office, which makes call quality very important. I tried a good cell phone + good Bluetooth headset, and not only were the bills huge (often more than $200 a month), but the call quality was lousy. Now, I have an inexpensive phone, a Vonage account, and a Jabra GN9350 headset (cannot recommend this item enough), and it's rare to be asked to repeat myself.

3: Company credit card

When you are on your own, you can't wait for a central purchasing department to buy something and have it shipped to you. And as an IT professional, you will often buy things that cost more than you will feel comfortable paying for out of your own pocket and getting reimbursed for. In addition, there will be times when you're on the road and need to pay travel costs. Have your employer furnish you with a company credit card, and life will get a lot easier for you.

4: Ergonomic office furniture and layout

I've written a number of articles here at TechRepublic about the ergonomic equipment I use, and there is a reason for it. If you thought you spent a lot of time at your desk in an office, just wait. You will spend even more time at the desk when working from home. It's simple: You no longer need to get up for anything other than a bathroom break or food and drink. The days of going to the server room or a co-worker's desk to solve a problem are over, and it is not uncommon to discover that you've been at your desk for eight to 10 hours without more than a five-minute break. You don't even leave the house to get lunch most of the time. Being in a chair this long makes ergonomics even more important than they are in an office. Personally, I love the Herman Miller Embody chair and Envelop desk, the Kinesis Advantage keyboard, and Evoluent Vertical Mouse. Find what works for you.

5: Scanner and inexpensive black-and-white laser printer

Print may be dead, but you will still need to print things out from time to time. Printing is so infrequent for me that inkjet cartridges are often dried out after only a few printings, which is why I recommend a small, inexpensive black and white laser printer. You can get one for under $100 that does a perfectly good job and never dries out. The only things I find myself printing are directions and contracts to be signed. And that is where the scanner comes into play. I have found that working at home, there are about five to 10 times a year where something requires a real signature. Given that you can buy a dirt cheap flatbed scanner for under $50, it does not make sense to lose half an hour driving to the office store just to send a fax. That half hour is worth $50 or so to your employer anyway.

6: Redundancy, onsite backups, and offsite backups

When I worked at an office, there was an IT department (or I was the IT department) that took care of my data needs. If a drive or entire PC died, they would have it swapped out and fixed in a few hours. Everything was stored on the network or they had backups being done on my computer. Working at home is a different ball of wax. Given the speed of the network, I find myself storing a lot more locally and syncing when needed, instead of directly using network storage. And if the system blows up, I am responsible for getting myself back online. As a result, I count on a combination of RAID 1 (mirrored drives) to protect myself in case of drive failure, an internal disk dedicated to nightly backups in case of system meltdown, and offsite backups through an online backup provider to handle catastrophes (such as a fire).

7: Smartphone

When I worked in an office, a smartphone was a "like to have" not a "must have." If I was away from my desk, it was rarely more than a 10-minute walk back in case something went horribly wrong. But at the same time, it was expected that it would take a real emergency to get me back into the office after hours. Working from home, there is the assumption that you are somewhat available regardless of the time or hour. Having a smartphone allows me to stay on top of what's going on and provide that availability, while still letting me screen out the less important problems. You will especially want to make sure that your phone handles email seamlessly. I have found that the Samsung Focus (a WP7 device) fits my needs better than anything else I have used, but it is a matter of personal taste and needs.

8: Power protection

In an office, the IT department and facilities teams handled power issues for me. At home, dealing with power outages and protecting the equipment from power spikes and dips are my responsibility. Faced with a choice between being out of commission for three days to repair equipment damaged by a "power event" and spending money on a good, line conditioning UPS, the UPS is a better bet. I like the low-end Eaton/Powerware dual conversion units. They provide my small setup here with plenty of runtime in case of power outage and give me 100% assurance that a power event won't wipe me out.

9: Laptop/notebook

Working from home, you will need to be on the road at least once in a while. For me, that is about once a year to visit the home office, and a few times a year when I go on vacation or three-day weekends. While that does not justify a great mobile machine for me (I am using a laptop that was mid-range three years ago), I still need one. Depending on your requirements, you may need a better one. I like to have a powerful desktop machine but just enough laptop power to do what I need to do on the road. You may prefer a full desktop replacement.

10: Gym membership

If it weren't for the gym, I would probably leave my property about three times a week. Getting to the gym every day not only provides me exercise, but it also gives me a much-needed break in the workday. (Remember, you aren't taking lunch breaks anymore.) Working from home, I have found myself even more sedentary than I was in an office, so getting to the gym is an important part of staying healthy and sane. If you don't like the gym, take walks or go for a jog every day.

Additional resources

About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

60 comments
Ramon Barca
Ramon Barca

“You can’t work out of your home effectively without the right setup. Justin James shares what he’s discovered about equipping the IT home office.” I wholly agree. I am a telecommuter myself, and what I learned from three years of working remotely is that without the right setup its hard to make things happen. I use Skype, TimeDoctor and Basecamp—the tools I believe are essential in telecommuting. Skype provides for instant messaging and VoIP, TimeDoctor for time tracking and productivity monitoring, and Basecamp for collaboration and project planning. Let me share this slideshow for those who want to make telecommuting work for them: http://www.slideshare.net/cloydwaldo/preparing-your-business-for-telecommuting

ian
ian

As far as VoIP goes, consider using the soft phone option and run your phone through a computer. The advantage is recorded conversations particularly when discussing service requirements with a client. Depending on were you live, there may be a legal requirement to advise the person on the other end of the phone that the call is recorded. You'll be surprised how advantageous this is when arguing service quality with a utility company or the bank. (and they are always the ones who say the call may be recorded) ;-) On the subject of backups, I personally have my backup NAS in a closet we use as a tornado shelter. Network into the closet is via ethernet over power. In fact all my home network is ethernet over power.

hondentraining
hondentraining

A laptop and a good height desk plus desk chair is all need. hondentraining

danielsweb
danielsweb

I must stress how important the UPS is. We had a blackout here in the office one time and I was able to shut my computer down in time without losing the valuable data. Also the battery lasted during the entire blackout so our alarms and security systems were all still running. We did a job at one of those [url=http://www.cashforoldgold.com.au/]cash for gold[/url] places and had to setup full security, alarm, movement IP camera and UPS. Lucky we did because they have several break in attemps

reisen55
reisen55

This little gem I picked up for the facsimile machine. Cost me $40 at stupid Best Buy and then I was given a phone number for $20 a YEAR and - whammo - I have a fax line, it is not used all that often so I do not want a dedicated, expensive line for it. Works great and I highly commend it as a land line alternative.

owenmonilla
owenmonilla

I will not survive without any internet connection so that???s on my top 1 also. Next is my credit card which makes everything convenient. Third is my laptop and my ever dependable hp inkjet printers.

bobbyrambo
bobbyrambo

check google The list is good and so are the addons, but, Information Technology? Is that what we're talking about here? Doesn't that include just about everything? LOL My office is in our master bedroom, with a desk made of old plywood. No phone needed, all work is online (email). The last thing *I* need is to chat with people. Gym? Ha! Not necessary. What if the IT pro is in a wheel chair? Anyways, a 10 min break every hour is essential for me. thanks tho

ThatITGuyTy
ThatITGuyTy

It makes perfect sense when you read it. And logically it's what all IT professionals should be practicing.

rjhawkin
rjhawkin

I've found with multi-function devices that while they take up less space, when they fail. you loose the use of more than one of the functions. Laser Toner has a shelf life of years not the months of inkjet cartridges. I do quite a bit of work on the road so my scanner is light and USB powered. It doesn't need to be super high end to scan documents. I currently use a Canon LiDE30. If you do travel often, The travel adapter is more useful than an inverter, it has fewer bits to keep track of and they usually do both AC and DC.

d graham
d graham

I find that Ring Central is a good replacement for FAX duties & of course if are part of this discussion you are already aware that Tech Republic is indispensable!

Randomz
Randomz

The Eaton/Powerware UPS have grossly over inflated run times on their web site. Download and read the manual to get a real idea, it's usually around half the figure published. Example a 5125 with an additionsl external battery module (EBM). Brochure - runtime is 48/110 minutes at full/half load Manual - runtime is 25/60 minutes full/half load. Verify run times yourself before getting caught out. Fax-to-Email services are great. It means you get to know about a new fax whenever you check for email and means you don't need a dedicated line. Save $30/40 month on line rental and pay $60/year instead. Uniden make a couple of phones systems where the additional charger bases are also repeater broadcasters, greatly extending the range. This means you can happily walk the garden while on the phone and get some exercise as well. If you have critical data, get an old PC with a decent size hard drive (cheap) and set it up so that when it gets turned on, it auto logs into your server, back up critical files, then switches off again. It's probably easier to do this with a Linux box (for me anyway). Then set it in BIOS to turn on every day at eg 3:00am to do an automagic backup. That way your backup is protected from attack or duckwit factor as the PC is only on for a short period of time. As the 2nd PC logs into the main one, if it has a different password (essential) then a hacker getting into the main PC can't access the 2nd even if it is online at the same time. The 2nd PC has a password to log in to the first, but not the other way around. If the data is really critical, set up a spare server identical to the first and do exactly as above, then any failure of the main PC simply requires turning on the 2nd PC, cancel the auto-backup, change it's IP and you are back online in a very short time and don't need to wait for a lengthy restore process.

3_jeeps
3_jeeps

As pointed out in other posts, a FAX service is essential for contracts, medical information, etc. VoIP and FAX machines generally do not play well together so you will need a real POTS connection if you elect to have FAX service in your office. If you go the FAX service in your office route, may as well do it right and run a FAX server that can function as a email to FAX and FAX to email gateway (Hylafax does this very nicely). The other approach is to subscribe to FAX services that effectively do this. Somewhat implied but not directly discussed is a good network infrastructure with machine(s) that can run the appropriate servers/services (FAX, email, backups, file shares, VPN, SSH, etc.) and NAS. How you partition these services is somewhat dependent on your home office functions. Various LINUX distros and open source solutions cover the needs quite nicely. I have found much more and better router functions in open source router firmware such as DD-WRT that makes setting up and maintaining the network infrastructure much easier. Of course there are other approaches and service priorities as needs dictate. I prefer to have *my stuff* under *my control* and not rely on 'the cloud.' If reliability is important, you may have to distribute these functions to outside services. Oh, one other thing - weekly image backup of your HDs. Nothing sucks more that having to tell your customer that you need to take 2-3 days to do a bare-metal restore to get back in business.

sparent
sparent

When claiming home office expenses on your income tax return, Revenue Canada allows you to figure out your office as a percentage of your total surface area or a percentage of your rooms. I used a room in the basement for my filing cabinets and infrastructure items: UPS, router, ... My office was upstairs in a converted bedroom. That meant I could claim for 2 out of 11 rooms in my house as part of my office.

mike
mike

Personally I use a pushbike to run those small errands that one has to do, like the snail mail, go to jobs near my home office and the like. I have always kept very good log books on the car and when I first got the pushbike I did the same with it. It replaced 4% of my driving, but fuel consumption (mpg or litres/100k) improved 10%, making nearly a 14% on fuel. Also you always get a parking spot close to the front door of the shops. Don't have to pay gym fees, don't have to feed and clean up after the dog and since it (the bike) is used for business it is fully tax deductible (may not apply in other countries, I am in Australia). An absolute bargain.

mike
mike

We homeworkers all have and serve a different discipline of IT. Our needs differ based on the type / level of service we provide and the client base we support. The few things we have in common are paramount to protect in order support the service we provide. I recently went out of town and during my absence, my home was robbed and vandalized. That offsite backup may be a little more important than we want to admit but we do need to cover ourselves as well as our clients. Part of my saving grace was the fact that one of the servers I used as a PDC was a monster and weighed a ton. That and a very large UPS were the only 2 things not either taken or destroyed. So we should consider something from the security field as a "MUST" for being in business at home.

tony
tony

Dual Monitors, Desktops, Laptops, Netbooks, Smartphones, These are all great and needed, but lead to the issue of where are my latest files..... I prevously used one desktop with large mirrored drives, but downtime and syncing files from other systems were a pain, even with the great new Homegroup share for Windows 7. I fixed all that with a NAS device, specifically a Netgear ReadyNAS, now I have a 24/7/365 device that is redundant, accessible from all my systems, including my android phone, and from anywhere I have internet access. The system is automatically backed up to external USB drives and critical data is backed up to the cloud.

jpdecesare
jpdecesare

We got a Canon MF3240 almost two years ago that has been a gem. It was $89 with free shipping from Newegg on a special, but even at $120 it's worth it. There are still times when a printout or a copy needs to be made, and having a copier in-house has been quite the convenience. The thing also scans docs to a PDF or JPEG, whichever you fancy. And it does Fax which I don't use because I violate Rule #2, lol. ANYWAY, just some feedback about a unit that actually works and doesn't cost a lot. The toner it came with lasted almost two years, just changed it earlier this month with a generic cartridge from Fry's (not the Rosewill brand, they're TOO cheap).

mark16_15
mark16_15

I scored 9/10 on this one. I don't have a company credit card. It might be nice but in my case, it would just be a status symbol.

TAPhilo
TAPhilo

Another important design is that everything you use on a routine basis should be within reach of you while in the chair without having to streatch. That often means a round / square work area and a good rolling chair on a good plastic floor mat (if you do not have hardwood / linolium floor). And to save deskspace, you might even have your monitor be suspened from an overhead or wall mount. You NEVER have enough desk space.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

Most of the home use UPS systems use one or more small sealed lead acid internal batteries. If you extend the battery wires to replace the internal battery with an external lawn tractor or car battery - or even better, a deep dischange battery such as a marine battery for a boat's trolling motor - your full load run time increases from the listed ten's of minutes to hours - and more if you're not feeding a full rated load. Caveat: A sealed battery is best and does not output some hydrogen vapor while charging. And those things are filled with sulphuric acid, so place them in a dish or tray to avoid damage to carpets or floors.

Wiseguytr
Wiseguytr

1. The room must be dedicated for your homeoffice use. Its a good idea to soundproof it so that the dog barking, or kids screaming in the next room, or wife nagging can be kept out. 2. SKYPE is a great solution for communication, but x2 cellphone does the trick too. Most corporate companies have direct 4 digit lines to call colligues in office, even make conferance calls. 3. Most important tool must be the VPN connnection to your office. Hence, you will most of the time use your mail, collabration tools, even VoIP and RDP over the VPN line. 4. Good connection is important and most users FAIL on ADSL etc as upload/download ratios are not equal. Same goes with cablenet plans. Make your company pay for it like I did and get a proper ETHERNET line. 5. I'll go for cabling issues too a too much cabling makes me nervous. 6. External display is not needed as most of us work on 15.6" laptop displays. If you work on something bigger, you obviously have alot of time to waste on other things. Real GEEKS use 15.6" Windows laptops not icrap. But dual monitors can save you time. 7. Video Cam installed into the server room so that when something goes wrong, you dont need to rush down to the office at 3 am ; instead you can guide the shift tech with the help of the server room camera and solve the problem remotely. Why spend energy when you can use your brain ? :) 8. Comfortable chair. As you will be spending more time on it than in your office, you should have the luxury of a good seat. 9. Good music system often helps you concentrate on your task more. Cant hear the sceaming kids or nagging lady.. 10. Good inkjet PSC (Printer / Scanner / copier). Dont forget to get extra supplies of cartridges and paper from the office. Rest of the stuff above have nothing to do with techies, but newbies. I've been on the job over 15 years and I work from home time to time. If you work on mission critical stuff like server Administration / IT Management, you need to be online and swift 24x7

Sensor Guy
Sensor Guy

I've had a home office since 1983, and it's evolved over the years. The dog is an invaluable addition. I have two, sleeping underneath in their own beds (which become their nests) underneath one of the five computers I run in the home office. Some lessons I've learned: 1. Structured cabling is vital 2. Get a big display (I have two 23 inch LED monitors on my primary system) 3. If you're over 45, you may consider a limited or reduced graduated range focal lens set of glasses. Your neck will appreciate it since you don't have to look up to look straight at the monitor! 4. VoIP is nice and saves money (I have Time Warner VoIP) but requires a lot of steady bandwidth and you must have backup (I use Verizon Home Connect as backup). 5. VoIP good speakerphones are expensive. Save your money and get good quality by buying a good analog wired speakerphone to hook up to your VoIP network. Use old wired technology on the handset and new VoIP on the transmission to save the maximum bucks and get the best "front". I use an old Polycom SoundPro SE225. 6. Always have a backup network. My primary is a CATV modem and my backup is a cellular modem and the router handles both so I don't have too many outages. 7. Power and surge protection is key. Maintain and tes those UPSes. The batteries go bad when you least expect them. 8. Furniture is key, get a chair you can spend 16 hours with and not be uncomfortable. If you have space, get a big table, at the same height as an old typewriter table to work on and pile the papers. 9. Organization is key. Dedicate an area for a file cabinet (I use to have 5 now I'm down to 2) to keep and file important papers. A scanner is vital as was said before. 10. Separate entrance to keep family noise and interruptions away. I have a cypher lock on my door to keep the flash drive and camera SD "crooks" away! 11. Cloud backup: I don't trust it. I use RAID on all my systems (except the laptops and smartphones) and do encrypted backup to portable drives which I take to colleague's house or the bank for protection. Backup is always done while I sleep. Off-site is key. It protects you from disasters, theft and subpoenas (I do some law enforcement related development).

ben
ben

Agree a good old telephone is indespensible. Get a good one, with speaker phone as suggested. Cheap phones may sound OK on your end but often sound aweful on to everyone else, especially if you compound the quality challenge with a conference bridge. And while you're at it, consider a long distance bundle for your land line. I have pretty good luck with Skype and Vonage when it works, but the reliability of AT&T for long distance is better, and I get very reasonable rates.

gbelken
gbelken

With all the talk (Hype) about Cloud I was a little surprised that no one mentioned it.

bradhansen
bradhansen

Several people have suggested a headset, but I find a speakerphone so much better. Some of the people on conference calls I regularly attend are relatively soft-spoken and several are like "Loud Howard" from Dilbert. Having "Loud Howard" blast into my ear over a headset is quite literally painful. With a speakerphone I can lean away for him & lean in for the soft spoken ones, all without taking my hands off the keyboard. Just ensure that the speakerphone is "full duplex" so that you can talk and still hear what others are saying. So many speakerphones, even ones marketed to the home office, are half-duplex, and prevent echoing by cutting off the far end whenever you are speaking.

tmcmulli
tmcmulli

I've worked from home for 12 years, great list... I agree the dual monitors are a requirement, especially with IM being as annoying as it can be. I've kept a vonage line for years, but when Google Voice came out, I switched to a combo of Skype, GV and a solid WIRED headset. As you mention, voice quality is paramount, and cell phones (sorry guys) just don't cut it, there's too much room for miscommunication. I now publish my GV number, and then control whether it goes to my Skype number or cell phone. This also allows me to transfer the call from one to the other, in case I have to run out during a long conference call. The only other "thing" you need is a solid understanding from your family. If you don't approach this subject head on, and your wife/kids are at home a lot when you are, you will find yourself upset at them for "interrupting you" during your work. Set ground rules, explain the importance of your need to be left to your work during normal hours (or whatever hours you need) and go from there. Leave it to work itself out, and you may find yourself on the couch.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

Great list Justin! I worked 12 years in a Home Office, and everything on your list IS ESSENTIAL. As others have commented, and I agree, a good-quality headset for the phone is another MUST. You need to have your hands free while you're talking. And not just an "el cheapo" headset; you want something with excellent sound quality so you don't sound like you're in a tin can while you're talking. And a Webcam is a nice plus, especially if you run remote desktop with a vendor that supports it. Customers love to see a "real face" while you're working on their system, whether you can see them or not. (And remember to keep the background for the webcam looking neat and professional!) One other absolute essential on your phone line is good-quality Call Forwarding. It's also handy to be able to ring more than one phone line at once, so you can just leave the office phone forwarded to your cell phone, so you don't forget while you're at the gym or walking your Pug! My favorite response line to customers is "I'm in the middle of something right now, can I call you back in an hour or so?" Customers want an immediate response from you, but most times "I'll call you back" is OK with them. They know you have other customers. (And never mind that what you were "in the middle of" was a set of repetitions at the gym...)

cbeckers
cbeckers

As someone who worked from a home office for about 10 years, until I retired last year, I can confirm that these 10 things are vital...especially the gym membership. Before I joined the gym, I made it a point to go to the post office every day, just to get away from the desk. The face-to-face contact with another human being was as important as the physical activity.

jeff
jeff

I haven't had a real phone for years. I've worked at home about 20 of 30 years and am well settled into it. I dumped my land line as soon as I could. We use grasshopper.com for a full featured 'big company' phone system. It forwards to our cell phones and nobody ever knows the difference. My wife and I have permanent extensions and we've had sales contractors and others come-and-go. We would just give them an extension when needed. After many years, people still don't know that my wife and I are married, that we work from home, and that we use temporary help. I'm not plugging Grasshopper (but I guess I really am?) but I hate phone companies and hate being tied down. A service like theirs overcomes the land line issue for the self employed. Probably also for the corporate employee because the boss won't know when you're not at home :)

oremole
oremole

Setting up a Home office cud be very costly, if you are the type who want all the necessary hardwares - firewalls, servers, storage systems, not to talk of high powered coding and decoding systems and home office connection with VPN.

sparent
sparent

Having worked from home for four years, I can attest that the phone you use makes a big difference. I went through multiple phones and headsets, eventually settling for a corded+cordless combo. The headset is convenient on a cordless phone so that you can untether yourself from your desk. Don't skimp on the headset! You wouldn't believe how quickly your ear gets sore with a bad one. The corded portion should have a good quality speakerphone so you can give your ear a break on those listen-mostly conference calls, webinars, etc. As for the gym, I already have weights and treadmill at home. When I started getting cabin fever, I joined my local Toastmasters club. It got me out of the house and gave me a chance to do some networking while improving my communication and leadership skills.

reisen55
reisen55

I have an official office upstairs in my home, six computers assigned to different storage and internet tasks, a beautiful little laptop that cost next to nothing - my Starbucks friend really - and a downstairs with "everything else" neatly arranged, or so that is the idea. Periodically I knock something over because I am a desk fanatic. You've got to have acres of workspace for stations and work. One desk does not do it. I have three downstairs, four actually, arranged and now (for the next year) working in a good arrangement. Constantly refine and examine your workshop, it is different from your office. Keep basic tools always handy everywhere too.

mullachv
mullachv

A good GPS navigation system - I suggest TomTom

indiamike
indiamike

2 - Whether you have a land line or not make sure you do have good hands free capability. Most mobiles hands free mode is abysmal. Being able to talk and present at the same time is often important. If you use an IM or VOIP service then get a good HD camera to go with it. As for number 10. I have a 'walkstation' a treadmill with a desk for the laptop. Even a gentle walk while processing eMail, writing documents ( get a copy of Dragon naturally speaking! ) or doing online research will burn a few hundred calories an hour and keep the waistlne in check. Number 11 - shift the load for paperwork and book keeping to someone else. Employ a PA, trainee whatever it takes to off load the 60% of time the average 1 man business spends chasing money, invoices, tax and possibly even just talking to clients old and new occasionally.

PJW9779
PJW9779

Get decent Office Suite software; f.i. OpenOffice or LibreOffice. That way you can easily produce and mail documents in PDF-format. A lot more professional than Word-format, etc. Open Source and Open Standards is more professional anyway, in my humble opinion.

Alistair at The Resourcebox
Alistair at The Resourcebox

Seriously, I'd be bankrupt if I had to pay for all my calls - landline or mobile. I phone internationally a lot. Skype is as good quality as any landline when you are phoning transatlantic or transpacific. So far this morning I've made one 48 minute call to Hong Kong and received one 5 minutes duration. Its 09:37 am. I run my own business so costs are very important to me. I have a couple of people I Skype a lot and its a big saving. I'm not sure I need a webcam. I certainly don't need people seeing how I dress when I'm not going into the office or seeing clients. If I dress LOL. I'd have to shave more frequently too. I use a mobile (cellphone) most of the time. My office number is published but I'm never there and I have an answering service who put my calls through on the mobile. I have very few call quality issues. Data is another issue though. If data is important check coverage by which ever providers you are looking at. My broadband is just the cheapest residential package my home phone provider offers. Its fine for what I need. I used it as my home broadband for 10 years now LOL, I just charge it to the company account now. I use Virgin Media. I know people using a lot of other providers and wouldn't go near them! With broadband, mobile, etc. you need to check out service in your area before you commit to a 12 month or worse 24month contract. Its a long time to be regretting! I have a desktop and a laptop. I had the desktop already and its more powerful than the laptop. I got that as a cheap used one, I use it so I can work in the evenings while watching TV with the family rather than being in the "office" on my own. As for power - I'd not seen a power outage at home in 7, 8 maybe 9 years then we had three in two weeks. The last company I worked for we had an outage on average every 18 months. No UPS, no generator. Cost justification wasn't there apparently. I agree that "getting out of the house" is essential. If you don't have a fax you may need some way to send/receive signed documents. With e-signature systems becoming more common this isn't necessarily a problem but some of your clients may not accept them

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

Ok, so it means having less control of one's work time, but it also means forcing oneself to move, and to put breaks in at regular intervals. And then you have some company. That's not to be underrated. However, the breed is important. Do not get a Jack Russel unless you absolutely have to (you don't want the canine equivalent of a bouncing rubber ball near you when you're working). Get a breed which is calm, good company, not too energetic, not too high maintenance. The ancient choice for the mind-at-work, dating from Confucius, is of course the Pug :) I have one snoring happily next to me, right now :D

will_smith
will_smith

camera on your equipment will help a lot! #9 kills me, becuase i understand!

JCitizen
JCitizen

it is only two blocks away. Yearly membership is dirt cheap!

jkiernan
jkiernan

How much is your typical monthly cost for this service?

JCitizen
JCitizen

A good gateway with lots of throughput is required. My UTM appliance does well.

CCCharles
CCCharles

That sounds like an 'office home' rather than a 'home office' ;-)

kenhelms
kenhelms

I am kind of confused as to how you consider open source more professional? Not that I see Microsoft as more professional, just that neither is more than the other. By the way, Office saves as PDF as well.

JCitizen
JCitizen

they are sure they can contribute to the cause; they don't like letting your work get in the way of paying attention to them, so they try to abscond with it. :D

TAPhilo
TAPhilo

Dogs that are known to want to play fetch for hours on end are to be avoided! Get a Daschund! They will play - but only a few times a day and want a short walk - then they sleep!

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...which not only is necessary for the dog, but is good for you to take a break and stretch at regular intervals.

reisen55
reisen55

One big advantage, somewhat from STAR TREK, is that I have a secondary command bridge downstairs. I regularly replicate data from my upstairs system to an older but rock solid downstairs system so that IF I have a reason to abandon ship temporarily upstairs (spousal need of system), I can scurry downstairs and continue to work effectively.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

:D The best ones sleep on the job :p

justinsg21
justinsg21

A good article but I would change the following: (a) buy 4-in-1 laser copier, printer, fax and scanner (b) replace the desktop with a laptop (c) buy a 19" or bigger LCD monitor and use a dual screen setup to view two or more applications simultaneously web hosting

MrRich
MrRich

Fortunately they sleep all day...

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