Working from home provides you with the luxury and flexibility of not only working in an environment that you are most comfortable with, but also does away with the hassle of commuting to an office. Of course the icing on the cake is, you can work in your oh so comfortable pajamas, without a worry in the world :D.
However, in order to be productive and ensure minimum downtime, one needs to have a Home Office Setup with a built in BCP (Business Contingency Plan) and equipment which can get your work done, without you having to run from one shop to another!
Here is my attempt to list out the equipment (hardware and software), I feel is essential for any Home Office Setup and has at least the basic BCP in place.
Primary Workstation Setup: Let’s face it; unless you are stuck in the 20th Century, you need a Desktop/Laptop to get work done and having a primary workstation which is not only fast enough for your needs, but also comfortable to work on, is quite essential. So make sure you do not skimp out while buying things like monitor, keyboard and mouse, which is what you would use majority of the time. Additionally, you need to setup your primary workstation at such a place, where there are minimum disruptions, glare or distractions, so that you can work long and hard.
Secondary/Mobile Workstation: Electronic equipment does fail from time to time and as per Murphy’s Law, it has to be when you need it the most. So having a backup workstation (preferably a laptop or netbook) is a good idea. With advancement in technology and internet, you secondary workstation can just be your smart phone. As long as it is able to run software, which is essential for your work.
Essential Software: In order to get maximum productivity from your workstation, you need to have at least the bare essential software needed for your business. These can range from Office Application Suits like Microsoft Office or its free alternative, Open Office to more sector specific tools like Autodesk, Dreamweaver etc.. Additionally, a good antivirus and firewall is needed to ensure that your computer is safe from at least the common malware and intrusions.
Printer: While majority of us nowadays work on digital files, at times we need to take printouts, whether to generate invoice or to print out our investment portfolio statement. Relying on a cyber cafe for print outs is not only time consuming affair, but also puts your confidential documents in the hand of third party. So having a printer is a good investment and having one which also has a scanner and copier function, just makes life that much easier and boosts productivity. In case you require a fax machine for your business, you can easily invest in an MFD, which also features Fax machine.
Internet Connectivity: For majority of Home Office Setups, Internet Connectivity is essential. So having a fast and reliable internet connection is not only essential, but also recommended to ensure minimum downtime and faster access to work related documents. Since internet connectivity is so important, you also need a backup for it, which can easily come in form of GPRS or 3G network on your mobile phone, especially if it can be connected to your workstation as a modem.
Phone Setup: Even though we are becoming more and more dependent upon emails, phones still play a crucial part in our business as well as personal life. While mobile phones are all the rage these days, having a landline connection not only makes your setup look more professional, but also gives you backup, when mobile phone network is playing hide and seek!
Data storage/backup: Like any other electronic component, HDDs do crash and this can result in data loss, which in turn can mean revenue and valuable information being lost. Having a proper data storage and backup system in place can save you from financial ruin. A backup strategy can be as simple and easy as having a USB pen drive or external HDD to backup the data or being a multi-tiered affair, employing RAID 1 in workstation, External HDDs at home and off site location, followed by an online backup storage. Whichever solution you employ, it should be scalable and robust enough to work for at least next 4-5 years and allow you to easily take regular backups, because a complex system would only ensure that you end up finding excuses for skipping out on the whole process.
Electricity Backup: Electricity backup is all the more important in developing countries like India, where power cuts are frequent. However, it can be just as important in places, with constant and good power supply. Since disruptions can and do happen. Now if you are using laptop as your primary workstation, you can think about skimping out on a UPS, however having a good inverter or generator is quite essential, as you would not only need it to power your DSL Router/Modem, but also the fan and light, so that work, doesn’t feels like a heavy workout in gym!
The Cloud: Cloud is the buzz word these days and everyone is interested in knowing, how to use it effectively. While I love the fact that everything can be stored online, being easily accessible from a whole host of devices. I do feel that internet connectivity in India isn’t all that reliable and I like to keep at least the essential data available locally. Having said that, I use Google’s Gmail for Business as my primary email solution, its calendar for long term reminders and upload documents which I haven’t finished editing to Google Docs, so that I can edit them on my Workstation as well as Laptop. Of course if you are working collaboratively, then Cloud services can be a major asset.
Of course apart from the things listed above, there is a whole host of office supply and stationary which is required on a day to day basis in a Home Office and you do need to keep an inventory of these as well. However, the above mentioned equipment is what I find essential to my work and I am sure, you will as well.