Small Office, Home Office Solutions

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\"DellBanner\"Extending technology resources, security are top SOHO concerns

By Judy Jefferson

Keeping in touch and communicating are probably the most important goals in the SOHO world, relying on everything from simple email and instant messaging to more interactive social networking platforms. This means having a computer system in place that is equipped with a wired or wireless communications capability, and software that can not only send and receive messages but can organize and keep track of messages and key files.

Many SOHO setups have an 802.11 Wi-Fi system in place, but also make use high-speed wireless broadband and short-range communications alternatives like Bluetooth to connect wirelessly to in-office printers, LCD projectors and other equipment. An increasing number of notebook systems also include multiple communications technologies, including high-speed cellular (3G) that can be used to supplement 802.11 when out and about and away from a Wi-Fi hotspot.

An increasing number of SOHO workers are using small handheld systems to extend computing resources beyond the confines of an office and bring data resources to the point of customer action. In fact, by 2012, handhelds are expected to account for half of all Wi-Fi hotpot connections, says market researcher In-Stat. This extended mobility is changing the dynamics of the SOHO worker, but also adding new technology solution possibilities to the mix – like mobile printers, mobile presentation devices and evolving platforms like tablet PCs.

Information safeguards

Security is a top concern among the SOHO set, and not just the security surrounding electronic messages and wireless connections. Data backup and recovery is also a major concern among small office and home office users, since most do not have the luxury of a dedicated IT support department or network-based backup and archiving capability. Corrupted or lost data can not only result in lost business or business opportunities, but may even present some legal problems since companies of all sizes must have adequate safeguards in place to protect data and maintain records for a specific period of time.

An unexpected disruption in business, due to lost data or a storage crash might also impact a small company’s survival. According to U.S. government statistics, for example, more than 90% of companies that had trouble restoring their data after a data disaster are out of business within 18 months.

While most people realize the importance of data backups, a large majority of U.S. users (about 92%) still fail to up to backup their personal and business information – including financial information and work-related documents – on a regular basis, according to the results of a study conducted earlier this year by Harris Interactive on behalf of an online backup service provider. Roughly 30% of the more than 2,000 people taking part in the survey admitted backing their data up once a month, while 15% did it weekly and only 8% backed up their data to a local disk or remote service once a day.

Online backup services can range in price from a few dollars to tens of dollars per month. Off-site storage is options are also provided by Google, Amazon and most every online service provider as a free or paid option. The benefit to these services is that backups can be scheduled to automatically occur throughout the day as new information is stored on a computer’s internal hard disk, or at night when the backup process does not get in the way of the business work flow and tie up compute resources.

A lot of small office/home office users often prefer to keep their duplicated data close to home by backing data up to a secondary hard disk – many of which can easily be connected to wireless or wired home office networks for fast and effortless data backup. The price for these small add-on devices has dropped significantly over the last year, reflecting a drop in component costs and rise in demand for secondary disk drives and storage.

Many of these small and portable storage devices feature ultra-fast USB 3.0 technology (for fast data transfers), built-in data encryption technology, and a terra-byte or more in storage capacity. Networked storage systems can also be used to store and share files across multiple computers in a small office setting.

Some devices also incorporate ‘green technology’ to balance spin speed, transfer rates, automatically unload the recording head during idle times, and perform other hardware and software functions that save power and increase performance.

Putting effort in output

Printing is also a key concern for SOHO workers, since your typical business has to keep its best face forward (in terms of output) to keep pace with much larger competitors. For many individuals, a multi-function or all-in-one (AIO) printer is the best choice since these systems can scan, fax, and copy as well as print documents.

The latest generation of AIOs features color printing capabilities, large LCDs for document control and printing, and a number of solutions that are designed to work ‘in the cloud’ via the Internet. A few monochrome laser AIOs are even price well below $100 and take up very little desk space, which is a plus when you are working in tight home office space and watching your budget.

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