analog, digital, dual-mode, and PCS. Analog phones have been around for about a decade and are given away by many companies when you sign up for service. Dual-mode phones accommodate both analog and traditional digital service, which works well if you live in analog-only areas of the country.
Digital phones are being superseded by PCS telephones. PCS stands for "personal communications services." PCS relies on radio frequencies that the FCC made available within the past few years. PCS frequencies are not available nationwide, so make sure they are in your area before you buy a phone. PCS handsets sell for about $150.
There are many, many companies providing a confusing array of cellular phone services. Do your homework and ask other business owners which providers they use before signing a long-term service contract.
Multifunction boxes. In 1996 a new telecommunications product was created. It looks like a printer with a scanner, but it can do four things: fax, print, copy and scan. For about $1,000 retail, it’s a great deal for a small office. Hewlett Packard and Canon make these affordable multifunctional machines.
Two-way pagers. PageNet and Skytel sell pagers that can answer a message. With new technology and radio frequencies, users can send an alphanumeric message and receive a reply. Some pagers can hook up to your voice mail system for continual access to incoming phone calls. Again, there are many, many models and service providers, so look for reliability and solid equipment. GTE Communications also offers a great text pager, which I use.
Internet service providers. There are more than 5,000 Internet service providers in the world, ranging from tiny businesses to AT&T, UUNET, and PSINet. The Internet provides access to unlimited information, e-mail and electronic commerce. You can also link to individual customers’ Websites and find all sorts of specialized business-support groups.
Personal digital assistants (PDAs). These devices are the size of a small book or large waffle. They typically have a small screen and a writing device-much like the Etch-A-Sketch you played with as a kid. Most PDAs have some kind of mini-keyboard and modem. They are portable companions to your
personal computer, not a replacement, and must be hooked up by a wire or wireless communication.
What you create on a PDA can easily be downloaded into your PC. PDAs are good for people on the go who don’t want to lug around a laptop. PDAs are made by US Robotics, Casio, Apple Computer, Sony and Hewlett Packard.
Fax/modem card. For less than $150, you can buy a 33.6 kpbs modem/fax card that you can put into your PC. This dual-function device allows you to send and re-ceive faxes, e-mail and computer files. You need to leave your PC turned on to enjoy the benefits of a fax/modem card.
Wireless modems. Another technology to consider is wireless communications devices, which transmit information to the nearest radio tower, then rely on land lines to connect