as RAM, hard drive capacity and modem are more important than speed, as long as it’s fast enough for your needs.
If you do purchase a new PC, check the terms of the warranty. Purchasing an extended warranty may save you some headache, and cash, in the long run. Also, be sure to find out about the service and support offered by the manufacturer. If you are a late-night or weekend worker, you’ll want to be sure you can get technical support in the wee hours of the morning or a house call on the weekend.
For maximum compatibility with the newest and most widely available programs, Windows 95 is the best choice for an operating system. Microsoft is phasing out applications that run on the Windows 3.x platform, so if you are still using it and plan to purchase upgrades or new programs, think about upgrading your operating system. Sixteen megs of RAM is optimal for your PC. At least a 6X CD-ROM drive, a 1 gig hard drive and a 28.8 kbps modem are a must when purchasing a new system. Some manufacturers such as IBM, Compaq and Acer, now offer modems with Dual Simultaneous Voice and Data (DSVD) technology, which allows users to talk on the phone and surf the Internet at the same time.
Since you’ll have the modem, you might as well splurge for Internet access. Many Internet service providers offer unlimited access for $19.95 per month or less. Besides having access to e-mail, it’s a valuable research tool and will help you feel less isolated on those days when you don’t leave your office. With the appropriate software, the Internet can also be used to make toll-free long-distance calls.
Speaking of phone calls, you’ll have to decide how many dedicated lines you’ll need in your office. Modest home office users may be able to get away with having a single line in the office. Juggling phone calls, faxes and Internet access on one line is feasible only if you don’t expect to spend much time doing any of the above. And even then, you’re sure to have a bottleneck at some point. Givoni suggests at least two lines for serious home office users, perhaps adding a cellular phone and pager to the mix. A two-line phone can be purchased for under $100.
If you intend to transmit documents, you should invest in a fax machine (another reason for that second phone line). Low-traffic home offices will make do with the ever popular, “If you’d like to send a fax, please send it now” message, but those trying to maintain a strictly professional image should opt for the second line and the fax machine.
The last essential component to your office is the printer. Of course, the choice again depends on your needs. Ideally, you should invest in a laser printer. The quality cannot be matched by an ink jet and prices for laser printers dropped considerably in recent months. A quality black-and-white laser printer with 600 x 600 dpi