For cost-cutting small businesses, we present a collection of products that ought to improve your office environment without blowing through your annual facilities budget.
A low-cost desktop will fit the needs of most small offices. When it comes to making the most of your budget PC dollars, eMachines is tough to beat. You'd be hard pressed to find more power and future room to grow than a T series system from eMachines' line. Last year's T5230 and T5234 machines are both a good bet, and you can also find eMachines' current offerings here.
All manner of laptops pass through CNET Labs, from tiny UMPCs to mammoth desktop replacement models. After testing so many laptops, we've determined that a 14-inch mainstream model offers the optimal balance between portability and usability. More and more vendors are offering this size of laptop, including Dell, which introduced the Inspiron 1420 last year. This mainstream 14-inch laptop benefits from an internal and external makeover. The wide-ranging configuration options mean that virtually any mainstream user can find a system to fit their budget.
HP's new w2207 LCD is proof positive that you don't have to sacrifice style for an affordable office display. While you can certainly save some money by choosing a smaller display (if so, HP would be happy to sell you its 20-inch W2007), we feel that a 22-inch display hits the sweet spot in terms of price vs. screen real estate. The HP W2207's attractive design, outstanding overall performance, and approachable price tag make this one of our favorite 22-inch screens to date.
In a world of multifunction color printers that do everything short of cooking dinner, monochrome laser printers are often overlooked. They are still the workhorses of most offices, however. The ideal mono laser printer should offer fast print speeds and excellent text printing while being relatively inexpensive to maintain and use. The Samsung ML-2571N hits on all of these areas. For a mere $199, you get a small-form-factor printer that is quick and Ethernet ready.
Your small office is growing. If it's grown larger than the range of your wireless network, consider the Linksys WRT150N. It provides the added range of the Draft N wireless specification without the faster throughput and accompanying higher price. It's also easy to set up and boasts the latest security features, and it can be found for less than $100.
If you are looking for a cheap, networked backup solution for your office, take a look at Netgear's pared down ReadyNAS Duo drive, which the company just announced at CES 2008. The ReadyNAS Duo drives comes in 500GB, 750GB, and 1TB capacities (with a second, free bay to add to or mirror the primary drive) and support Gigabit Ethernet. The drives ship with Netgear's X-RAID software for managing and mirroring your data across multiple drives, should you choose to add a second hard drive. Integrated backup software helps automate that process, and a setup wizard should ease the burden of getting the drive configured and running.
If you toil tirelessly day after day in a window-less office, perhaps some fake sunshine would brighten your workday. To create that clever illusion of sunlight, Makoto Hirahara's Bright Blind uses electroluminescent sheets. If the fake sunlight gets a bit too bright, simply adjust the blind down just like the real thing.
If you're looking for ways to trim your office's operating costs this year, may we suggest the phone bill as one area to target? A dual-mode cordless phone with Skype can help you lower your monthly phone bill. The GE 2831EE1 may not be the sexiest model out there, but its ability to toggle between Skype and landline calls--and even do three-way conferencing between lines--sets it apart from the current crop of dual-mode Skype phones.
Last, but not least: surge protection. Protect your office's assets by plugging them into a surge protector. Belkin's Conceal model offers 11 outlets and has a cover that flips closed to hide the cables. Nice, tidy, and safe.