Technology for the Home-based Worker – 10 Must Have Gadgets and Technology for the Remote Office

Chances are good that if you happen to work in technology or you’re a consultant, that you may be working remotely or from a home-based office at some time soon – or perhaps you already do. If so, there’s loads of cool technology around these days that will make your life much simpler and make you more productive.  The following are 10 gadgets and pieces of technology that I suggest for any remote worker.

Large Display / Monitor – When working remotely it is very important that you are comfortable and feel like you’re in a professional work environment – this will make you more productive! Having a large Video display is crucial, and luckily, nice and cheap these days. Get yourself a 27" monitor or perhaps an iMac with a killer 27" display. You’ll appreciate the screen real estate when multi-tasking or streaming a webinar or other online event and most important, your eyes will appreciate it. About the only time when large screens aren’t desirable in my mind is for your laptop. You may crave a big display when on the road, however, if you plan on toting a laptop around with you for several days you’ll really appreciate the 11" netbook over the 17" Samsung brick! The exception may be if you have a sweet Mac Book Pro docked to your home system and configured for quick disconnect and taking on the road, ten the extra weight may be a valuable trade-off. Note, if you have the budget you may also consider upgrading your graphics card for a little more WOW! MAc users be sure to check out the Thunderbolt display options

Tablet – You may think that an iPad (I’ll use iPad as the example since that’s what I have) is a luxury and just a "toy", however, as a mobile worker I have no doubt that you’ll quickly fall in love with your laptop and pretty soon will never be caught dead without it. My iPad2 has replaced my netbook almost entirely, the battery always seems to have some juice (iPad can easily get you through a full work day or conference day), and it keeps me connected. An iPad coupled with a dropbox account, some headphones, and a coffee is all you need to be productive any time and any place. Bonus, the iPad is an amazing tool to give someone a quick demo or show off a video to… I saved $$ and didn’t bother with a GSM version, rather, I simply use WiFi to connect, however, thanks to my almost unlimited mobile phone data plan I can tether to my Android smartphone and connect to the web any time I have mobile connectivity. Cost effective solutions to consider include an iPad2, iPad mini, or an Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Smartphone(s) – The other device I’d be absolutely lost without is my smartphone as is the case with most people reading this I’m sure! I won’t pitch brands here as we all have our own preference. I use an Android, touch smartphone (Galaxy S II) which has served me well for 2 years now. I have an additional 16 GB memory card inside (always try to max out your memory if possible) and can be reached any time, any place. I also have another spare, unlocked smartphone for International travel.. this is priceless! Having an unlocked device means you can drop in a SIM card when you travel.. so imagine going to Europe and you simply buy a 30 day card, voila, you are now online. For you Canadians who go to the US for business, you can pick up a SIM card at T-Mobile for relatively cheap and have data access immediately without getting killed on roaming fees. If you don’t get a local SIM card I suggest you ALWAYS put your device in airplane mode when you travel Internationally just in case! For the remote worker or home-based consultant, the smartphone will be your lifeline. Invest in a good plan that provides unlimited messaging and loads of data (at least 1 GB)… I’m sure you can get it for about $50 a month – I also urge you to secure yourself a Google Voice number – very handy for voice mail, call forwarding, call recording, etc…

Video camera – Video is all the rage, I’m sure you are well aware of this. Most home-based workers will at some time be asked to take part in a video conference, a webinar, Google+ hangout or other live or recorded web event. Don’t be caught off guard by being invited to hangout with someone online and having to explain that you don’t have a video camera! Most modern laptops and notebooks come equipped with a video camera for video conferencing or Skype etc… Depending on what you want to accomplish you may have a need for a higher quality video camera (I’m currently shopping for one) that will provide you with the ability to easily create a video demo, live stream or video webcast. Tools like Skype, Facetime, Google+, YouTube hangouts, uStream and other video services will definitely be your friend when working remotely. Consider also a decent portable video camera… i have a FlipPal that shoots high def video and is perfect for on the road. I can quickly capture a video recording and immediately share via social media or ??

Microphone – Many computers or devices will come with an internal microphone for recording. However, for a Google hangout, or for creating a recorded presentation you’ll likely want a decent quality microphone. You have many choices available and you also may with to purchase a headset / microphone combination. Don’t be stuck without the ability to record audio… for huge cost savings I also suggest using Google calling or a similar VOIP calling service for all your calls – you’ll need a microphone for this.

Speakers / headphones - Headphones are no brainer for the at home worker. There will be times when you need to listen to a call, a video, a webinar or ?? and there may be some annoying background noise like family members or maybe a construction worker outside your door… a headset will save you! If you plan on doing professional quality audio/video recordings or maybe you just love music, consider a high-end set of headphones as a treat – perhaps some Dr. Dre beats or a pair of Bose headphones. if anything, you’ll appreciate them the next time you have a layover in an airport or a crying infant sitting near you on a plane!


office gadgets 

A few gadgets required: iPad, FlipPal video, cables, memory cards, microphones, headphones…

Wireless Peripherals (Bluetooth/WiFi) – Think wireless when purchasing gadgets… you can’t go wrong! Get Bluetooth or WiFi wireless enabled gadgets and technology whenever possible… you never know what kind of configuration you may wind up mashing up. I have a BlueTooth Speaker, WiFi tablet, smartphones, headphones and more…

3.5 mm Audio Cable - I need sound.. I typically need some noise or music streaming in the background but I also have a need to listen in on webcasts, Google hangouts, and other live events… I also use Google calling for most of my phone calling. Having the ability to stream all of my audio through a high-end speaker is awesome and very simple to do. Chances are good that almost all of the latest Audio devices will support a 3.5 mm audio jack so having a cable around to connect will be a life saver. I use my cable to connect the iPad to my stereo and wireless speaker, I can also reconnect my computer and run the sound through my stereo system – very handy! Note, I also have a variety of USB male/female configuration cables that have all been handy at some time

Memory (Flash, USB, MicroSD) - At some time you will need to share a file, documents, images or ?? and a cloud service like Google docs (Drive), dropbox or other may not be useful. I always have USB flash drives in my backpack and perhaps the most useful form of external memory is an SD card with a MicroSD adapter. The memory will be supported by almost any device and will prove very handy to you… be sure to get at least an 8 GB card or splurge for a 16GB. One of the handiest gadgets I have is a cool USB/MicroSD adapter… imagine plugging your MicroSD from your smartphone into any USB drive – handy!

Power supply – When you work from a home-based office chances are pretty good that you’ll be traveling for your work. You may not be flying around the World (although that would be cool), however, you will be making client visits, working from other locales like airports, the library, coffee shops, co-working establishments and others. You’ll need power so don’t forget about this! Keep batteries charged up in your devices, keep some AA and AAA batteries on hand for those portable gadgets (rechargeable are better and cheaper though), and invest in auto charging cables for your smartphone and tablet. I also have a couple of portable international chargers for travel (don’t be forced into buying one at the airport one day) as well as extra cables for my smartphone (if you have USB supported devices this is best as they can all share the same cable hopefully). Finally, buy yourself a small power bar or other extension cord to share with others when you happen to be stuck at a busy spot with no outlets… you’ll make friends fast! Note, Apple also has a cool, World travel adapter

Bags/Backpacks – Something I’ve learned over the years through my travels is that awesome luggage, in particular, backpacks and carry on bags are priceless! I have a variety of bags, depending on the length of the trip. When packing for air travel I always try to pack with carry ons and NEVER check my bags… you have so much more flexibility in your travel when your bags are on your person. A small, light, durable backpack is priceless for packing all your gadgets and cords. Get one with loads of little compartments and be sure to get one that is made for electronics as it will have special padding for extra protection, and other conveniences. I have a backpack for air travel and conferences as well as a smaller, single day back pack for short outings. For air travel I’m not a huge roller bag person (although I do have a couple), rather, I prefer the "gym bag" style and have a large one that’s bright orange (easily identifiable) has a couple of side compartments, and is small enough to carry on a plane but will get me through a week when packed well.

BONUS… External Hard Drive –  You may be used to being on a corporate network where all your work is magically backed up for you every night. When you work from home guess what? It’s your responsibility!  You can use a cloud service like dropbox (suggested) but I also suggest you consider a simple, portable hard drive as well. Keep all your data on it and best of all, these are so small that you can easily take the device with you… don’t get stuck because disaster or a crashed hard disk will happen eventually.  I’ve got a 1 TB iomega external that cost about $80

Useful weblinks:

Iomega external storage

Apple Mac Solutions and hardware

Apple iPad

Flip video camera

Google+ support

Amazon Kindle Fire HD

Google Voice

Beats by Dre

Bose headphones

Roots backbacks and bags

Travel plugs from The Source (Canada)

Kingston Memory cards

T-Mobile PrePaid SIM

Editor (18230 Posts)

Glenn is a geographer and a GIS professional with over 20 years experience in the industry. He's the co-founder of GISuser and several other technology web publications.

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